I have heard people talk about the difficulties of learning a third language as they mix things up and confuse their words. This is the first time I have studied intensely a third language and one that is not Latin based.
In case you were wondering, it is a total
PIECE OF CAKE.
What? Is my face twitching because I am lying?? It’s because I am. Laži! Lies! Mentiras!
I love the Spanish language, I really do. However, the last couple months it has been like a two-year-old child that will not keep still in her/his chair! It is so much harder than I thought to silence my Spanish words that come to mind while I am searching for my newly learned Croatian words. When I am forming sentences, my natural language instinct is to form sentences in Spanish. I am pretty sure my language profesorica thinks I am phonetically challenged as I struggle to speak at a normal pace.
I feel challenged.
To feel challenged is good right? It’s why I’m here…right??
This also might be because rarely does any word look remotely close in English to what I am trying to say. Spanish has many cognates such as (put on your best Spanish accent!) actor, animal, chocolate, significativo, confusión, televisión, y embarazada (just kidding, this actually means pregnant – not embarrassed!). In the Croatian or Hrvatski language, actor = glumac, animal = životinja (gee-voh-teen-yah), chocolate = čokolada (one of the first words I learned!), significant = značajan (zna-cha-yan), confusion = zbunjenost (zu-boon-ye-nose-t), and television = televizija (te-le-veez-ee-ya).
Ja volim učiti jeziki. I like to learn languages. After two weeks of language school, I can say that sentence I just typed to you! Woot woot!
Language has been a ginormous part of my time in Croatia. Our church is filled with Hrvatski, Engleski, Arabic, Persian, and others where I cannot even spell the name of the language.
Languages are a significant part of who we are. We cannot study a culture and engage in it without significant observation to the language (and trying to speak it ourselves).
As many know, I am in a Ethnography Research Methods Master’s course for the Spring semester. One of the most helpful insights I have learned through this course is that my ethnographic research should center around describing the studied culture in the culture’s own terms. If I was to retell what I have observed, heard, or participated in and describe it in only my own terms, this could mean a loss in translation in a culture’s true identity. The culture’s language is in every aspect of who they are which relays the importance of this insight.
This is a constant theme of James Spradley’s book, The Ethnographic Interview. He says, “Cultural meaning emerges from understanding how people use their ordinary language” (Spradley 82). This remains important to me as I have begun learning the Croatian language and living in a Croatian context. Already, I have found some words that only exist in Croatian and assist in my cultural understanding of the people I am living alongside.
You may remember my mention of the propuh in Croatian. There is no English word that can fully grasp the dangerous, fearless, and deadly manner of the propuh. Only through my discovery of life through relationships and actions of people have I gained a perspective of the propuh. For those new here, the propuh best translates in English as a cross-breeze that carries potentiality for disease and infection leading ultimately to death… therefore, ALWAYS BEWARE OF THE PROPUH or it will get ya!
I also have the aspect of language from a teaching perspective as I continue to teach English and tutoring at “The Hub.” The students that come are always willing to learn.
Language school has given me the perspective of the difficulty of learning a new language and to continue having patience and empathy with those I teach English to. I believe every English teacher should be required to learn a second language so that they have a better idea of what they are putting their students up against. It is an obstacle to say the least!
Teaching English is a lot of fun. Sometimes in languages, there are funny mix ups of pronunciations where to advanced or native speakers – it is downright hilarious! This past week we had a student who talked about a meal he cooked that contained peanuts. He said exactly, “Oh, I bit into peanuts!” Well, with his developing pronunciation, he left out emphasis on the “t” and it sounded more like a male reproduction organ.
Another story I have is with a good friend of mine. We were discovering idioms in the English language. We came across the idiom of a “peeping Tom” but when discussing it, my friend accidentally said “pooping Tom!” haha! We laughed about that for the rest of our day and I am not letting him forget about it!
Being a language learner and teacher definitely requires a good humor!
I am truly enjoying my time adventuring into the Croatian culture and language.
I’m off to study some more Croatian!
Vidimo Se! See you! Hasta luego!
Peace and Blessings,