International Summer School in Georgian Studies 2009
Extracts from the interviews of participants:
Yasuno TAKEMURA (Japan)
I study Transcaucasian history at my home university in Japan. I need to work in Georgian Central archives in Tbilisi to gather necessary materials for my research. That´s why my academic adviser in Georgia advised me that The Summer School in Kartvelian Studies would be a great opportunity to study the Georgian language.
I am interested in political history. That´s why before I came to Georgia, I had some information about the history and political situation in the country. Once I visited Georgia, instead of dry facts I got a feel of how warm and friendly Georgians are. I also tasted Georgian food and found it to be very delicious. Mushrooms on Ketsi (traditional Georgian dish) is the greatest meal I have tasted in my life.
Initially, I thought we would have private tutors who would teach us Georgian. However, I found out that in the Summer School of Kartvelian Studies there are small study-groups. It is a great challenge to have groupmates from different countries with different educational and linguistic backgrounds. I am very happy to have new friends for Turkey, Wales, Poland, United States, Ireland and of course Georgia.
It was a great experience for me to attend the Summer School. The personnel there has been very friendly and helpful. I acquired much knowledge from the language lectures. Furthermore, additional lectures in Georgian literature, history, architecture etc. helped me to learn more about the country, about its traditions and customs.
Excursions and concerts were also of a great interest to me. We visited many different regions of Georgia from East to West, from mountains to seaside. We were given the opporunity to taste various kinds of regional traditional meals. All this helped us to understand the Georgian way of life and to enjoy the Georgian nature.
If I was asked to describe Georgia, then what first springs to my mind is hospitable people, beautiful nature and delicious food. The most characteristic feature of Georgian people is that they are always eager to help.
I am looking forward to spending the next two years in this interesting and friendly country.
Sema BILGIC (Turkey)
1) I decided to study Georgian three years ago. I’m a student of Georgian Language and Literature Department at Kafkas University of Kars. This department was first to be opened in Turkey. I got interested in this language because nobody knows it in my country, although there are many jobs where Georgian is needed.
2) I always watch Georgian TV-channels in Turkey. As I listened to the news, I thought the situation in Georgia was bad but after I came here, I saw that it is not so bad. I think that Georgians are very strong people.
3) I could not clearly understand and speak Georgian in Turkey. I thought the course of The Summer School of Kartvelian Studies would be useful. So, I decided to attend it. My hope has come true. Now I speak and understand Georgian better.
4) I like The Summer School and especially the language lecturers.
5) Georgian music and dances are especially attracting to me.
6) I admire Georgians. They are hardworking, sincere and devoted people. Everybody respects each other. I like Georgian nature so much. One can see trees all around, wherever you look and I think that wine is the most special in Georgia!
7) I would advise others as well to visit Georgia and study at The Summer School.
8) I will not stop learning the language.
9) First of all I would take wine to Turkey as a symbol of Georgian Tamada and the culture of Georgian “Supra” that I will show my family and friends by all means.
Przemyslaw NOCUN (Poland)
There were many reasons for my attending Summer School in Kartvelian Studies. The most important reason is that Georgian culture, particularly Georgian historical monuments, have always attracted me. I am a lecturer of Archeology in Poland and in October I will start teaching medieval Georgian archeology. I think summer school helped me to get all the necessary materials that I needed for the course I will teach.
It is my third visit to Georgia. Last year I even travelled by bicycle around the country. Before my first visit to Georgia I knew something about the country, I have read books about Georgian history. I always prefer to know something about the country before I visit it. If one does not know at least the basic history of the country, then it is impossible to understand the culture. Because of my profession I knew much about medieval Georgia and the country in the last decade of the 20th century. But after my visit here I found out more: that Georgia is a great country, that the people are very hospitable, culture is very rich. I think Georgia has everything to attract tourists. The country could benefit from more visitors.
