Speak Serbian or Die!

Speak Serbian or Die!
Should be the name of my language school.
Everyday I arrive fresh and ready to learn, and everyday I leave frustrated to tears.
We have covered more in 3 days than I learned in 1 year in a high school language class.
On the website it says that because of the method of their teaching, you will not feel intellectual fatigue throughout the intensive course. This is the first sign of Serbian humor I have encountered so far. And its sick humor indeed.
Every day one of our teachers asks us if we got a chance to walk around or see Belgrade? Is this a joke? I spent 6 hours locked in my hostel room puzzling through complex grammar and endless homework and vocabulary flashcards….see Belgrade? This must be a sick joke too…
I feel as if I’m in a war concentration camp and I am a prisoner in an interrogation room. They stand over me yelling in a foreign language, that I must give answers, or I will be tortured. And so, I stutter out answers, from who knows where. Then when we are finally done, they rush out without so much as a goodbye.
We were punished for being late after our first 30 minute lunch break on the first day. We could barely find a dirty meat shop, order unknown food in broken Serblish, and race back in the 30 minute allotment, let alone eat to feed our tired bleeding brains.
At one point, during a more lighthearted session, we were to listen to a song in Serbian, and fill in the missing words on the paper. Now, I know that even in my own language, I sometimes can’t decipher words in a song. And these are Serbian words we have never heard before. Its like if someone had never seen or heard of a hat before, or a boat, and you showed them a picture of a hat or boat, and said, “WRITE WHAT IT IS!” How could they recognize it if they had never seen it before? And how could we recognize a word, and spell it, In Cyrillics, if we’ve never heard it or seen it before?
Also, today, we had a grammar lesson on the locative case. WTF is a case? In Serbian they have 7. We were to adjust the endings to the words according the feminine, masculine, and neutral, and also depending on whether they were nouns or adjectives in the sentences. But first you must adjust it to the nominative, and then transfer to the Locative. Lets start by saying that we hadn’t heard of 80% of the words in the paragraph, let alone know whether they were nouns or adjectives. And the teacher says, “you understand, no?” Umm..No. Why, she says? Because I’ve never seen most of those words before. Oh, and the locative is based on pronouns, but in Serbian, pronouns are not used the same way as in English. “On” could mean “at” or “on”. “Of” could mean “on” or “of”. Depending on what type of place it is. Is it open air, closed, is it an event? Oh, and in English we have Mine, Yours, His, Hers, Their, Ours. 6 possessive pronouns. In Serbian they have 30 POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS! THIRTY!!! WHY?!?!?! I don’t know why?!?!?! So we are choosing the possessive pronoun and the preposition and adjusting the nouns and adjectives according to gender and case, and conjugating the verbs as well. At the speed of light. And don’t even get me started about how if their is a group of females, and 1 person in the group is male, the whole group is male. And cities are all male too, even if they are spelled with a feminine way, ending in A, because the word for cities is male, grad. But countries can be different genders based on their spelling, even through the word for country is also female. NONSENSICAL? DA!
I better speak Serbian after this, or else this is all just a very unnecessary lesson in humility.


17 thoughts on “Speak Serbian or Die!

  1. Serbian is an inflected language. Don’t worry, the cases will come naturally after a while. Nominative, by the way, is just the ‘subject’ case of the noun. It is basically the word in its unchanged form. Think of it as a blank slate. Then it changes with locative, genitive, etc. Don’t worry, this course sounds excellent – you will learn more than you realize!

  2. inflected just means that the words’ endings change depending on how they’re changed. I don’t like that aspect of inflected languages, and English is on the opposite side of the spectrum from inflected languages, but it will get easier.

    • Hey thanks! I know I must just have to accept not sounding as eloquent as I want to… Also, I ran across the cafe you blogged about one time, Caffe Vesele Domaćice close to Slavia Trg. Was so excited to see it, its even cuter than I expected 🙂

  3. I just noticed what course you are in (by the supplied link on the main page). Who’s your teacher? I took their 3 month course from Oct – Dec last year.

