Monday, August 1, 2011

Nehovorim po Slovensky

I sometimes feel like it's almost disrespectful to expect people in this country to speak my language (even though more likely than not, they do). Partially out of a need to be a better resident of Bratislava and partially out of intellectual curiosity, I decided to start taking Slovak language lessons about a month ago.

Luckily for me, the family I live with has a cousin named Veronika that teaches Slovak as a second language. She and I worked out a deal so that she would be my Slovak tutor twice a week, which I didn't mind because 8 euro an hour seemed pretty reasonable, and she didn't mind because she could go over to her aunt's house to teach and afterwards get a delicious meal with her extended family.

Veronika and I are working out of a book called Krížom Krážom and I'm loving my weekly lessons!

The part I'm good at (so far) is the grammar. Having learned languages before has made it easier to understand the concept of conjugating verbs in their different forms, and unlike English, Slovak has a lot of regular rules.

The part I'm bad at is pronunciation. There are all these 'soft' letters like the soft D (Ď) and the soft T (Ť) which are used very commonly, but I find challenging. There are also a bunch of word-parts and whole words that just don't have vowels. How exactly would you pronounce 'mŕtvy' or 'vlna'?

The second line above is a tongue twister they teach Slovak children. I don't understand how it could twist my tongue considering I'm not even supposed to open my mouth to make these sounds. Also, it's about sticking your finger through your throat, which is weird.

A cool thing about Slovak is that it's mutually intelligible with Czech, which means it might be a bit helpful for when I go to Prague. Also, it's related to all the other Slavic languages, which would make it easier to learn Polish or Russian or Serbian if I chose to in the future.

Despite some of my difficulties, I'm really enjoying learning Slovak, and I'm getting better at ordering food and drink, and generally avoiding looking like an idiot in the streets of Bratislava.