I like everything in summer school. I love my host family. They are great. I like the lectures of Georgian language, the lecturers etc. When I decided to attend the summer school I hoped to get some basics of Georgian language. Of course I did not expect that after 5 weeks of studying I would speak fluent Georgian. I also hoped to meet some scholars. I met the most prominent scholars of Georgian language, literature, architecture, history. It was a great experience. Their lectures helped me in gathering materials for my future research and teaching.
Excursions and concerts we have attended were especially interesting for me. I know that it is impossible to visit everything in a month, but at least they helped us to know more about Georgian nature and culture.
Prof. Khintibidze once mentioned that Georgian history is a great history of a small nation. I think it is a great description. Georgia is a small country, but its history is great. It was one of the strongest countries in medieval ages. Georgian people are very open, warm-hearted, nice, and friendly. I am not exaggerating. I really think so.
I want to maintain the knowledge of Georgian language that I acquired here and enhance it in the future. I am going to visit Georgia not only once, but many times and it will certainly be important for me to speak Georgian.
I would advise my compatriots to visit Georgia. But if they are interested in Georgian history, culture, language etc. then attending the Summer School in Kartvelian Studies is a great idea.
In Georgia I got many friends: both Georgian and of other nationalities. I will take good memories, many photos taken here and a shepherd’s hat.
Mehmet Nadir ACET (Turkey)
I decided to study Georgian in 2006, when The Department of Georgian Language and Literature was opened in Kafkas University of Kars.
I am very happy because I have many Georgian friends and all of them are very good people.
I like The Summer School of Kartvelian Studies. And I liked the excursions and a lecture about Turkish-Georgian relations most of all. I am very delighted with Georgian music and cuisine. Georgia is a small country but the people’s hearts are very big. I would live in Georgia in the future, particularly in Ananuri.
I shall advise fellow Turk friends to visit Georgia.
I shall continue learning Georgian for sure.
Russell Travenen JONES (Great Britain)
1) I have taken a keen interest in the Caucasus for a number of years, and have always wanted to get to grips with Georgian. The key to a country’s culture and people is, of course, its language, and, however daunting a task the acquisition of Georgian may appear, I have been determined to pierce the armour of this apparently impregnable language for some time. Georgian is renowned for its complexity – especially the fiendishly difficult verbal system – and the tongue-breaking phonetic system, in particular the consonant clusters and the demanding ejective consonants, so this is challenge enough for anyone interested in languages. Secondly, non-Indo-European languages have always fascinated me. On a more personal level, I would also love to be able to communicate with my Georgian friends in their beautiful native tongue.
Two other reasons for wanting to learn Georgian: my interest in this language was probably first kindled when I worked with a Georgian in London whose command of English was nothing short of perfect. This spurred me into wanting to master his language as well as he had done mine (an impossible task, I reluctantly have to admit, at my age, but it never hurts to set yourself a goal). Newport, the city in South Wales where I live, is twinned with Georgia’s second-largest city, Kutaisi, and I am a member of the very active Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association, so, with future cultural exchanges between Wales and Georgia in view, I would like to be able to have a certain competence in the language.
2) This is my second visit to Georgia: I first came here in 2007, and immediately fell in love with the country, its people, culture, language – everything Georgian, in fact. I certainly was not disappointed in my expectations. I had seen photographs of Georgia before I came for the first time, so I had a mental image of the country, and I was keen to see whether this (idealised) picture I had built up coincided with the reality. I knew how beautiful and diverse the Georgian landscape was, and wanted to explore the country for myself. During the course of the Summer School, we have been fortunate enough to visit many regions of Georgia, each with its unique character, and have been treated to lectures from leaders in their fields, thus expanding our knowledge of the geography, history, and culture of the country.
3) In retrospect, I had unrealistic expectations: I naively believed that, at the end of five weeks, I would be reasonably competent in the Georgian language. I should have known better, especially as I was already aware of the inherent difficulties of Georgian. Nevertheless, we have all made considerable strides, and, nearing the end of the course, all participants can be proud of their ability to communicate to varying degrees in this undoubtedly difficult, but extremely rewarding, language.
