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News 14 Mar 16

More Bosnian Muslims Learn Turkish and Arabic

A growing number of schools in Sarajevo are offering Turkish and Arabic lessons - testament to the growing clout of Turkey and the Arab world among Bosnia's Muslims.

Rodolfo Toe
 Illustration: a primary school in Sarajevo | Photo: Anadolu

A growing number of children attending primary and secondary school in Sarajevo are learning Turkish and Arabic as "second foreign languages" alongside those traditionally taught to Bosnian children, such as English and German, the Ministry of Culture and Education of the Canton of Sarajevo told BIRN.

Ministry data show Arabic is being taught in seven primary and secondary schools in the Canton, and Turkish in 12.

Mirsad Lelo, director of the "Vhrbosna" primary school in Sarajevo, told BIRN that English remains the first foreign language.

"But pupils can choose their second foreign language; by law, if at least six of them want to attend classes in a particular language, we organise them", Lelo said.

Lelo school's organises classes in both Arabic and Turkish. The teachers are from Bosnia.

"Speaking different languages is valuable; if I could, I would also like classes in Russian or Italian", Lelo noted, adding that he believes in "a democratic and open school" that satisfies the wishes of the families.

The director of the private Isa Beg Ishakovic primary school in Sarajevo told BIRN that since it opened in 1996, English and Arabic have been the first foreign languages while Turkish was introduced this year as a second foreign language.

If the growing popularity of Arabic and Turkish reflects the growing influence of Turkey and the Arab states in Muslim parts of Bosnia, the increase in Turkish classes also reflects specific agreements between the Bosnian and Turkish authorities, who have been establishing closer ties in recent years.

Turkish was first introduced as an official subject to students from Canton Sarajevo in the academic year 2013/2014 following an agreement between the Canton and the Turkish embassy to Bosnia, according to the Ministry of the Canton.

Outside Sarajevo, Turkish is officially taught in school of seven cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's mainly Bosniak and Croat entity.

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