When I returned to her classroom, Andrew, her teacher, asked, “Dona, did you have something special that you wanted to present?” Her eyes darted about with some anxiety as she said, “Yes,” looking nervously at the notes she had written in pencil in her notebook. With an inner bravery that likely has conquered her fears on many occasions, she began to speak, looking directly at me; it was as if she wanted me, uniquely, to understand her story and as though this telling was intended as a special gift for me. With hard-earned English fluency, she struggled a bit, always teachably accepting the slight corrections to grammar, syntax or word choice offered by her teacher and her fellow English-language learners. She never lost the open, responsive spirit typical of a good language-learner, despite her powerful desire to tell her story.
She reminded me that she had taken this independent initiative to do this unassigned project following an exhausting day on the job, despite the reality of her weariness from work. All of our adult Albanian students are tired after their work - if they are fortunate enough to have a job. But Dona was determined to write-out and practice in English this special talk. The celebration of her motherland’s day of independence and its freedom from external domination is important to her. And she sincerely wanted to tell her treasured story in my native tongue.
Dona’s contribution was more than just a demonstration of a growing conversational English competency. It was more than an exhibit in cross-cultural communication. It was even more than an illustration of the powerful desire for human freedom for all peoples. Dona illustrated why we teach English-as-a-Foreign-Language to at least one hundred Albanians during every session at PORTA. We want Albanians to speak the English language, of course, to widen the world of opportunity for them. But, what is more, we want Albanians to be able to verbalize what is important to them, to articulate the deepest treasures of their hearts and their most prized values.
Thanks, Dona, for doing just that!