4) I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being at the Summer School. The days are packed and teaching is fast-paced, so there is never a dull moment. The language course is intensive and wide-ranging, and attempts to cover as much grammar as is possible in the five weeks available, meaning that students who complete it can take back to their respective countries a wealth of practical information about the structure of the Georgian language on which to build via independent study. Two expert tutors employ different techniques and methods to develop reading, writing, speaking, and aural skills. These are backed up by small group sessions in the afternoon to ensure the material has been mastered: in my opinion, a highly effective method.
If I had to single out an aspect of the programme which has been of particular interest and enjoyment to me, I would have to put the language lectures at the top of my list: my chance finally to tackle the intricacies of the Georgian language under the expert guidance and support of very patient native speakers. I feel that everything included in the five weeks complements the language training to give a first-rate grounding in Georgian culture. The excursions have contributed to my understanding of the history of the Georgian nation, as have the afternoon lectures from experts in such diverse fields as the history of the Georgian language (my particular favourite, given by the daughter of the founder of Georgian grammar, who is now herself the acknowledged expert on the Georgian language; it was a real pleasure to meet her, and to have ice-cream in her home), Mediaeval Georgian literature, Georgian politics, and Turkish loanwords in Georgian. Museum visits and a folk festival were other highlights of the extremely well thought-out programme. (I was thrilled finally to come face to face with the paintings of Nikoloz Pirosmanashvili, not once, but twice: at museums in Tbilisi and the beautifully restored mediaeval town of Sighnaghi.) The trips every weekend took us to many of the important towns, monuments, and sights in Georgia, something we would never have been able to achieve on our own, and also ensured we gelled as a team. I shall always keep in my mind’s eye the breathtaking sight of sunrise on snow-capped Mount Kazbegi from the garden of our guesthouse.
5) Of particular interest to me is the history of the Georgian language (a field I would very much like to pursue further in the future), Georgian polyphony, and literature, especially the world-renowned mediaeval poet Shota Rustaveli.
6) It is extremely difficult to sum up in a handful of words my feelings about Georgia and the Georgians. The only way to understand this deeply cultured, educated, rich, and vibrant nation is to experience it for yourself. It exudes history from every pore. Mediaeval churches and ancient fortresses can be glimpsed on virtually every hillside. Georgians are fiercely proud – and justly so – of their heritage, which, of course, includes their language; it has survived despite centuries of occupation, and will doubtless prosper for centuries to come.
The Georgians are a very handsome, attractive people; they are warm-hearted, intelligent, generous, loving, open, friendly, and sensitive. Their hospitality is something everyone has to witness first hand to believe – tables groan under a vast array of dishes: some simple, some exotic to the European palate – and the humblest home overwhelms you with its generosity. I have also been particularly impressed by the level of scholarship amongst the people I have met whilst attending the Summer school.
7) I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the Summer School experience to anyone. It is a tough, rigorous, yet fun and enjoyable course – very well designed and structured for maximum effectiveness, and is suitable for both beginners and more advanced students. As well as the wonderful teaching staff at the Centre for Kartvelian Studies, with whom you come into contact on a daily basis, the Summer School allows you to meet very interesting, friendly people, all with their own reasons for learning Georgian and for coming to Georgia; I very much hope that we shall remain in contact for years to come.
8) I shall undoubtedly continue my association with the Georgian language, which is inextricably linked with the friends I have made and the people I have met whilst in Georgia, and with the friends I already had in the country, all of whom have inspired me to take my knowledge of their beautiful language further. I feel the course has given me a solid foundation in the language, and I hope I can expand this knowledge in the years ahead. Several people from previous years have returned to the Summer School for a second or even third time to deepen their knowledge and practise the language in its home setting. I sincerely hope this will not be my last visit to the Centre for Kartvelian Studies.
9) Many years ago, I studied Welsh on a summer residential course. The method used was based on the experience of teaching Hebrew to immigrants to Israel from the Diaspora, and was designed to get students to speak the language in the shortest possible time in order to integrate into Israeli life as quickly as possible. Grammar was not the focus of this course – communication in everyday situations was the goal, and it was very effectively achieved. I’m not sure whether the complexities of Georgian would lend themselves to this approach, but it would be interesting to see whether it is possible to adapt the method to Georgian. I would be very interested in working with members of the Centre for Kartvelian Studies to develop a pilot scheme to introduce such an approach to the Centre in the future.