    • This is a great resource!! Thank You for sending me this, I’m actually surprised I didn’t know about it yet! 🙂 It’d be a bit easier if it was in latin intsead of cyrillics, but I guess it’s more Serbian that way! I’m going to add this link to my resources list on my blog. THANK YOU!

      • Thank you! I published it couple of days ago. It’s not finished yet but I couldn’t wait. I’m working on adjectives now. On almost every page you can choose between Cyrillic and Latin. So Latin is there, you will find it very easy.

        • Bravo! Great site! I added it to my list of Serbian resources. I can’t wait to spend some more time on there, and I really like the fact that I can switch between Latin and Cyrillic. I can read both, but Latin is obviously a bit easier and quicker for me. I hope my readers can start using this valuable resource! Thanks for sharing!

  4. omg.. I’m laughing now… but come next week I know I will speechless when i get there…seeing as my Serbian is seriously lacking 😦 and to make matters worse my accent is Australian so how i will fair at the classes I enrolled into that also said “you will not feel intellectual fatigue” well lets just say after reading your post i suddenly feel the need to fast track a cramming session of intense serbian asap!*SMS* lol.. again your posts are truly a joy to read! – Blaire 🙂

    • Hey Thanks Blaire! Curious what classes you chose to take, I know of a few that are offered there. I wonder if it’s my same school perhaps? Don’t worry about your accent, in my class, we had a French guy, a girl from Holland, one from Poland, and one from Germany, and then me, from the US, so there is no such thing as a “standard” accent from which to use as a jumping off point for learning. I hope you have so much fun when you go!!

  5. Hi there 🙂

    I have enrolled half way through the first classes for november and apparently they will try to fit me into the classes scheduled for december http://www.srpskijezik.edu.rs/index.php?id=2400&jzk=en, i have been trying to learn with friends here and from over there but like any language it is best to go and learn it in its own country.
    It will be my first time to Belgrade I will also be visiting some friends and family while I am there and yes I am so looking forward to trip 🙂 what are your thoughts on the shopping there?

    • That is my school!!! I went there, how fantastic! Please tell Predrag, Neda, Katarina, and Zeljiko that I said hello! If you mention that I was the American pilot from California married to a Serbian guy from Belgrade – they will remember me. I took the intensive school there for one month last March. Neda is a fantastic grammar teacher, she comes off as unreasonably strict at first, but helped me Immensely!! She is incredible. Predrag is the guy in charge, a true intellectual, though he can be a bit too cerebral about the mental labryinth of linguistics, so watch out! Zeljiko and Katarina were great too! Overall, a fantastic experience! Good Luck!
      Shopping in Belgrade is pretty good, there are lots of boutiques on Knez Mihailova that are fun, and there are two big shopping malls a bit further from the center – one in New Belgrade called USCE, and one called Delta City, by the gypsy slums. But Knez Mihailova is in easy walking distance from your school, and its just a beautiful pedestrian zone, so its great for people watching as well. Have fun!

  6. I was in Belgrade in September and I hope to be back in April. I can construct basic sentences and I have enough basic vocabulary that I found I could speak well enough to function on some level, but I couldn’t understand what I heard except for the occasional word. It was frustrating only being able to have mostly one-way conversations! I really need help with my listening comprehension, but I’m only there for a couple of weeks at a time. I really need help working on my “listening” and getting past whatever mental block I seem to have! Do they offer anything for shorter periods? I sure could use the help! 🙂

    • Its great that you realize what your strengths and weaknesses are in the language, it will allow you to focus your study sessions so that they are more effective. I, too, struggle with listening comprehension much more than my speaking. I think that is the natural learning curve for languages, first you learn to speak, then as you progress, you start to be able to understand. I think its definitely worth asking Predrag, the school owner, about doing a shorter course. He might be able to tailor something to you. Their website is: http://www.srpskijezik.edu.rs/
      Their email is: skola@srpskijezik.edu.rs or srpski@gmail.com

      Good Luck to you!! 🙂

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