VILNIUS - Close to 500 million European Union residents in the bloc's 27 member states will soon have the opportunity to study Lithuanian, thanks to the Autonomous Language Learning Project launched by the European Union as a part of its Socrates Lingua program.
The project, currently in its initial stages and under discussion this month by its coordinators in Vilnius, aims to create a blended learning system 's one that involves both Internet-based and traditional forms of study.
Lithuanian is one of the four EU languages offered under the project. The other three are Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian.
Romania and Bulgaria, whose combined population amount to some 30 million, joined the EU on Jan. 1. Though Lithuania's population of just 3.3 million is relatively low, at least 300,000 Lithuanians are currently working in Great Britain, Ireland and Spain.
Turkey's entry into the EU is still elusive, but many EU countries such as France, Austria, Netherlands and Belgium have significant Turkish speaking minorities, and some 2 million Turkish speaking people live in Germany alone. Turkish is also one of the official languages of Cyprus and also has official status in several municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia, which also aims to become an EU member.
Jolita Sliogeriene, associate professor at Vilnius Mykolo Romerio University and coordinator of the project in Lithuania, told The Baltic Times that the course will be mainly aimed at adult learners who have had an initial introduction to one of the languages and who want to progress from a survival level to greater competency.
"Diaspora, businessmen, expats, tourists, as well as people who are interested in languages, are all part of the targeted sector," Sliogeriene said.
According to her, the courses are designed to help students become autonomous learners and will include weekly classes with the course tutor. The final courses will be available through language schools and colleges across Europe. A listing of courses will be available on the special EU web-site.
The project also aims to develop so-called "blended learning" technology, which is to be used later for teaching five other, less widely used EU languages 's Dutch, Estonian, Hungarian, Maltese and Slovenian.
"The piloting of the project with the target group will be conducted this fall and if everything goes well it will be fully launched in 2008," Sliogeriene said.
"We are very happy that the Lithuanian language was chosen for the project. This proves it is a living language with the capacity not only to survive but also to spread," she added.
The Vilniaus Gedimino Technikos University is also taking part in the project.