Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Learning The Croatian Language – Why?!

Learning Croatian © Jane Cody

Many friends have asked me why I decided to go the island of Lošinj (pronounced Losheen) for an immersion course in Croatian with The Croatian Language School  [CLS]. Not only is it a significant investment in money, but also in time and courage. And the time does not just start and end with the week itself – you could go as a complete beginner, and still benefit hugely, but, like everything else, the more groundwork you put in beforehand, the more it helps, and the more you continue afterwards, the less likely you are to lose the considerable benefits of an immersion week such as this. Already, just two weeks later, with a few other things to distract me, I can feel words slipping away, so I am determined to get back into language learning as soon as I can.

Visiting Croatia, in itself, is obviously a great selling point, but, on the other hand, you won’t have too much time to spare if you take the language learning seriously. To get the most from your studies you need some time to do your homework and prepare for the next lessons, on top of the nearly four hours a day you are cranking up the gears in the rusty foreign language part of your brain, as you sit in front of your teacher, trying not to make the same mistake again (and again!).

Everyone is different but for me, originally, it was a bit of an impulse decision – one of those opportunities not to be missed. Croatia has been an important part of my life for nearly two decades  and it seemed ridiculous to have to continue to struggle to put a few sentences together correctly. Yes, I know quite a few words, and yes, I sound pretty good ordering food and wine in restaurants and asking for things in shops, but I was not confident and missed out on any real connection with the locals. Now I believe I have a solid basis from which to move on.

The naysayers will tell you there’s no point in learning the language…….

* Croatians all speak very good English

* It’s not a “useful” language as it’s not widely used

* It’s too difficult

* It’s ok to just come out with a few words and phrases that are roughly ok

……..

I say, along with several other devoted CLS pupils …

* You’ll get much more out of the country and culture if you make an effort to speak the language correctly

* It’s as useful as you let it be – I couldn’t believe the difference in the way the locals engaged with me when I managed to get my sentences out correctly, albeit slowly, rather than trotting out a few haphazard and scrappy phrases

* It is difficult to start with but it’s a fascinating language and once you master the basics you’ll improve in leaps and bounds

* It’s not ok to make a pig’s ear of someone else’s language – think how we Brits feel about the way Americans have “adapted” Queen’s English

More than all that  I could almost hear my brain working as it grappled with so many new things in rapid succession – it felt good and, eventually, I did start remembering things and making good progress. As the week went on, I gained in confidence and, by the end of it, I just wanted more.

I wouldn’t advise that anyone embarks on something like this lightly – if you get the wrong teacher you’ll probably never want to try and learn any other language again, let alone Croatian. Linda Rabuzin, the founding Director of CLS, however, has the patience of a saint and a real knack of knowing when to push you and when to cut you a bit of slack. Much to my surprise, especially for someone who has not been in a formal learning environment for nearly twenty years, the almost two hour, one on one, sessions all flew by – a bit of conversation (don’t worry…you’ll start with a bit of the Croatian equivalent of franglais – hrvengleski?!), some grammar, a few exercises from a really good set of books, some reading to get the pronunciation right (and this is one of the facets of Croatian that is relatively consistent compared to other languages) a little verb conjugation……and then the killer question.

“Why are you here?”

We spent a little time each day until I had a brilliant answer, almost a speech, to this question – not just perfecting the Croatian but getting the right rationale too – I forget to tell you that Linda has pretty good personal development skills too!

All in all the week surpassed my already high expectations considerably; not only did I achieve more progress in Croatian, in a week, than I would ever have imagined, but it has enriched my understanding of Croatians and Croatia no end. More than that it has turned on switches in my brain that I thought were permanently off, and also re-connected me with a lovely bunch of people and all that is good about Croatians and Croatia.

There’s plenty more to tell about the lessons themselves, the surroundings and the events of the week, but I hope today’s posting has given you a bit of a flavour of it all.

Today’s picture is of me and teacher Linda, on the last day, in the very comfortable and functional classroom. This forms part of an apartment in which equally comfortable accommodation is also available.

For more information on the immersion courses and many other ways of learning Croatian visit CLS’s website http://easycroatian.com/  To find out more about the highlights of my week, look out for the next few postings.

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