Monday, February 7, 2011

Slovenian language

View of Ljubljana's skyline at sunset from the...Image via WikipediaI always knew Slovenian language was more difficult to learn than most other foreign languages. Throughout the years of using and understanding English better and better I realized many times over that there are some terms in Slovenian that cannot be properly translated into English (and the other way around, of course). However, hearing about Slovenian language from an English native speaker's perspective was an extra eye-opener. If you can speak/understand bot languages, English and Slovenian, the article below will be a real treat to you.

General remark: When reading Slovenian words on maps or in books, you will find special characters, pronounced ch, sh, and zh. They are written with c, s and z with a caron - little v above them - like č, š and ž.

Source of the article below: The Slovenia Times

Photo above: Ljubljana skyline at the sunset from Ljubljana Castle

The Mother Hen and Me


By Victor Irving

Slovenian is one of the most complicated languages on earth.

Take this joke from students who were struggling with the language:

- Let’s order two coffee.

- All right, coffee is kava en two is dva, so dva kava?

- No, it’s dva kavo – 4th case because it’s the object of the sentence: (I’d like) dva kavo.

- But hey, adjective and noun should match, so shouldn’t it be: dvo kavo?

- Not really, because with two it’s an exception: dve kavo

- All right, the dualism…

- Oh yeah, two has a separate ending! Ena kava, dve kavi, tri kave.

- So it should be Dve kavi, prosim,

- Don’t forget it’s still the 4th case.

- Same as the 1st for dual, female gender words.

- But I’d like my coffee with whipped cream: z smetan.

- That’s the instrumental case. Z smetano.

- No, I think it’s s smetano because of the pronunciation.

- Screw this: ‘Two beer please.’

Another situation: Guys sees a girl walk by and wants to invite her for a coffee.

He is about to say: Zdravo! Gremo na kava?

Then he remembers: Oh wait, we’re going somewhere, so fourth case: gremo na kavo. No wait, with ‘gremo’ she’ll think it’s for three or more persons, so: greva na kavo? Then he realises it’s more polite to ask if she would like to go: Bi rad da greva na kavo? But since he’s talking to a girl he has to say: Bi rada da greva na kavo?

- Zdravo! Bi ra…

The girl has passed by a minute ago.

Even more interesting is the way Slovenian bends city-names. The city is called Ljubljana, but you are from Ljubljane. The a changes into an e, however, if a city-name does not end with an a you add one. For instance, I am from Amsterdama. But if you go to the city, it becomes Ljubljano. And if you say you live there, you say in Ljubljani, or in case there is no a to change into an i, you say you live in Londonu. The same with names: You are at Victorju (Victor’s), the belch came out of Victorja and you’re crying about an impossible grammatical system with Victorjem and you know about Victorjevega mačka and haven’t understood Victorjevega teksta.

Let’s take a moment now to fully appreciate that six cases, three genders and singular, dual and plural endings lead to 54 options, and with adjectives that may differ from nouns, about 108 options. For newcomers, creating a sentence may take some time.

Most interesting, however, is that there are a few words that are the same in every case. Roza (pink) never changes, and neither does a name like Karen. Great. How about something similar for all words in Slovenian? People may still be able to understand each other; in English or Dutch coffee is coffee whether you drink it, see it, don’t have it, order it or throw with it. Moreover, these days national identity is no longer dependant on a language’s complexity. Slovenia is a real country, so the language can develop as all other languages: get easier. Maybe then foreigners can devote some brain capacity to what they want to say instead of how they have to say it.

Victor Irving lives in Ljubljani and is desperately trying to learn Slovensko.
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1 comment:

  1. Oh my.... I am trying to learn Serbian and I can see the similarities and differences but Slovenian looks even harder!!


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