Seven children aged 7 to 12 are attending the course. There also 400 adults who are taking Turkish language courses in the same education center. Turkish Consul General in Athens-Piraeus Nurdan Altuntaş was with the students and their families when classes began on May 20. The first lesson given by teacher Zeynep Albayrak Verbis began with learning the Turkish alphabet.
Students Vangelis Blazakis, Fotis Vafiadis, Tatiana Vafiadis, Deniz Karvori, Eleni Pashalidu, Ariadni Kovi and Athina Pashalidu said they are happy to start learning Turkish. Vafiadis, in remarks to Today’s Zaman, said when she learns Turkish she wants to help people who don’t know Turkish; she speaks the language every summer she visits İstanbul.
Tatiana’s brother Fotis said: “It is good to start a Turkish course. We need some practice, but we will learn the language eventually. I want to speak Turkish when I order a meal.”
Nine-year-old Blazakis said he wants to speak Turkish during his visits to Turkey. “I think I need to learn Turkish. If I have to travel without my family, I think I need to know Turkish.”
He also said he expects his mother, who is Turkish, to help him with his learning, adding that he is already familiar with the language because he goes to Turkey for vacations and has relatives there. Pashalidi, 7, said she needs to learn Turkish because she goes to Turkey with her family every summer. “I hope it will be fun and easy,” she said.
Consul General Altuntaş told Today’s Zaman why the course was launched. “Our community (Turkish Greeks) in Athens was eager for their children to learn Turkish . They asked us about starting a language course. We already had such a project in mind at the consulate general. Our embassy supported this, and we talked to the administration about running a course. They provided us with both a place and a teacher. So, we have taken the first step to enable our children to learn Turkish. We think this step will help both our community here and bilateral relations between Turkey and Greece.”
She also noted that more children are expected to take the course in the future. The mother of one of the children taking the course, Özge Okay Karbonis, who came to Greece after getting married 13 years ago, said she wanted her children to learn Turkish to feel comfortable in their second homeland, Turkey.