- Tuesday, January 16, 2018 3:10 PM
Skopje, 16 January 2018 (MIA) – The Macedonian Language E-learning Center (http://makedonskijazik.org) celebrated its 10-year anniversary last month. This USA-based non-governmental organization offers people from all over the world the opportunity to learn Macedonian online, with the help of a tutor or on their own, using multimedia resources designed by the center.
Dr. Biljana Belamaric-Wilsey, a linguist, teacher, and a Macedonian living in the States, founded the center in 2007. She envisioned it as a virtual hub where people interested in learning Macedonian and safeguarding its heritage in the diaspora communities could find high-quality, free digital resources, which reflect both teacher-recommended practices and Macedonian culture.
The center’s website offers interactive tutorials for learning Macedonian at the beginner level; grammar lessons through dialogues and exercises to keep track of your progress; simple texts with audio recordings for reading and listening practice, as well as more complex articles that provide insight into Macedonian culture.
Teachers and tutors of Macedonian can also find fill-in-the-blank exercises based on Macedonian literature, music, and film, grouped by grammar topics covered in standard Macedonian language courses for foreigners.
“You may think children or grandchildren of expats would be learning Macedonian the most, but in my experience,” Belamaric-Wilsey told MIA, “people of non-Macedonian origin are more interested in learning the language.”
Among these people, she says, are significant others of Macedonians or their friends. There are also polyglots, researchers, or linguists interested in learning a new language, and they choose Macedonian. Finally, others who choose to learn it are the businesspeople and members of international organizations who work in Macedonia.
Belamaric-Wilsey says that the majority of Macedonian-language learners using the center’s resources are English native speakers. The most challenging features of the Macedonian language for them are the doubling of the object, the verb aspect (perfective vs. imperfective), and the perfect tense. Still, she says, if you are motivated enough, you will make progress, especially if you are visiting Macedonia.
“What I often hear from Macedonian-language learners in Macedonia,” says Belamaric-Wilsey, “is when they try to speak Macedonian, Macedonians respond to them in English. Although this makes communication easier, it denies them the chance to practice what they have learned. When they don’t have to use the language, they lose the motivation to learn it.”
Aware of the importance of preserving Macedonia’s cultural and linguistic heritage, Belamaric-Wilsey has also published traditional children’s rhymes on the center’s webpage. Such are “Kolede,” “Two Little Hands,” and “Do You Want War?” which all Macedonian children are familiar with, yet they are not often handed down between generations of expatriates, especially in parts of the world where there are not many Macedonians.
She has firsthand experience with this. A mother of three daughters, Belamaric-Wilsey wanted to provide a way to expose her children and their friends to Macedonian language and culture, as well as help other families in the same situation, no matter where life has taken them.
To do this, she has designed several interactive games, as well. Children can play these games online and get rewards when they communicate in Macedonian. This is important especially for children of expats who are not otherwise exposed to the language.
Some of the other resources the center offers for learning Macedonian are four bilingual (Macedonian-English) children’s books, which are available for purchase on the website. Reader feedback has been positive so far. Some of the books are also available as audiobooks through iBooks. Both the books and the website reflect Belamaric-Wilsey’s teaching approach: She relies on audiovisual help to illustrate word meanings and repetition to aid memorization. She also includes authentic elements of Macedonian culture, such as names, historical landmarks, or typical Macedonian expressions.
The center’s activities have garnered international recognition. In 2012, it received the Access to Language Education Award, given by the Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO), and in 2015, Belamaric-Wilsey was voted one of the 40 most successful Macedonian expatriates by the United Macedonian Diaspora organization.
Considering the center’s achievements and recognitions, maybe you will find it unusual that all the work was done on a volunteer basis. This admittedly shows how important Macedonian language and culture are to Macedonian expats.
The center’s statistics
In the past four years, there were 1,280 registered users. In the past five years, the website’s most frequent visitors have come from Macedonia, USA, Australia, Serbia, Kosovo, UK, Turkey, Germany, Canada, Slovenia, Italy, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Greece, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, and Albania.
Neda Dimova Prokikj
tr. by Magdalena Reed
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