Thursday, 6 March 2014

jar sa blíži [the spring is approaching]

The Slovak word for spring, jar, is quite interesting as it reminds of few other Slavic languages. In Polish spring is wiosna, in Russian and in Ukrainian it is весна. In the Balkans the word for spring are quite similar: in Bulgaria one speaks of пролет, in Serbia it is пролеће and in Croatia – proljeće. The only version being close to the Slovak version is – not so surprisingly - the Czech jaro.
My point? There is none – except that it is a lot of fun comparing languages.

One thing I’m often thinking about is the mutual understanding between languages and where to draw the line. Say, I am fluent in Swedish – does that mean that I’m capable to function in Norwegian? My initial reaction is no! Even though I might understand some of the things the other person is saying - I might be able to read a book even – the risk of being misunderstood or to misunderstand is too great! It is very often, however, that I find myself alone with this view. In general I think that the limits of languages knowledge are too fluffy. It is often the case that a long list of languages on the CV looks great, the higher the level the better. Insight into one’s own skills is often forgotten. Countless are the times people have claimed to be fluent in English – until they had to write a piece in advanced English or talk to someone from Ireland. Fluency – to me – means that one is able to communicate fluently no matter the context.

What I’m trying to say here is that one’s language skills are often judged based on what a subjectively written piece of paper says. Sometimes there are such things as language testing, but if these tests are not carried out by professionals, then what kind of a result do you expect?
And then there are those who have worked hard to acquire a foreign language and speak it like a native. That should be the goal and you who have done it, you are a great inspiration!

(this post was supposed to be about the wonders of wearing a leather jacket after a long winter, but oh well – I got a bit carried away)


Natalie said...

OMG! I have so much love for this post. I have met so many people claiming fluency in a language. Then, when I go talk to them in that language, it turns out they're not so fluent after all. It drives me crazy! Like those so-called YouTube "polyglots" (I use that term loosely) who think that, because they can say a few sentences in badly pronounced and ungrammatical Russian, are fluent in the language.

Zsuzsi said...

Natalie, you get me :)