Thursday, April 5, 2012

Language Learning

"Nikki, daj nam malo na Hrvatskom!"

Tomislav's Dad can be heard saying that (probably) at the end of our House Hunters International episode (12 more days til it airs!), meaning, "Nikki, say something in Croatia" or quite literally - give us a little in Croatian!

I have always loved learning foreign languages. It's something I'm good at, it's something I love- speaking to people in their native tongue is so rewarding. I grew up with Polish (Dziękuję Mamusia i Tatuś!) and English (thanks Dee Dee!) which caused me to think as a child that everyone spoke Polish at home and that everyone's parents were learning English. I was so surprised when I'd go to American friends' houses and they were eating Pop-Tarts and chatting away without accents. Anyway, apparently I wasn't always such a language fiend! In elementary school, I went through a period where I didn't want to speak Polish at all. I forgot everything so by the time summer rolled around and we went to visit our family in Poland, I couldn't understand anything or anyone. It was so frustrating that upon returning to the States, I vowed to only speak Polish to my parents. Somehow, I don't remember any of this but everyone else does! Anyway, I love my culture and I'm so thankful to have grown up with such a strong global awareness through my family.

The first language I learned (by choice) was German. In middle school, we had those 9 weeks of German and 9 weeks of Spanish and German spoke to me right away. My parents lived in Berlin in the early 1980s and my sister was even born there! I felt a connection to Germany right away and in high school I was lucky  enough to have the greatest German teacher ever! She made language learning so fun and there are so many classmates I know who have also become German teachers after having her in high school. Frau Young - you are so loved! Anyway, I already knew I loved traveling and I wanted to go abroad but as a 10th grader, I didn't have the money for it (despite my sweet telemarketing gig. What up KLM!) I applied for the CBYX Scholarship, convinced my parents to let me, a 15 year old go to a foreign country to live with an unknown family for a full year. (Looking back, I can't believe my Mom actually let me go! I know she didn't want me to but I'm so thankful my Dad was especially supportive!) It was challenging but really changed my life in so many ways. I met so many wonderful people and I'm so thankful that my host family really became like a real family to me and they'll be coming to our wedding this summer!

Arabic came next after returning to the States after my year abroad. I was so inspired by a special friend in high school to learn more about the Middle East and Arabic just seemed so beautiful and interesting to me. When I was thinking about college, I knew I wanted to go somewhere that had an Arabic program. I got really distracted studying Arabic in Philly so I figured it'd be best that I immerse myself in the language and culture so I applied for the Arabic Language Institute in Cairo so I could learn more! My time in Cairo was amazing with wonderful friends who were happy to have me practice my Arabic with them (and a couple of extra special professors!). 


I met Tomislav back in June 2008 when the only things I knew about Croatia was the fact that one of my friends from high school's girlfriend's was Croatian! I remembered how his away messages on AIM (yeah...remember?) always said "Volim te!" To be honest, I didn't even know what the capital of Croatia was back then (I don't think I ever would have imagined that I'd be living here back then!). Anyway, the manager at Valanni told me he hired a Croatian guy so when I met Tomislav, the very first thing I said to him was, "You're Croatian, right? Volim te!" He looked at me kind of stunned and started saying something in Croatian and I quickly jumped in, "No, no! That's the only thing I know! I'm actually Polish." This was the start to my learning the Croatian language. By the way - Volim te means...I love you! Imagine that, the first thing I ever said to him! I told you, it was love at first sight ;)


Moj Hrvatski is coming along. I'm by NO means fluent but I can talk to most anyone, especially Tomislav's family since I'm so used to chatting with them and they understand the way I talk (with plenty of hand motions and lots of explaining, "To je..kao mljeko ali ne mljeko..." Working in an environment where I am around English everyday doesn't help my Croatian but luckily a new friend inspired me to speak more Croatian lately. She is an American living in Zagreb with her boyfriend and she had this genius idea to try to speak only in Croatian while she's at home for one week! (See her blog here) One day when Tomislav came home, I gave it a try and we made it 90 minutes without English. It was a fun challenge! 


For me, the best way to learn a foreign language is total immersion. I found that to be true when I learned German, practicing Polish is always better when I'm around Polish people, or better yet - in Poland! And I NEEDED to go to Egypt to learn Arabic, it wasn't happening for me in my 3 hours a week classes in Philly. I practice this with my students now. While we're in the classroom, students are only allowed to speak in the target language and of course, I only speak to them in the foreign language. Now with Croatian, I need to practice more, that's all there is to it. When my family and friends come to Croatia in a couple of short months for our wedding, I'll be ready to interpret and translate away for everyone so we can all communicate with one another. I expect a lot of hand gestures and hugging but I'm sure we'll all be able to understand each other, one way or another!


Thanks to these two I knew how to say "Volim te!" 
This picture is from last summer while they were visiting Croatia!
 

5 comments:

  1. I love this! I am still so impressed that you've been able to pick up enough Croatian to be conversational just by listening. This post has re-inspired me--we'll just have to keep encouraging each other!

    And thank you for the shout out! :)

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  2. such a great post, even though I already know all this, you just make it so interesting to read!
    keep up the good work babe! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love your blog! I followed! I would love if you could check out my blog and follow me? Thanks so much! http://camigmakeup4u2c.blogspot.com

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  4. Hello there, I actually saw House hunter International episode with you and your husband and by coincidence I found this video while searching for places to visit in Croatia. I will be visiting Croatia next month and meeting my boyfriend parents for the first time. Any advice for a Californian who's about to travel over 6,000 miles to Zagreb?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello there, I actually saw House hunter International episode with you and your husband and by coincidence I found this video while searching for places to visit in Croatia. I will be visiting Croatia next month and meeting my boyfriend parents for the first time. Any advice for a Californian who's about to travel over 6,000 miles to Zagreb?

    ReplyDelete

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