I am preparing dinner as I invariably do in my evenings, with a wooden spoon in one hand and the other holding the hot pan – my daughter Nadia approaches me and suddenly blurts out, “Mami (the Albanian pronunciation), please do not share the secret recipes with anyone and please, write a book with all the secrets, just for me and Shaban.”
I smile and my heart wants to jump out of its cage and kiss her until she pushes me away; instead, I hesitate from the hug attack and respond, “Nadia, will the cookbook be in English or Albanian?”
She is a smart cookie* and solid on her intellectual feet*, “In both languages mami, please.”
I can be categorized as a traditional mother, but I am also the maternal authority who allows freedom to her offspring to gradually grow and eventually flourish. Shaban is 10 years old and Nadia is 8 and they both are now genuinely interested in communicating with grandma Adile, who lives overseas, in Albania.
As an Albanian-American, but as an Albanian first and foremost, I feel an obligation toward my first native tongue and I have made sure to sprinkle this beautiful poetic language all over my children’s brains early on, in the form of songs, endearing words, cartoons on Youtube, visits to Albania, and recently audio and video conversations with their blood relations; however, I have been unable to formally teach them as I’d rather leave it to a certified Albanian Educator.
At the American school they attend, their friends are asking if they can speak some Albanian words and Nadia immediately sticks her chest out proudly and boasts with virtue, but soon realizes that she lacks in vocabulary and competence, and when I pick them up after school, she runs into my arms and asks yet again if she can learn some more Albanian words.
I recently set out to search and discover what I could find online – woefully, we do not have any Albanian courses held or managed in Los Angeles. I came across https://lsiaal.org/, a Language School website that has been established for over 20 years; my dream of having my children speak “Shqip”, a desire older than a decade resurfaced – I visited the site, did a thorough investigation, read the testimonials, looked and snooped, and called the actual school as they do have a physical location in Tirana, Albania. The website is quite user friendly and the fear of sending money online to an online school dissipated as I got two or three email confirmations that I would be soon contacted by a teacher and that Shaban and Nadia would be in a classroom with two or three other kids, a coveted class size. I found the fees to be rather reasonable compared to the fees we are accustomed to in the United States, and if I am dissatisfied with the services or the way the classes are run, I am guaranteed a logical explanation, a change of class, or a reimbursement.
The news has been spread and the entire family is super joyous that Nadia and Shaban are highly interested in learning about their maternal family roots – Spanish courses are next on the list, and equipped with knowledge, trips to Mexico and Albania, the sky’s the limit for these two young scholars.
I encourage all families with at least one Albanian parent to consider looking into the option of having their kids formally educated by Albanian professionals on this website- I would venture to say that the courses are offered for all ages, all levels and they also provide instruction in other languages as well. Take a look, familiarize yourself and make a decision, a decision that will positively impact your children’s life and yours, for the rest of time.