„Mówisz po polsku?” If you still cannot speak Polish and are interested in this colourful Slavic language, this article might be just for you. This time the E@I team in cooperation with other international partner organisations brings you polski.info – an e-learning platform that will cheer all the polyglots around the world up. Out of curiosity, did you know that Polish is the second most spoken Slavic language in the world? No? Read through this article and you might discover some other interesting facts.
Do you already know that the volunteers in E@I are a part of the European Voluntary Service (whose name has been changed to European Solidarity Corps not long ago) financed thanks to the European Union? Each new volunteer of this program is invited to meet other people also volunteering in his host country, other young people between 18 and 30 years old, who are coming from various countries, are volunteering in various towns at different organisations, and who have various missions related to different fields. Such a variety! A meeting like this could only be interesting, I thought – and my ex-volunteer colleague confirmed that “it’s like an Esperanto-meeting, but in English”. Really?
Like an Esperanto-meeting
The volunteers’ meeting took place in the Slovak Tatras during freezing December days. Eighteen volunteers from Slovakia came from the entire country on Wednesday evening and left the place on Sunday morning. The meeting has been guided by two women who proposed our schedule. The programme was in fact well thought out and quite interesting. On the first day we played some little games to get know each other and received some advice about the volunteering. During the next days, each volunteer presented his association and goals. It was also possible to speak about our experience, ask questions to the supervisors, exchange on difficulties. We even get a hiking day to discover the village of Zázrivá, where the meeting was situated, and its mountainous outdoor. Unfortunately the weather was too cold and the path too slippery, so we had to turn back despite the landscape being magnificent. In the early evenings we could watch the Slovak film Cigán, which I liked, and take part in some instructive quizzes about Slovakia. After that the atmosphere was more festive and participants went to chat in the pub next to the inn.
To be honest, I was a bit dubious about communication, because I never ever needed to truly speak English outside lessons, and though my understanding level was good, I was aware that my speaking level was cryogenically frozen. The words were easier coming to me in Esperanto, and once I even spoke to people in Esperanto by mistake. I was sorry that I couldn’t speak as easily as in a real Esperanto-meeting. In concrete terms, I realized that people gladly created little groups at free time and talked in their mother language: whether that was French, German, Greek… But my biggest surprise was that even mutual understanding was difficult, whether for each one’s accent, or for the diversity of fluency level on the whole. I have no worry about the heterogeneity of language levels: it’s nice that everybody can be a volunteer by the EVS, because it was also made to allow people to improve their skills. Concerning the variety of accents, I have merely become more aware that a lot of non-native speakers of English would always stay on the sidelines. Even with good language skills, how could we communicate on an equal footing if one’s pronunciation is so unusual that the others can’t easily understand it?
EVS-volunteer in E@I
Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting parts of EVS is the on-arrival training, which predominantly aims to direct and prepare new volunteers for their oncoming ventures. Sounds a bit official, I know, but truth be told the essence of this “directing” and “preparing” lies within a set of non-formal and fun activities which coincidentally ensure that the memories be long lasting, useful and treasured from a number of points of view.
Having arrived to Žilina in the afternoon, a rather fun trip I dare add, I, without a further ado, easily got to the hotel from the bus station which was thankfully located just a few hundred meters from the stop. After a bit of settling in, I realized I was in fact one of the first ones to arrive, the others started arriving a bit later. Having some free time I decided to explore the town a bit, although it seemed a bit “industrial” at first, the impression was short lived and completely dismissed as soon as I discovered the incredibly beautiful and well looked after architecture that’s more than a hundred years old. At five in the afternoon It was time to start with getting to know one another, this being the first part of the program, it carried the goal of ice-breaking for the fresh volunteers from around ten countries (e.g. from the Central American Honduras, to Caucasian Georgia, to West European Netherlands). We soon found out that we bore an impressive range of projects such as, but not limited to, Gypsy minorities and horses in a distant village. Of course my own project was rather a point of interest as well, not only for the other volunteers but also for the trainers and organizers who curiously asked about the project of E@I and also regarding Esperanto in general.
Apart from lengthy games designed to get to know each other better and presentations of our volunteering programs, one of the most interesting and at the same time, tiring tasks were the town games (which we decided to undertake instead of a trip out of town) which included a hefty and active list of tasks where one had to, by oneself, find various places in the entirety of the town’s center and at the same time communicate with the locals using, according to one’s ability) Slovak (however it was quickly noted and decided that the international language English was sufficiently wide-spread). The games not only brought us closer to the town’s folk but also supported and strengthened our sense of teamwork which is a key skill of volunteering.
One of the most interesting activities was indeed the presentation of the country, done by the organizers; they wanted to present Slovakia to such a flamboyant and background-rich group of young volunteers, using non-formal, interesting ways, so that the presentation itself could be much more awe-inspiring and curiosity-piquing. Sure as the fact that the Sun rises, it is worth mentioning the final non-formal activity which was aimed at bringing the town’s nightlife to our attention and which effectively lasted till the early morning, mostly thanks to the multicultural attractiveness of the town. Certainly, the several day long training will remain one of the most memorable parts of my EVS.
This article has been written by Lasha from Georgia who is volunteering in E@I thanks to the European Voluntary Service, financed by the European Union.