A few blog readers have emailed me asking if I have any tips on how to help their spouse or lover learn the Serbian language. To start, I need to tell you that learning Serbian isn’t an easy thing to do. So, I will share all the things I know about tricks on how to learn Serbian.
Let’s start with the course.
In the first months of love or infatuation, your new partner will probably volunteer to learn your language. They will really try to learn the Serbian language. Unless your partner is a language-genius or you live full-time in Serbia surrounded by non-English speakers, the task will soon become overwhelming for them. Shortly after that, the promise will be hard to keep as lessons of Serbian will be pretty hard.
To be honest, Serbian is not as hard as most Asian languages if you are an English speaker. For example, if you want to learn Thai, it could crush you into oblivion. However, the Serbian isn’t easy either. It can be especially hard for educated Westerners since the Romance languages (Latin, French, Spanish, etc.) they were rigorously trained in at school have hardly any relation to Serbian. In fact, many words have completely different meanings in English.
What’s more, some words in Serbian you simply can’t translate at all. When the daughter of my friend tried to translate Serbian poetry into English for a school class, she discovered many words just didn’t have English equivalents. Maybe that’s because Serbian is a far older and more complex language than English. But thankfully, at least the spelling is way easier even with extra letters in the Serbian alphabet.
The most important thing is not to judge your partner’s progress in Serbian with your own experiences while learning English. After all, you’ve been surrounded by English your whole life both in school and also on TV and in popular music. Westerners have probably never heard or read a single word of Serbian until they met you. And not to mention Serbian grammar. Don’t forget that they’re starting at a harder place.
That is the good news; the bad is that some are slower than others since they can have difficulties with foreign tongues. You should understand why people struggle and where the problems are and help in overcoming them.
Maybe these thoughts might help:
1) We are all born with the ability to learn languages. Our mother tongue is the first one. As soon as our sense of hearing formed and we could hear someone talking, we started learning in our mother’s womb. What is more: nobody gave us any formal lessons, at least to begin with. We worked it all out ourselves until the code became a coherent whole, and we can still do it! Not as fast as when we were small, but the ability is still there waiting to be put back into business even though it takes much more time.
Let me give you an example. A Serbian family that fled the country during the civil war in the ’90s and ended up in Sweden. Being Serbians, they couldn’t speak a word of Swedish, nor any other tongue that could help them get along. Also, there wasn’t a native speaker to make the life of these Sweden language learners easier.
So they turned on the radio and played it in the background all day and every day. To their surprise, after about six months the words suddenly began to make sense. The sentences take on a meaning and they realized that they could speak, and understand the tongue of their new homeland.
2) Learning a language is a lifelong process. You are actually picking up new things all the time, but you often don’t notice it happening.
3) There are many online resources you can use to help your loved one(s) learn the Serbian language. One of the really useful ones is online TV shows and movies when it is subtitled rather than dubbed. The translations are sometimes way out, but not always, and you learn an occasional word or phrase in the process. This is stored up in your subconscious, and sooner or later works its way into the right place in the jigsaw puzzle. One more great option is to sing songs in Serbian together and teach words like that.
4) There are connections between Indo-European languages, and this means that sometimes you can trace the connections between words and even recognize them in the “other” language if you learn some of the tricks. A good idea is to get hold of a book of elementary linguistics. It can help you understand the way languages work in general, and the nice thing about it is that linguistics is far more logical than your average grammar book.
5) Don’t expect big results too fast. If your special someone can hold a simple conversation within three years, then they are doing fine. Also, language learning happens in jerks! For a long time, you may feel they haven’t learned a thing, and then there is a sudden breakthrough. Also, don’t underestimate what your partner can learn in the long run.
6) Nobody expects to swim the English Channel straight off. Your partner has to practice first. So never give up on free Serbian lessons for them. Keep in mind that nobody becomes a crack shot without missing the bullseye lots of times before they do. If people never speak until they’re sure what they say is a 100% right, they will never say anything, so treat every time they speak as a training session, not an Olympic Games. And just laugh together in situations when some of the things they say are wrong because those situations are going to be hilarious! Learning why it was so funny is all part of the lesson! An important one!
7) It really does your special someone good to learn the Serbian language! Or every other language for that matter. It opens up new ways of looking at things, forces them to find other ways to express their ideas, get the brain going, and possibly releases other abilities underway. It could even raise their IQ!
Most people buy the “teach yourself” books plus CDs and try to use those. These are OK for Basic Serbian phrases or words for tourism purposes and can help with learning how to check train times and order in a restaurant. But they are not structured in a useful way to help with learning the Serbian language as a whole. Plus, much of the vocabulary isn’t useful for everyday life.
A more fun and efficient way to learn Serbian or any other language is using learning platforms and apps. Ling App can be a great way to learn Serbian and other languages.