Language and Cultural Exchange in Ritsona.

Lighthouse Relief
Nov 19, 2018 · 4 min read

Life in Ritsona is temporary. Although some have been in Ritsona for over two years, being relocated is the ultimate intention for all. Indeed, some in Ritsona have family members waiting for them elsewhere in Europe, while others aim to start their new life independently in Greece. To assist them in this, Lighthouse Relief offers a number of language classes to help make their future resettlement as comfortable as possible. Because of their need and enduring popularity, it could be said the language workshops are a hallmark of our work in Ritsona.

We sat down with Lighthouse Relief’s Ritsona Field Officer, Valentina to discuss her English language workshops.

How are your workshops structured?

“I hold two separate workshops. One is exclusively for preteen girls, where I teach beginner level English. In my second workshop, I teach intermediate English to young men. The actual tuition of both workshops is in Arabic.”

Have you ever taught a language before? If so, how does teaching in Ritsona compare?

“I’ve been teaching Italian to non-native speakers for quite a long time, and the lessons were held in Italian and English. When I moved to Jordan, I also taught Italian in Arabic.

Teaching in Ritsona requires probably more flexibility than in a formal and academic environment, but apart from that, all our students are very serious and committed. I would say that in general, teaching a language is never just making someone understand a rule or how a grammatical concept works: a language is an extremely powerful vehicle of feelings, opinions, cultures, and life itself. In our workshops in Ritsona, every time it’s a new exchange, a new discovery and I couldn’t be more proud of the students that attend my workshops. It’s really inspirational to see their commitment.”

Have you had a favourite moment teaching here?

“I would honestly say that I really enjoyed and enjoy every workshop I did so far… I think seeing how the Ritsona residents attending our workshop have learned so fast and in such a stressful environment and are becoming fluent is the most amazing thing for a teacher, and sense how they feel confident in using the language to help other residents in translating as well. That makes me the happiest teacher in the world!

I have to admit that sometimes it’s funny, as in Ritsona we are surrounded by so many languages, like Arabic, Kurdish, English, French, Farsi, etc, so sometimes I forget the translation of a word in English/Arabic, I find that hand gestures are always the best option in these cases (I’m Italian, after all!). All my students are so patient with me!”

Would you say that your students are enthusiastic and dedicated?

“Definitely. The girls, for example, show up even 15 minutes before we actually start so that they have time to revise the words we studied in the previous lesson. They study really hard and even when we do not have a workshop that day and I’m working either in the Child-Friendly Space or Youth Engagement Space, sometimes they come and ask me a few words more or want to double check some translations.”

In addition to English, Lighthouse Relief also provides workshops in German, these are taught by Sarah, a volunteer from Germany.
When asked about the difference between her students in Ritsona, and in prior language workshops she led in schools, Sarah explained:
“The key difference is that my students in Ritsona camp come to the German workshops because they want to come, i.e. they are intrinsically motivated. This creates a motivated, focused, and positive atmosphere and environment within the classroom….”

As with Valentina, students regularly approach Sarah outside of her workshops to discuss language or to ask for assistance (or even more work!). Indeed, one particularly dedicated student, when asked about his significant progress proudly stated:
“If you give me 10 words, I’ll learn 10 words, if you give me 200, I’ll learn 200”.

Such a desire for learning and cultural exchange is powerful, and it is not only shown by residents, but by Lighthouse Relief staff and volunteers too. It is not uncommon to see Lighthouse Relief members being taught phrases in Arabic, Kurdish, Duala, or Farsi. One member of staff was even taught a traditional Duala song.
In the past, some residents, trained by our Residential Volunteer programme have hosted language classes of their own.

We intend to provide language workshops for as long as we can. But if you want to help us with this, you can donate by clicking the link below:

Or, if you have language teaching experience, you can volunteer with us directly here:

Notes from the Lighthouse

NGO providing emergency relief to refugees in Lesvos and long-term support in Ritsona refugee camp in central Greece.

Lighthouse Relief

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We provide emergency relief to refugees arriving in Lesvos and long-term support to vulnerable groups in Ritsona Refugee Camp on mainland Greece.

Notes from the Lighthouse

NGO providing emergency relief to refugees in Lesvos and long-term support in Ritsona refugee camp in central Greece.

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