Acknowledgement and gratitude to scholars committed to promoting Albanian studies

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the International Albanological Conference themed “Gjergj Kastrioti – Skanderbeg, the time he lived and the traces he left behind,” where he awarded medal of honour to scholar of Albanian studies, Ke Jing:

Most honourable professor Ke Jing,

Honourable friends,

I feel truly privileged to be here today at the conclusion of a noble effort the International Albanological Conference represents in the framework of the Skanderbeg Year, an initiative designed to pay homage to his era and deed.

I am grateful to all the participants and I believe that the debates among you, the researches unveiled after more than a 4-month work are like the healthy seed falling on a fertile ground that will surely produce its crops.

The work that the government has supported, while having you as artisans and scientific quality guarantors of a conference that turned into a sort of a summit of scholars -it is no exaggeration to say that they come from all over the world – clearly focusing on the promotion of Albanian studies, deserves gratitude and special acknowledgment.

Please let me tell you it is not a coincidence that when we decided to present a public award to your honourable colleague from China and a special friend of our nation, Professor Ke Jing, we made it happen not under those gildings of the Republic, as a French saying has it, but right here among you all, where scholars of Albanian studies forge the very existence of the Albanology, constantly providing it breath, soul and future, and this is a symbolic award I’ve been given the honour and privilege to present to your colleague. This is definitely an award and appreciation of this whole community that deserves attention, as Albanian studies certainly deserve a special attention, just like its most comprehensive incarnation, the Albanian language does.

Dear professor Ke Jing,

Two years ago, at a meeting with the foreign translators of his work here in Tirana, Ismail Kadareja said you are devoted to a small and difficult language, while it may happen that we, who are your daily bread and this country’s authorities, may not think of you. Indeed, everybody make mistakes, even Ismail Kadare does and it turns out he was wrong because are thinking of you, but you should be confident – Ismail Kadareja went on saying back then – that the Albanian language will be eternally grateful.

I would like to draw on my personal experience to make a parenthesis. When the Confucius Institute was founded at Tirana University several years ago, I was very pleased to attend the inaugural ceremony. It doesn’t often happen for me to positively reply to invitations from the embassies to physically attend various events and instead ​​I always prefer to send a thank-you letter, but in that case I attended it for a very simple reason.

The invitation was worded in Albanian without a single spelling mistake. This is very rare nowadays. Receiving an invitation or a letter in Albanian and the fact that the invitation contained not only without any spelling mistake, but it was also written by Chinese people with an impressive finesse made me bow down with deep respect for those who had written the invitation. And not only that, but back then I said, and I want to reiterate it today, that we would be very lucky – and trust me I am not exaggerating it- should there be many more Chinese hire to teach Albanian to Albanians in Tirana. The Chinese speak and write Albanian with no grammar or spelling mistakes, whereas we are increasingly speaking our mother tongue as if writing SMS texts. And we are here today to honour the author of that invitation, the professor, the scholar of Albanian and Balkan studies, whom Albanians know by name Xhina. Ke Jing is her real name and it is not pronounced as it would have been directly pronounced just like as it is written in the Latin alphabet, because I would have asked her then to tell me how exactly her name is pronounced in order to match with a Chinese when pronounces another language, even her name alone, because if I was to try to speak Chinese than I would sound even more ridiculous than the majority of our MPs when they speak Albanian.

In the academic sense of the word, Ke Jing is a master, whose one of most prominent merits is definitely to be particularly highlighted and she knew – I don’t know how she succeeded- thanks to her unique wisdom and a Chinese patience, just like her compatriots and which we call the Chinese patience, but also with the zeal of a working bee – to bring together three Albanian-speaking generations devoted to China. The generation of the wrong love era, the generation of those who were later educated at the University of Prishtina and the generation of the students and Albanian language researchers who have graduated from the Albanian language department that professor Ke Jing has headed for many years and which currently is the largest and most important centre of Albanian language study in the entire Asian continent.

It is understandably the largest and most important centre because no other similar centres are to be found elsewhere, or at least we don’t know whether there is another centre, but it includes three complete cycles of university studies, including the postgraduate and doctoral research on Albanian studies and it is not an exaggeration to say that – and this is my imagination and not based in facts, but I am confident that facts would prove me right – if we were to compare the quality of the Albanian language department in Asia with the quality of the Albanian language department in Tirana, I have got the impression we have a lot more to learn from them than they have to learn from us. I would be very grateful to the professor that if in her remarks she is about to deliver she tells as much as a Chinese can confess in front of the public, how it comes, what has happened that to a mind of your calibre has chosen to devote all of life to the loneliest, most persecuted, and the most abandoned language in the kinship of Balkan languages when you have certainly received countless offers to pick a Slavic or another Eastern Europe language.

However, the truth is that these languages because of the very range of their extension and geopolitical radiation that have aroused an ever broader perspective for someone’s interest in making their life choice and their kinship with more powerful nations and countries makes them more tempting than Albanian language and therefore today it is not only a curiosity, but also an extraordinary gratitude and respect that you have chosen the narrowest lane of the languages ​​you could have chosen and instead devoting yourself to the Albanian language.

I don’t want to mention what I think the reasons might have been, but I’m confident that your choice could be described as a strategic rather than a tactical one. I am convinced of that and very much hope that professor will confirm my conviction. Not in a sign of politeness, but only if this is true. I won’t go further speaking, but I would like to tell professor Ke Jing that her masterpiece in this field is her translation of Confucius, making it sound like a rhapsody very familiar to our ears.

So to conclude, dear professor Xhina, as everyone calls you in Albanian, you are a just a speck of salt in this large sea of the world that certainly give taste to this world and we all and everyone here are grateful and, I believe I’m speaking on everybody’s behalf by saying that this medal, which I invite you to collect, is too small and too light to hold the entire gratitude and my and our respect for you.

I want to add that upon presenting this award, I wish you hail it also as a special acknowledgement and honour for the Albanian language department at the Beijing International Studies University.