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LANGUAGE can be a touchy subject in these days of elastic borders and fluid nationalism, but to Danilo Jankovic, his language is a matter of personal pride.
Born and bred in Canberra and sounding like just about any other Aussie, he nonetheless confidently claims Serbian as his mother tongue.
Until about the age of six he spoke Serbian and learnt the Cyrillic alphabet from his grandparents, later picking up English and the Latin alphabet from his chess master when he got to school.
Jankovic will be the MC at the start of this year’s annual Mother Language Walk across Kings Avenue Bridge, marking the UNESCO-proclaimed Mother Language Day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
Although he considers himself a true-blue Aussie, Jankovic believes that the reason he still holds such strong cultural and family values can be traced back to what was going on in 1992 when his parents migrated from Bosnia. All parties in the Bosnian conflict were fiercely passionate about their identity and he says: “I was brought up in that mentality.”
He celebrated Orthodox Christmas, plunged into Serbian Orthodox Church games and friendships, and was a member of a dance group until he was 18.
All the while, Jankovic was well aware that that “the beauty of Australia is the multiculturalism,” saying: “I love Australia with all my heart but my culture is Serbian.”
Now at 21, he is ambassador for a Canadian-based NGO called “28 June”, which has raised millions of dollars to help communities in Kosovo.
He’ll be there with hundreds of others on Sunday, February 25 (the UNESCO date is actually February 21, but the weekend is more convenient). The walk across Kings Avenue Bridge will start from 3pm under the international flag display near the National Library on Lake Burley Griffin.
Participants are invited to celebrate their family languages and the many others spoken in the ACT area by wearing something traditional or colourful, bringing banners and singing in their family languages. It’s a free event and everyone’s welcome to bring a picnic and meet other multilingual Canberrans at the end of the walk in Kings Park near the Police Memorial.
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