Laia Serret (Tarragona, 1987) has just won the “El català pel món” (Catalan in the World) Prize awarded by the Godall Edicions publishing house. She has a degree in Catalan Philology and Literary Studies from Barcelona University. For a year and a half she has been living in Szeged, Hungary, where she works as a Catalan teacher. She applied for the job because she was attracted by the country and this region of Europe. She thought that it would be a very enriching experience, and says that it has been.
What do you think of the initiative of the prize?
It is nice that a publishing house such as Godall Edicions has made a commitment to make the voices of those of us working for Catalan language and culture abroad heard. This initiative is positive for two reasons. On the one hand, it allows teachers to be able to explain at first hand what we do, what we feel, what the place we live in is like, and so on. On the other, it transmits this account to all those in the Catalan speaking areas who are not quite sure what being a language teacher means, or they are very curious to find out a few details about it.
And winning it?
The most gratifying thing is writing about places that are now part of my personal geography and that a panel of experts has liked this text, which was so important to write for me.
How did you decide to go and teach your language in another country? Why Hungary?
The idea of teaching Catalan abroad had always aroused my curiosity. When in 2013 I applied for the job, I asked for Szeged because I was attracted by the idea of living in a country totally unknown to me, and because, some years ago, when I was still a Catalan Philology student, a teacher told me that he knew the language teacher at Szeged, and he knew that he was very happy there.
Are there many students in Hungary interested in learning Catalan?
Yes, you can now study Catalan at three of the country’s universities: the University of Szeged, Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and Péter Pázmány Catholic University. Not only that: there is also a very active group of Hungarian Catalanists. At the University of Szeged the students can make Catalan Studies a complete special subject, which offers a very complete education: language courses are on offer but also contemporary literature, medieval literature, culture and history.
What do you find most gratifying about your job?
The good times I have with the students. The moments when I see that the students are happy, they are learning and they have a good time as well. That’s when I think the job is really worthwhile. Because it is something reciprocal: if they enjoy it, so do I. It is also very gratifying to see the progress the students are making between the start and the end of the course. On a daily basis it is difficult to perceive but if we do the exercise of looking back, we can see how they have progressed – and how we have too – and that’s really nice.
Tell us one of the anecdotes that best illustrate you work as a teacher
One of the funniest moments this year has been fer cagar el tió (beating a Yule log with a stick to make presents come out) and getting students who are adults to sing a song, and who in other circumstances would not have agreed to do it. One of the things that is very characteristic of my classes are the terrible drawings I do on the board to accompany the explanation of a word. Well, I do it so badly that now it is the students themselves who are beginning to volunteer to draw instead of me. It seems that they can no longer stand looking at really misshapen figures!
She is the winner of the 2nd “El català pel món” Prize
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