Friday, 29 December 2017

Winos, Doggy Style and Strange Furious Drinks: Lost in Translation in Croatia

Google Translate, the enemy of the state.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Adverbs, Cocks and Dalmatian Furniture: Lost in Translation in Croatia

Google Translate is not your friend.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Shakespeare, the Pope and the Way to the ''See'': Lost in Translation in Croatia

A wise man once said that a different language is a different vision of life. He couldn't have been more right...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Four Magical Words and the Alphabet: UK Language Imbecile’s Continuing Croatian Catastrophe

The difficulties of the Croatian language strike again...

Photo credit The Word Point

Fresh from my baptism of fire first ever Croatian lesson last Monday, I was lucky enough to visit Rovinj over the weekend.

I had been in this neck of the woods once before to attend a festival at the amphitheatre in Pula, but as you can imagine, I don't remember much about it. Rovinj is a beautiful little town with winding, medieval streets, an abundance of charming art galleries and seafood eateries galore. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to practice some of my new-found language skills – particularly with regard to ordering food.

''Izvolite'' grumbles the bakery shop assistant, with the sort of casual half-smile you would expect from someone who has served yet another tourist a burek.

“IZVOLITE!” I blurted out with instant regret as I receive a swift dig to the ribs from my partner and wish the ground to swallow me up. This is not how you respond to such a question. In English it appears rather silly:

Assistant: ''How may I help you?''

Me: ''How may I help YOU?''

This could have gone on for some time. It’s not necessarily a difficulty in languages though – however hilarious the assistant might have thought my futile efforts as I turned an alarming shade of beetroot. Exactly the same thing happens when someone wishes you a “happy birthday”. How many of you have beamingly replied with “happy birthday to you too”?! It really is terribly embarrassing, and yet our brains are conditioned to do so. I blame Christmas.

Of course, the correct response should have been to tell her that I would indeed like one breakfast burek and that will be all. I should clarify here that breakfast burek is just a normal burek but I like to eat them for breakfast. Anyway, after I’ve completely fuddled my opening discourse, everything goes totally out the window.

“Errrrr…I'll have one of those please'' I sheepishly half-mumble, stabbing a finger in the direction of the meat variety behind the counter glass. Self-assessing my performance as I exit the store, I realise there
wasn't a Croatian word in there at all. Progress has not been made.

I’m obviously not even close to using anything I’ve “learned” in the classroom just yet, as my brain tends to shut down, panic and fall at the first hurdle. It’s hardwired to be terrified of failure, and is thus reluctant to make any attempt whatsoever. Such inability to remember even the most basic of foreign language phrases reminds me of a time I met a rather beautiful French girl in a hostel in Bulgaria.

Wanting to impress, I spent the whole day on google translate attempting to learn how to say “I think you’re beautiful” in French. “Je pense que tu es belle, Je pense que tu es belle, Je pense que tu es belle, Je pense que tu es belle, Je pense que tu es belle'' all day long repeating the phrase, trying desperately to commit it to memory before the evening’s festivities would surely offer me a chance to strike.

When the opportune moment came and she stood patiently awaiting what I'd built up to tell her, I managed to cluelessly stammer ''Je pep pa pee pea pee pa” before yelling ''I THINK YOU'RE VERY BEAUTIFUL'' and running away. Whole. Day. Wasted.

This week, in my continued torture session, we revised our basic numbers and learned how to count up to 199. I used the term “learned” extremely loosely. You’ll find this is a regular occurrence.

However, counting appears to be pretty straightforward, as you "simply" break down the tens, and sort of cobble it all together. To say 27 for example, you say the 2, plus the 10 and then the 7. Dva deset sedam. Perhaps the most useful knowledge gained so far, as now I can say the number of the apartment I live in when I stumble out of a bar at four in the morning. Except by that point, my head will be mush and I'll just shout ''twenty-seven'' at the cab driver while making aggressive charades gestures with my fingers.

The Croatian alphabet is hilarious, isn’t it? Seven extra letters I think? All those little diacritical marks (I just had to look that word up) which change the way the letter sounds. Some of them are downright preposterous and I think you’re all just having a laugh at my expense. “Č” and “Ć” for example. What’s all that about?! You should be having a word with yourselves.

Our tutor did admit to there not really being that much difference and even Croatians sometimes don’t really notice it. What a relief that is then. I’ll be sure to continue to order ćevapi or čips in exactly the same way.

To finish, we were given a very useful handout on the four magical words; izvolite, molim, hvala and oprostite, and I’m going to make it a mission this week to really commit them to memory. With the best will in the world, I always intend to revise the previous lesson, but as we’re all climbing the stairs towards the classroom of doom, not one of us has looked over anything we went through last week. Now that I have a handout though, I’m going to do it. I promise. It’s all in the handout.

I’m going to scribble little post-it notes and stick them all over the apartment, covering any hideous graduation pictures in the process. I will do my homework this week miss; I don’t want to risk getting the slipper again.

So, tune in next week when I won’t have learned anything by then either.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Leprosy, Bitches and a Burek named Desire: Lost in Translation in Croatia

Like I said last time, language can unite and it can divide!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Smallpox, Diarrhoea and Free Hand Jobs: Lost in Translation in Croatia

Language is a tricky thing. It unites us and it divides us, either way, it can be very funny.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Want To Learn Japanese? Come to Dubrovnik!

You'll hear many languages spoken in Dubrovnik, from Italian to German to English to... Japanese?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Learning Dalmatian as a Non-Speaking Croat: Part 1

Me: “Can you help me take something out of my a***?”

Friend: “Are you normal?”

Me: “What? It’s not difficult. It won’t take a minute”

This is how one word changed the whole meaning of a conversation and I have been mocked about it ever since. What I meant was ‘storage room’ however, by adding just one letter to the word, it became a very inappropriate favor to ask for. Nonetheless, I continue to speak my pigeon Croatian without too many misunderstandings… I hope.

My Croatian mother who is fluent in Danish never taught me her language but despite that I have spent every single summer holiday in Croatia since my birth. With my Danish father towing along, all family and friends always spoke English to us. As I child I of course learnt the most important word of all, ‘sladoled’ meaning ice cream and I vividly remember fluttering my eyelashes at my cousin, Ana, signaling an ice-cream licking action and saying sladoled with enthusiasm five times per day.

They say that love grammar is the best way to learn a language so instead of cashing out on expensive language courses, I fell in love with a local who didn’t speak English. As first it was body language doing the talking but eventually our way of communicating resorted in him speaking Croatian and me, English. At least something positive came out of that relationship; I started understanding a wee bit of this complicated language.

A year ago, I didn’t dare to whisper a Croatian sound in fear of rejection but now I realize that the locals only appreciate my effort so I am feeling more confident with my Croatian gibberish. By mingling with local friends, my ears have been more exposed to the language and my natural curiosity has given me an understanding of mainly the Split dialect. Locals find it quite humorous to ear a so-called foreigner speaking in dialect. Given, my command of their seven cases is useless and I often speak to men in feminine form but I am getting the message across.

Essential words and phrases to get you by in Split dialect

A café latte with a glass of water on the side

Veliku stoplin mlikon i čašu(chasu) vode

Gimme a beer!

Daj (Die) pivo!

Do you want to come with me? Just the right pick-up line.

Očeš (Ochesh) ić (eech) smenon?

Thanks so much

Fala lipa

How much?

Pošto (poshto)?

Hey bro

Alo brale (bralé)

Where should we go?

Di ćemo?

I don’t understand

Ne razumin

A filling word when you have nothing wise to say


Any other Split dialect recommendations for visitors in Split?

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