The issue of language…

“Learn a new language and get a new soul” (Czech proverb)

It’s been a while since I last wrote on this blog. November has been quite a busy month, especially because I had to round off several courses and my research proposal. Currently, I am waiting for the last comments on my RP before handing it in tomorrow. During the Christmas holidays, my supervisor and second reader will announce whether my RP is graded sufficient or insufficient, and thus whether I am free to go to ‘the field’.
I will be leaving Holland in three weeks time. The advantage of having chosen Slovenia as my fieldwork site, is that the country is part of the European Union, which saves me a lot of work concerning visa and currency. There is, however, one quite big problem: language.

In the classic anthropology, language was learned by anthropologists who went to do fieldwork in remote villages – often – in Africa or southeast Asia. Often, they had no interpreters and, thus, they had to learn the language by themselves, as there was no one talking English or any other language familiar for anthropologists.
Fortunately, times have changed and nowadays we can almost always communicate with people via an interpreter. Still, I think it is very valuable to speak the language of the country you are going to conduct research in, and if possible the dialect of the people that will be your respondents.
Many Slovenes do speak English, some also German, but their mother tongue is still Slovene. The Roma in Slovenia often do not speak English at all, they often speak both Romani and Slovene.

I just found out a month ago that Slovenia is the world’s smallest non-island state with its own official language. That also explains why there are no options to learn the language from Dutch. So, in September I ordered a language course ‘Colloquial Slovene’ (English-Slovene) and started learning the language. Well, at least I tried to…
You must know, though, that every Slovene noun can be used in six ways (nominative, genitive, possessive, etcetera). And for every way there are three forms; singular, dual and plural. Every noun, thus, can take on eighteen (!) forms. And then, there is also difference in the conjugations for masculine, neuter and feminine nouns. Once I found out this, I think I lost part of my motivation. I felt like I was never gonna learn this!

But I feel like I cannot simply give up learning the language and depend on English. So, I will definitely move on. I will take the written part of the course with me in the field. Maybe being surrounded by people speaking (only) Slovene will increase my motivation to learn the language.
Still, the next problem is that I would preferably need to speak the Romani language. There is no way to do this with a course or dictionary. Some things can only be learned when spending time with people. I hope they let me…



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