UK Language Imbecile Attempts Croatian for First Time – Read Shocking Results

Total Croatia News

Language divides and brings us together, so what does one do when it just simply won’t go in?

I distinctly remember the moment I failed my French oral exam, circa 1995, when I was around 16 years old.

“Where is the caravan” is the simple phrase I had to utter, and yet words were not forthcoming and my mind went blank. Frantically rooting around the darkest depths of my brain I managed to stump up “où est la” (where is the) but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the word for caravan. Flush faced and embarrassed, I threw in the towel to the dismay of my teacher, only to discover the French word for caravan… is caravane.

My ineptness with languages has doggedly followed me around ever since, with a quite simply astounding lack of ability in grasping anything to do with linguistics at all. During my travels a short while ago I decided that teaching English would be a worthwhile vocation for a life on the road, so I enrolled in an official course taking place in Budapest. It was then I discovered with horror that I have zero understanding of my own grammar, only just scraping by on sheer grit and determination and the assistance of my non-native English classmates.

You will be happy to note that I have never taught a word of it. So imagine my joy when my partner signs me up for Croatian lessons, a language that by all accounts is one of the most difficult for native English speakers to learn. Or just one of the most difficult to learn period. Où est la sortie?!

But, in the spirit of frontline, cutting edge, guerilla-style reporting, I decided to guinea-pig myself up to write a weekly account of how I’m getting on; what it’s like for a UK ex-pat to learn Croatian for the first time; and just how much of luinguistical dumbass I actually am. Don’t expect anything particularly high- brow here; I reckon I’ll be using the phrase “it was hard” quite extensively. Incidentally I’m having to use google translate for all references written in another language throughout this article, including those I should have learned in the Croatian lesson. Don’t think for one moment I’ve actually picked up anythingI’ve been taught at all. I assure you I’ll let you know when I do, so drop in this time next year and I might be able to say “I need help”.

Sitting in the classroom at the American International School, my partner abandons me to advance into the intermediate group. Although hailing from the States, she’s fluent Russian, and has something of an advantage to learning a language with similar traits. I’m also a week late to the class, so everyone around me has had a head start, and I nervously shuffle in while a flashback of my high school French nightmare sparks a mild panic attack. But the teacher is quite attractive, so I’ll give this a go.

“Kako si danas?” (how are you today) she beams at her first victim, who effortlessly responds with “ja sam dobro” (I am good). One by one she makes her way around the room, but by this point she has filled the board with laminated vocab cards, thus making it easier for the rookies. “Ja sam odlično!” (I am excellent/perfect) I confidently lie, hoping my fake Slavic accent masks my total lack of actual understanding. I seem to get away with it, but I’ve got to be careful – maybe I’ll come across as being too good and they’ll bump me up a grade.

We cover some simple basic phrases that might come in handy when entering into conversations for the first time. This naturally includes the weather; and, at the time of writing: pada kiša (it’s raining). Tomorrow I hope it will be sunčano (sunny), but it’s a mixed bag in Croatia during October, isn’t it? Next up comes the numbers – learning to count up to 19 (don’t want to overload this week) and then onto some useful words to get you by in day-to- day situations.

I’m especially grateful to finally learn how to say “sorry”, because I’m forever randomly bumping into people and, as a Brit, I cannot abide not apologising – even when it wasn’t my fault. I feel I will be using “oprostite” with alarming regularity. Understanding the basics of ordering in restaurants is always high on the agenda of any language learning class, especially when it comes to booze – which everyone always agrees is a vital skill. Some joker always puts numbers and alcohol together to get a cheap laugh. “Ja ću deset piva”, I exclaim, which garners a sympathetic chortle – clearly a partisan crowd. We’ve all been there. Probably will be again after this is over.

We’re given a hand-out sheet with some classic waiter/customer scenarios, but already the pronunciation is beginning to get the better of me, and I’m finding it extremely difficult to wrap my tongue around these syllables. It’s a damn good job I don’t like octopus and I’m never likely to order one.

Surprisingly enough, when we’re informed the lesson has come to an end I feel strangely disappointed. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but who would have thought it? Perhaps after all these years it’s my adult brain that actually might have the capacity to learn and enjoy learning a new language? Could I actually be looking forward to the next lesson? Maybe I just want to keep the missus happy?

“How did it go?” she enquires on the cycle home. “Yeah, not bad” I respond. “We learned numbers.” “Go on then” she challenges, probably more to show off her own knowledge than test my own. 

“Nuevo”, I confidently begin, only to be told that means “new” in Spanish.

I think this is going to take a while.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment