The Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), which is Turkey’s global cultural institute, works to promote the study of Turkish and foster intercultural understanding. TRT World went to check out some of the work the organisation is doing in Sarajevo.
The students at the Suljo Cilic school in the Bosnian town of Jablanica are eagerly displaying their Turkish in a talent show. They are students who have chosen to study Turkish as their second foreign language in a programme called “Tercihim Turkce” (My choice is Turkish).
A traditional Turkish hymn, Gel Gor Beni Ask Neyledi (Come see what love has made me) - sung by a chorus of high voices is followed by individual performances, including recitation of stanzas from the Turkish national anthem and readings from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s address to youth. These are followed by an energetic folkloric dance with students from different age groups jumping around gracefully, if ever so slightly out of breath.
Students from the Suljo Cilic school in Jablanica, Bosnia and Herzegovina perform a folkloric dance.
The director of the school Edin Idrizovic says that the school has a total of 708 students, 201 of whom are learning Turkish as a second foreign language. English language training is compulsory, but students can choose between German and Turkish for their second foreign language.
Idrizovic says he owes thanks to Yunus Emre Institute, a non-profit organisation that promotes Turkish culture and teaches Turkish around the world. The institute has provided Turkish books and school supplies for free to students, and has also arranged trips to Turkey. Idrizovic adds that the Suljo Cilic Jablanica school also has a ‘sibling school’ in Turkey, with which they correspond.
Mehmet Akif Yaman, the director of Yunus Emre Institute in Sarajevo, says they provide three types of Turkish education. The institute, one of three in Bosnia and Herzegovina, offers 72-hour courses in Turkish at levels A1 to C1. A student can get a certificate after 144 hours of study. Then there are students in other cities who ask for Turkish classes for which the institute finds a tutor and sponsors the class. Finally, the institute lobbies education ministers, school principals and parents for the “Tercihim Turkce” programme so that Turkish is offered alongside German as a second foreign language to Bosnian students starting from the sixth grade grade.
Mehmet Akif Yaman is the director of Yunus Emre Institute in Sarajevo.
Yaman says of the 10 cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkish is being taught in seven. He says students who reach sixth grade have to pick a second foreign language alongside English, and their choice has historically been German, in order to find work in the country upon graduation. The students learn a second foreign language through to 13th grade, unless they go to a vocational school, which doesn’t offer that option.
Yaman adds that the Yunus Emre Institute has focused on increasing the number of students in these seven cantons, where more than eight thousand students are learning Turkish. The institute has educated 15,000 students in eight years.
Yaman points out that even if students don’t end up choosing to study Turkish, the institute does an important job in introducing Turkey and Turkish culture to towns across Bosnia - as they make presentations to parents and students in the fifth grade who will begin learning a second foreign language the following year.