Babel Banja Luka, A different foreign language school

“Those who do not know anything about foreign languages know nothing about their own” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sanja Kobilj is an entrepreneur from Banja Luka who has transformed her love into a constantly progressing business. We present an interview that will enchant you, but also answer many questions.

787: When was your love for languages born?

* Love for languages was born quite early, at school, when almost all of us went to the only foreign language school in Banja Luka, Radnički univerzitet. Italian language, which I studied later on, happened to me by pure accident. I was curious to see what a Romanic language looks like, and it became my great love. Today I appreciate the knowledge of foreign languages even more, because they provide the possibility of communication and independence wherever you are. They provide you with insights into different sources of information, without intermediaries, which makes the information you get so much more objective.

787: How did you go from passion to starting your own business?

* The idea of an unconventional foreign language school, which would look more like a living room making people feel comfortable and relaxed while learning to talk, was stirring in my head for a long time. This idea was inspired by the fact that the schools in which I personally went to courses or in which I worked, in my opinion, were not of high quality. There are two basic problems related to foreign language schools in our country. They either go for the quantity, so you are forced to study in a group of 30 people and you do not get a chance to even introduce yourself, or they are smaller groups in which you get to learn in a “school” way, lesson by lessons. The teacher goes through all grammar, you pay for those classes so much, and at the end of this process you are not able to say two simple sentences in a present or a future in the language you are learning. All this motivated me to try and use my own work experience and open a different school.

787: Which languages are favorites to citizens of Banja Luka?

* “Favorite” is not an adequate word, currently, unfortunately because of the crisis, people choose to learn languages that are practical to them, in terms of leaving the country or possible employment, which are German, Swedish and English. Nevertheless, I have to emphasize that we have many students who are devoted to learning Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Russian and many other languages, because it is their passion and because they feel fulfilled working on themselves.

787: What is the procedure for establishing a foreign language school? Were there any problems during registration?

* The procedure was quite simple, since I’m considered as a stand-alone entrepreneur. Registration is not really complicated, nor expensive, however, taxes and various expected and unexpected expenses that come later make it difficult for small businesses to work.

787: How is Babel school different from others?

* We have small groups, with a maximum of 10 members. We try to teach people to speak the foreign language they chose, not dumb grammar. We always adapted to the needs of the students, which means that if someone has enrolled a course or is coming to private classes to get a job as a caregiver in a foreign country, our professors will adapt the learning program to the needs of such occupation. We have a lot of socializing apart from language classes, e.g. at the end of each semester we organize a dinner with all participants, where each of us brings a dish that he himself has prepared, Italian, Bulgarian… depending on the group. Such events are a great opportunity for socializing and getting closer, because a foreign language course means getting to know new people and socializing with them. Last Saturday, our Turkish teacher went to the wedding ceremony of a former student who married a Turk. These are wonderful examples of relationships among people which do not stop when the course ends.

787: What motivated you to an independence? What was the key moment?

* Apart from what I mentioned before, the moment of decision was directly related to a deep personal desire to try to develop some of the potentials that I thought I had, but I was still not that sure.

787: What is the Babel collective like? What are the means of teaching foreign languages that distinguish you from “classical” foreign language schools?

* Babel is a harmonious collective in which the democratic principle of equality and fair play is present. Of course, as in any other collective, there were associates who did not fit into our idea of how a professor should work. Nevertheless, they are generally people with whom we cooperated, and with whom we still work, very creative and positive. It seems to me that Babel is surrounded by that kind of positive energy that just attracts such people to us. When it comes to the teaching methods, they are various and diverse, and it is never just about one method. The point is to experiment, to be spontaneous and professional in proportional doses and to adapt to the needs of the students.

787: Can you give some advice to young people who want to start their own business?

* First of all, stop listening to those who “friendly” advise you to give up. Why would you? Even if you fail, you will know that you tried, and that feeling is amazing. Arm yourself with patience, because success is something that has to be waited for and nurtured, but if you do your job well, it inevitably comes. Find an extra job, until the one you’re starting does not come to life (a joke with a dose of truth, at least in our country).

787: What are the plans for the future of the Babel School of Foreign Languages?

* Plans are numerous, we just have to wait for our youngest and sweetest Babel girl, named Anika, now 10 months old, to grow up. There are plans for a number of new courses, seminars, organization of literary and other thematic evenings. Follow us at https://www.babel-skola.com/ to not miss anything.

If you are looking for a different foreign language school, in which you will feel comfortable, but also learn a new language, Babel is the right choice for you! Foundation 787 wishes Foreign Language Schools Babel all the best in further work.

Authors: Marija Pudarić & Edina Velić