A brand new course is starting at Vilnius University this academic year – Romanian language. Following an agreement between the Institute of Foreign Languages (Vilnius University) and the Institute of Romanian Language (Bucharest, Romania), prof. dr. Ovidiu Ivancu was the appointed Lecturer of Romanian language at Vilnius university.
How did teaching Romanian language start at Vilnius University?
Firstly, I would like to start by telling you that for me personally, it is a privilege to teach my language at Vilnius University. Your highly prestigious academic institution, with its rich and interesting history makes me proud to being here.
Now to answer your question, the Institute of Romanian Language in Bucharest functions under the Romanian Ministry of Education, promoting the Romanian language and culture in more than 40 universities around the world. In many ways, Romanian is a unique language. It is one of the official languages of the EU and as one of the Romance languages preserves the heritage of the Latin language, not only in terms of grammar.
Europe today is culturally shaped by our Greek and Latin heritage. Romanian, in spite of being a Romance language, preserves a lot of Slavic influences, due to the vicinity of the countries speaking Slavic languages. As for Romanian languagebeing taught in Lithuania, I think Lithuanians and Romanians have in common more than they realise. I am not referring only to the past, but to the present as well. We share the same vision regarding our future inside the EU and we have similar historical background.
Why did you personally choose Lithuania?
I have taught the Romanian language as a lecturer in India (New Delhi` University) and Republic of Moldova (Comrat State University). When a vacancy in Vilnius was officially announced, I knew I had to apply for several reasons.
First, I look at it as a challenge. Lithuanian collective mentality does not include much information about Romanian language and culture. So, there is serious and meaningful work to be done here. My PhD thesis deals precisely with the concepts of collective mentality, myths, images and perceptions in post-communist Romania. In a way, I felt my intellectual background and curiosity inspired me to apply for this position. What I can say now, having spent more than 3 months in Vilnius, I was not mistaken.
Secondly, for me a teacher is a sort of an adventurous explorer. I do not believe in teaching a language separately from culture. Language is the culture, and I am not the first one to believe in that. That is why I see my teaching work in Vilnius as an extremely enriching process, both for my students and me. In order to be efficient, I have to dive into your culture myself, I have to find connections and patterns.
Finally, I am not only a teacher but a writer too. From this perspective also Vilnius seems an appealing city. With all this in mind, I applied for this position as a lecturer at Vilnius University. The process of selection was difficult, concluded with an interview, but now I am here completely satisfied with the work I do and the opportunities Vilnius offers to me.
How do you find Lithuania and Vilnius?
I have never been to Lithuania before September 2017. Of course, when I decided to apply for this position, I read several articles I found in Romanian on Lithuania. However I knew it does not help too much. I have my previous experience in India as a reference. Reading about a culture and being there, in many ways, are two different things.
If someone asks me now to define my feelings towards Vilnius and Lithuania in one word (a subjective one, obviously), I would say, without hesitation, that the word is tranquillity. It seems to me that, in the middle of all the crisis and challenges Europe faces nowadays, Vilnius has its own internal rhythm and I like it. This capital is equally modern and traditional. If you allow me this metaphor, for me Vilnius is like a wise old man who has seen a lot and precisely because of that, he can have the luxury of being calm, peaceful, and tranquil. I know, of course, that I still have a lot to learn about your history and culture, but this is what I think now, after 3 months spent here.
What are the most important things you would like Lithuanians to know about Romania?
That we struggled a lot and we still do. Like you, in a way. We have traumatising Communist experience, we experienced the fall of Communism in a very dramatic, if not tragic manner and we are still trying to find our way inside the EU. I think you, Lithuanians, can understand this process better than others can. It is not easy; it is not without a price to pay. However, we have made our choice.
Our culture is in many aspects a melting pot. We are Orthodox, but we speak a Romance language, our culture grew at the intersection between Orient (the Ottoman Empire) and Occident (France), we have been cut off from the Western world for many decades (1947–1990. In our entire history, the period that started at 1990 is the longest uninterrupted moment of democracy and freedom of speech. When you look at it this way, it seems we are young, though in terms of culture and ideas, I think we can contribute.
Whenever I discuss the Romanian language with my students, I tell them that our language proves to be more accepting, tolerant and democratic than our history. It is a language, which constantly improves, develops and adapts to the new reality.