Friday, May 15, 2015

Bosnian Language

I was given a year of Bosnian language in the United States and then continued to take classes while here in Sarajevo - so roughly a total of 3 years formal training. You would think I would be fluent, wrong! In fact since moving to Bosnia my language skills have gone backwards. I think the problem is that in this metropolis, you don't really need to know Bosnian all that well. Nearly everyone speaks some English and of course I work at the Embassy, where English is spoken all day, everywhere. It got me to thinking of my Uncle in Florida. He has lived in America for nearly 40 years and yet his English is abysmal!

I think the idea of immersion as language training is only useful if you are forced to use the language you are trying to learn. In my Uncle's case, he worked from home and has mostly friends who speak the same language (Punjabi) as he does, so his English interaction is limited at best. That is the same in my situation while living here in Bosnia. While I want to learn the language and use it, I'm not being forced too and so get lazy and don't practice and my skills go downhill. When I was in the States in language training we had to use it for 5 hours (and let me tell you that is a particular form of hell, taking language training for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, your brain is fried by hour 2). But over here, I barely speak maybe a 1/2 hour in total all day, of Bosnian. Not enough to keep it up.

This leads me to wonder - you could plausibly move to another country where there are enough people who speak your language that you would never really have to be fluent in the native language of that country, no? I saw this when I studied in Denmark. People who had lived there for 5+ years still speaking broken to little Danish.

I know if I continued to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina I would want to speak better, but in order to do that I would have to force myself to study more and use the language, not rely on people knowing English. I think it would be a shame to live in another country for years on end and not become somewhat fluent (I would do it just for the cool factor, impress family when they come to visit and speak in the native language :) ).


Post a Comment

<< Home