More Turks using Greek language to open doors

THESSALONIKI – Turks are showing increasing interest in learning Greek, judging by enrollments at Aristotle University’s School of Modern Greek. Until two years ago, German students were the largest group among the students from more than 60 countries. Now it is Turks, representing 19 out of a total of 280 who attended the monthlong summer school at AU. The Turks are also a strong presence in the language preparation course for Erasmus scholars, 22 out of 94. «There has been a growing intake of Turkish students in recent years,» commented the school’s director, Theodora Kalli, who said they showed a preference for universities in Thessaloniki and Crete. Some study in the Modern Greek departments of Istanbul and Izmir universities, while others study subjects related to Greek art and history. Among those studying Greek for academic and professional reasons are Serap Gios, 26, who studied Ancient Greek in Ankara and is now studying Ancient Greek and Roman literature; Mariva Tabus, 23, who has studied Ottoman history and wants to do a doctorate on women’s movements in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire; and architect Milker Sumartas, 29, who is studying the architectural heritage of Tenedos. «Language opens doors,» Nezih Ohrun, 39, who teaches at a university in Eskisehir, told Kathimerini. His family came from Hania in Crete, and he grew up listening to stories about friendships between Turks and Greeks. He is one of the forces behind the Greek-Turkish Short Film festival that will take place in Thessaloniki next spring. Among the Turks who learn Greek for purely sentimental reasons is Hassan Gris, 38, from Izmir, who has roots in Thessaloniki and Kavala. Even though none of his family spoke Greek, he came to the conclusion that it was «the most beautiful language in the world.» And Vanessa Nastaoglou, 20, a Christian whose father is Greek and mother Armenian, is taking Greek back to Hatay on the Syrian border where she lives. Suley Hussein, 32, a member of Komotini’s Muslim community, has lived in Istanbul since she was 8. Next time she renews her Greek passport she doesn’t want to have to speak English. Gris said there aren’t many opportunities to learn Greek in Turkey. Orhon believes Greeks should promote their language. According to Mariva, lots of people in Turkey would like to learn Greek but there is a lack of schools and teachers. There is also a growing demand from Turkish universities for cooperation with their Greek counterparts, which includes the teaching of Modern Greek. For the past four years, Thessaloniki and Canakkale universities have cooperated to have Greek academics teaching Greek to Turkish students. Enrollments are high, with 97 students in the spring semester of 2009.