Girl who spoke Indonesian rather than Greek while growing up wins Greek language scholarship at La Trobe



When Penelope Vakalopoulos, who is studying for her Greek language degree at La Trobe University, was offered a $ 4,000 scholarship to support Greek language learning opportunities, she was taken a bit by surprise.

The 10 Greek language scholarships offered by the university were made available by the Victorian government through the Community Support Fund. For Penelope, that means a lot.

“As a language student, you don’t expect a lot of funding to go your way, because language students and departments are not a priority – especially in the current climate,” he said. she declared.

“You feel the pinch of COVID budget cuts as topics are eliminated left, right and center. “

Despite this, Ms. Vakalopoulos persevered in her language study primarily because of intrinsic motivation.

When the money comes, like in this case, she said Neos Kosmos it is “not fundamental for motivation, but it is a reinforcement”.

“It’s not just about the money, but that people think of us,” she said.

READ MORE: Scholarships to Support Greek Language Students at La Trobe

The scholarship is based on academic merit, and Ms. Vakalopoulos managed to achieve excellent results despite growing up as a 4th generation Greek who did not speak the language at home. In fact, she realized that she had a gift for languages ​​not by speaking the language of her heritage but by learning Indonesian in school.

“The first foreign language I learned was Indonesian and I had a few exchanges in Indonesian, learned the language and used it in a living context,” she said, adding that Greek no was not offered at her high school nor spoken at home, hence she learned to speak better Indonesian than the language of her heritage.

Ms. Vakalopoulos went on to study for her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Arabic and minor in Indonesian.

Unable to find a modern Greek course, she chose a year of ancient Greek as well as a few electives, such as the history of ancient Greece.

It wasn’t until early 2020, while strolling through the Lonsdale St Greek Festival, that she met Dr Stephie Nikoloudis, Senior Lecturer and Greek Studies Program Coordinator of the Department of Languages ​​and linguistics of La Trobe and discovered that she could enroll in a separate degree.

“It’s part of my identity that I’ve tried to reconnect with and cultivate. I started to teach informally myself and had a tutor for a year alongside my 12th grade studies. I wanted to enroll in Greek directly as part of my Bachelor of Arts degree, but the University of Melbourne did not offer it, so I studied Ancient Greek and was delighted to learn that I could do it at La Trobe, ”she said.

READ MORE: It’s official! The Greek language program continues at the University of La Trobe

The online learning environment made it a bit easier to juggle his curriculum where most of his subjects were at the University of Melbourne with Modern Greek at La Trobe and Persian at ANU. well worth the effort.

She never went to Greek school as a child, although she did manage to smuggle a few Greek textbooks from her grandmother’s house.

“I took a year off and spent two months in Greece,” she said.

“The first two weeks were in Aigio, Peloponnese, with my aunt, who doesn’t speak English and it was a nerve-racking immersive experience,” she said, adding that her language had taken on a more structured form. La Trobe.

“I often have the subconscious impression that I don’t speak colloquial Greek as it is spoken on the street because I was not immersed in the language, but I have mastered the grammar and reading and the language quite well. writing, and that translates into the bottom line – and that’s where I excel at literacy and grammar. The oral component was not assessed informally, ”she said.

She says the scholarship is “heartening and encouraging and will help me continue my education over the next few years.”

“I have thought over and over again that I need to open up a career path,” she said, adding that her learning was simply driven by her own desire.

“I never had a clear vision of the kind of professional utility in which I wanted to put my languages ​​to good use. “

Recently she has started teaching Arabic to first year students as well as elementary Greek to adults and is happy to do her part to “prevent the loss of the Greek language”.

Next year she plans to do a year of combined specialization in Arabic and Greek and from there she will continue to do what she loves.



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