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Klaipėda University Starts the New Year with the Winter Academy of the Lithuanian Language and Culture

On the first Monday of the next year, January 4, the Winter Academy of the Lithuanian Language and Culture will start work at Klaipėda University. An intensive course in the Lithuanian language and studies through language and communication will last one month. Participants will safely work on a distance mode.

Intensive lessons of the Lithuanian language for the students of the Academy from all over the world will take place in different groups and at several levels: from the beginner to the proficiency level. The lessons will be given by seven experienced teachers who will instruct beginners in English, Russian, or Spanish.

One of the most long-lasting and best known initiatives of Klaipėda University – the Summer and Winter Academies of the Lithuanian Language and Culture – has been successfully operating since 2002 and will be held for the 26th time. The initiators of the Academy remember that only seven articipants took part in the first Lithuanian language course organised by them, while 97 people have already registered for the soon-to-start winter course. The Lithuanian language at an elementary level will be studied by people from China, Mexico, Portugal, France, Poland, Latvia, and Ukraine, as well as citizens of Lithuanian descent from Brazil, Argentina, Russia, and Venezuela. One or two participants will epresent Bolivia, India, Germany, and Romania. One third of the future participants of the Academy received such an opportunity under the educational exchanges programme.

“Over almost 20 years, as long as the the Lithuanian language courses at Klaipėda University have been operating, strong relationships have been established with those interested in the Lithuanian language and culture all over the world, including rapidly increasing numbers of immigrants. Our course participants recommend these trainings to others, and we are getting a diverse group of motivated people every year. It is interesting to note that we have participants who keep returning here; some of them work as Lithuanian teachers in their countries, and they come back to further improve their skills”, says Jūratė Derukaitė, head of the Centre for Lithuanian Studies and Foreign Languages at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, KU.

The organisers believe that a special trait of the present Winter Academy is a very large group of participants from Venezuela, as many as 29. Most of them are of Lithuanian descent and want to learn the language of their grandparents or parents; some of them have already moved or are preparing to move to Lithuania. 22 Venezuelans entered the Winter Academy through the Education Exchanges Support Foundation programme, and seven people were admitted by the course organisers in support of the Lithuanian community in Venezuela.

As many as 32 applications were received from citizens of neighbouring Belarus. Most of them are currently moving to Lithuania and wishing to get establish here as soon as possible. The organisers of the Academy had announced being ready to admit 5 Belarusians on preferential terms, however, they received three dozen requests with motivation letters. Finally, the decision was taken to satisfy all applications and to apply only a symbolic fee to Belarusian citizens who had started a new life in Lithuania.

“We feel a moral obligation to help Belarusian citizens who have experienced undemocratic government actions to get established in Lithuania. The number of applications suggests a great demand for the Lithuanian language course. If the state institutions contributed financially, we could organise special Lithuanian language courses for Belarusians who have found asylum in Lithuania. We have both technical and intellectual potential

and extensive experience for that”, says KU Rector prof. dr. Artūras Razbadauskas.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, the Academies of the Lithuanian Language and Culture used to invite people to Klaipėda. That was a time of direct communication, getting to know Lithuania through learning, communicating, and traveling. Last summer, for security reasons, the Academy moved to a virtual space for the first time, which opened up new opportunities for organisers and visitors to teach or learn Lithuanian. “We had a lot of doubts about distance learning and whether it would be able to change what direct contact used to give us – face-to-face lessons, discussions, dinners prepared together, or trips around Lithuania. Unfortunately, we cannot afford it anymore, but all this has been offset by a different kind of proximity: technology made training available to more people, they also live in lockdown, they are forced to spend more time at home and can devote it to meaningful activities, such as learning”, says Jūratė Derukaitė.

After the successful organisation and implementation of the first distance Summer Academy of the Lithuanian Language and Culture this year, the Lithuanian Education Exchanges Support Foundation expressed official gratitude to Klaipėda University for the bold and creative implementation of the project. The activity of the head of the Lithuanian language course Jūratė Derukaitė was recently appreciated by a Letter of Thanks by Minister of Education, Science, and Sports of the Republic of Lithuania Algirdas Monkevičius.