When we begin introducing our students into the new world of Serbian or Slovene language, the intention is to emphasize conversation. And although even after the very first lesson they can say a few words and phrases, it is difficult to avoid the question (or more commonly the typical facial expression!): “How come here it says iz Ljubljane and iz Beograda and then it says v Ljubljani and u Beogradu?” Needless to say, when we mention that our languages use Latin grammar and declensions (of nouns, pronouns, adjectives and numbers!) – and sometimes it seems counter-productive to even mention it so early in the process – we come very close to scaring them off…
Joking aside, for students whose native languages are not Slavic, learning Slovene or Serbian grammar is somewhat of climbing an eightthousander. It takes time, patience, a lot of exercise and listening.
There are a few tips we would like to share that could help and make the whole learning process a bit easier. Some of them are a part of our teaching method, but it is always a good thing to have them on our mind.
1. Think of the way kids learn a language.
Listen. Repeat. Try to assimilate it in a natural way. Use it. Learn phrases by heart by practicing them (not by forcing yourself). You can even record yourself saying your first phrases. Feel them. Act them out. Play like a child with your new language. It is fun!
2. The magic of audio files!
Most of the courses, including ours, provide some kind of audio recordings. Use them. Relax and listen to them, even if you are doing something completely different. You will notice that Dobrodošli in prijeten konec tedna! will sound much more natural than the first few times when you heard it, and at some point, you will start using it without thinking about all the grammar behind it. Do not be afraid to let go, stop depending on your little built-in-grammar-analysis-software-that-makes-you-feel-safe and start talking.
3. Find a magazine you like.
A topic that calls your attention in your native language will do the same when you see it written in Serbian or Slovene. It does not matter if at first it looks like an extraterrestrial code that says who-knows-what or if the only thing you understand is a single word. We are curious by nature. Curiosity will motivate you to try to understand just a little bit more…and you will. Step by step, slowly but with determination, you will climb that mountain!
4. Try to spot patterns rather than learning grammar tables by heart (cases or conjugations, e.g.).
U gradu, in the city, will always take the same form form when preposition u is followed by grad. Then why not u Beogradu or u Londonu? Also u Ljubljani, u kući, u školi for feminine nouns.It may not be easy to perceive these patterns at first, but the more you learn and practice, the more you will see them. It is about finding the logic of grammar we use.
5. Fall in love with something related to the language you learn.
It is very simple. It is about loving what we do and doing what we love. The more energy we invest into something, the faster it will grow and progress. It does not have to (and it definitely should not) be about spending hours studying theory. It can be about enjoying the learning process by relating it to something we love. Most of our students are motivated by something like that before they start. It leads them to us and motivates them to keep learning. One way or another, with patience and interest, a new language will always end up connecting you to a whole new world of things, information, energies and experiences. It is worth it.
The Crimson Arabesque Team