Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Kosovo: Chapter 6, Scene 1 Learning Albanian...My Way


“Miremengjes.”
“Faleminderit”

There. You have the extent of what I remembered of Albanian from 2005 when Tom and I were here last. “Good Morning” and “Thank You.” The two phrases were a start, but if I was going to be a part of the community, I decided I needed to learn more.

Reason #1-When you live abroad, it is respectful to learn the language of your host country. Albanian is the prominent language in Kosova.

Reason #2- Pointing to something will only get you so far. Communication is a valuable asset when you’re traveling.

Finding an Albanian teacher is easy... so of course you know I didn’t take that route. I wasn’t as anxious to learn verb tenses and a long vocabulary list as I was to talk with the man at the market or the woman on the bus.

I’m a teacher. I’ve studied human development and language acquisition. I see two-year-old children speaking Albanian and they don’t have a clue about letter names and their corresponding sounds.

Zeqir and his family are patient with my Albanian
 as I order food in the cafeteria.
I decided to learn Albanian my way. I started by trying to communicate. Just as babies babble until they figure out the sounds that get the best responses, I listened and tried words out as my volunteer mentors helped me take “baby steps.” The man at the supermarket taught me the word for six when I bought a half dozen eggs. The bus driver taught me “miredita” which means have a good day, as he waved goodbye to me. My newfound friend on the bus worked with me on the pronunciation of “shehemi” which means “see you” as in “see you later.” I bought my macchiato when Zeqir in the cafeteria taught me how to say “A ban nje macchiato.”

My beautiful friend, Kuma is a great help!
My friend, Kuma and I went out to eat after church one Sunday afternoon. She teaches Albanian. I explained to her I want to learn to speak before I learn to read or write Albanian. That afternoon, she told me what to say and I practiced by ordering our food and getting the check. She helped me with my pronunciation and taught me to count. It was a wonderful lunch. Our next "lesson" is going to be at a store where I hope to learn how to ask for specific items and maybe know what to look for on a few labels.

In the meantime, I keep practicing by talking with the friendly people around me. They are happy to help. Albanian Kosovars are gracious people.

I was pretty sure I was making great headway. I worked hard to pronounce all of my students' names. Rina, Renea, Reina, Erina, and Mrika were my big challenges. I practiced rolling my r's. I was excited recently when the taxi service answered me in Albanian instead of English. Could he really not tell I'm an American on the phone? Wow! I was filled with pure joy and full of myself. I walked in my classroom ready to tackle the day...then one of my students laughed at the way I say my “r’s.”

“Miss, you say your r’s like you’re from Gjakova!”


Well, at least Gjakova is in Kosova instead of Ohio. Maybe I’m learning the language after all. One baby step at a time.

Join me in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can. And if you don't want to miss a post, simply add your email address in the box on the right where it says "Follow by email." 

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