10) Memories which will remain with me for ever. The warmth and hospitality of our host families was truly amazing – they made the whole experience all the more special, and played an integral role in the success of our stay: living with a Georgian family, we felt part of the community, something which would not have been possible had we been in a hotel. Friendships forged amongst both the students and staff at the Centre will last many years, I feel sure, as will the contacts with our host families. I shall take back to Wales a deep respect for all things Georgian, and a first-hand understanding of the country and its people, which, although perhaps in a small way, will contribute to a greater understanding between our nations. Wales is a small country, as is Georgia, and I think it is important for small countries to forge strong links with one another.
Alper SAGLAM (Turkey)
I studied Georgian in Kafkas University of Kars. Then I decided to come to Tbilisi and improve my knowledge of the language. This is my first visit to a summer school. I think the curriculum of The Summer School is above all interesting because it is practically useful. I have attended many interesting lectures. I have taken great pleasure in Georgian literature and Georgian dishes. I am very pleased that I have been able to visit many interesting places. Georgia is a beautiful country. And I particularly liked Tbilisi. There are many historical places here. I am happy to find out that Georgian and Turkish cultures have lots of things in common. I will surely tell my Turk friends that they should take interest in The Summer School of Kartvelian Studies.
I will continue to study Georgian, as far as it is also my professional obligation to do so.
I would take a little wine from Georgia as well.
Thomas Dunning (Ireland)
1. I decided to come to Georgia and to study Georgian after meeting many wonderful Georgian people in Ireland.
2. I thought Georgia would more depressed and lifeless, but I found the exact opposite to be true! First, I’ve been to 21 countries and Georgia is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. Secondly, the Georgian people and their culture are very much alive with a strong energy and spirit I’ve never seen anywhere else.
3. I expected to meet many Georgian people, to learn the basics of the language and to discover Georgian culture ‘in Georgia’ as well. The Summer School of Kartvelian Studies not only met my expectations but also exceeded them. The supplemental lectures were from some of the most eminent, published, and leading academicians in the country. It was an honour to meet many of them and to have the opportunity to speak with them about specific issues relating to music, language, archeology, folklore, literature and gender.
The most important aspect of the Summer School was their willingness to facilitate the different learning styles of the various students. When I found myself struggling to keep up with some of my more academically inclined classmates, the school worked with me to develop a program of learning the suited my particular needs.
4. This has been one of the best experiences of my life. While I enjoyed the learning and the exploration of Georgian culture on a deeper level, it is the Georgian people themselves that have won my greatest affection. The individual support from the teaching assistants has been the key factor to my Georgian summer school experience, without them, I would have been lost.
5. Many aspects of Georgian culture are fascinating to me, but I particularly enjoyed exploring Shota Rustaveli’s classic poem, the Georgian dancers and singers, the amazing food and the various social norms the Georgian people live by.
6. Georgians are a strong people with an incredible resiliency. They are humorous and affectionate but mostly the value learning and their Georgian identity. It will be very interesting to see what the future holds for Georgia in this new age of information and globalization. They have retained their culture and identity for so long, despite many challenges, and I look forward to the modern world learning more about this wonder-filled nation.
7. I would advise anyone to visit Georgia! It is truly a remarkable country and I cannot wait to come back for another visit! I would recommend the summer school for anyone looking to get a deeper understanding of Georgia, its people and its language. I thought I ‘knew’ Georgia from my own independent study from afar, but you really have to come here to experience for yourself and the Summer School gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.
8. I will continue to study Georgian when I return home. Of course, my Georgian friends are quite anxious to tutor me and to hear of my experiences here. I do not think they will let me stop learning!
9. I will take many lovely memories of my Georgian friends and my fellow students. Some recipes for Georgian food, lots of music and most importantly, a deeper love for Georgia and Georgian people than I had before I arrived here.