Trying to learn Slovene, one awkward silence at a time.

I admit it. I like my Slovene language class.

I have to admit it because I'm notorious for my anti-language class stance. I had terrible, soul-damaging experiences in the past (I know, dramatic) and I spent my belated academic career avoiding those classes.

The Slovene language class is two times a week, going for about and hour and a half. The instructor is friendly and patient, and she explains the complex (from my perspective) grammar by breaking down the rules in makeshift charts. I know this may sound simplistic and self-evident to our more sophisticated readers, but teaching me a new language is like drilling into solid rock with an eggbeater. The class is small, which is good, and held in small basement-like room under (yes, under) the dorms in Rožna Dolina.

At the last class, I only slept a few hours the night before, then went to my university classes for a few hours. By the time I arrived at my language class my brain refused to process information. When I tried to answer a question in class, all I could was blankly stare at my textbook, hoping the answer will magically appear. An early bedtime for me, then.

The basic vocabulary and formalities are easy to learn (dober dan = good day, na svidenje = goodbye) but the verb and noun system is still confusing me a little. In English, we have singular and plural nouns. In Slovene, they have singular, double and then plural. So when you conjugate the verb you also have to conjugate the noun as well. Therein lies the crux of my problem: trying to coordinate these two elements while forming a sentence.

Our class is tonight. Wish us luck, me hearties.


Michael said...

Hello. This post peaked my interest. I too share your pain, although trust me trying to learn straight from books, without a teacher is much more painful. :(

Anyways, I was curious what textbook(s) they use for your Slovene class? I'm in America and unfortunately the only real books for purchase in the USA are rather poorly written, and it doesn't look like anything better will be published in the near future.

Hope your enjoying Slovenia.

Disablez said...

Did you start with declensions (cases) ? Pure pain concentrated.

Don't lose ur sleep too much, anyway, after learning the 3 genders x the 3 numbers x the 6 cases x 2 (as adjetives decline a bit differently) + special cases ... you'll discover no one here speaks it, so u'll have to forget and re-learn ta nemogoč jezik, in its informal way.

I used to be good at languages, speaking half a dozen, but my problem is that I try to find sense or rules to them... (science guy) and Slovene has more exceptions than rules, so it's like learning the yellow pages.

I found it easier to teach Spanish to half everyone at work... but I won't surrender.

Jay said...

Micheal: I'm glad I'm not the only one! Having a teacher really does make a difference, especially with pronounciation. I sometimes reel from words with accented consonants crowded together . . .

Our textbook is photocopied from an unknown original, the cover simply reads "Slovenski jezik." We bought a book and CD entitled "Teach Yourself Slovene" (by Andrea Albretti from the Teach Yourself series, ISBN 978-0-34092662-8) and I found it to be quite good.

I'm surprised about the selection in the USA - I suppose there isn't a large demand for Slovene language books? Are you planning to visit Slovenia?

Lisa is planning to post some textbook suggestions soon.

Lisa said...

Ah, no, actually, I just wanted to comment on the availability of Slovene language learning materials. And the lack thereof. So far, I am only familiar with the Teach Yourself set, and the thing we are using which I've never seen outside of Slovenia. It's not that handy anyways, since there are no English translations for words, and no explanations. Without a teacher, it is pretty much useless. With a teacher, it just barely gets a passing grade.

Alas, Slovene has yet to hit the minority language Big Leagues like Gaelic and Cherokee (this is not a slight...it's taken years and major political movements to get those languages to the place they are now). Until then, there will be no Pimsleurs or other good language acquisition system to help learners abroad.

But I could be wrong. Maybe there's some gem of a textbook out there that somebody knows about?

Jay said...

Disablez: Oh yes, the gender plus number plus conjucation is brutal, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. Sort of.

In my home university I work on campus as an English tutor, and a common maxim I tell students is: don't ask why, just learn how. Whenever I try to unpack the structure of a language, I really get confused. And you're right: the exceptions do not make the process easier.

But, if you are science-minded then it makes sense you would look for patterns and try to uncover how the language works. I only took one class in linguistics and believe me, you can make a career out of understanding the "why." :)

Michael said...

Jay: They do have the Teach Yourself Slovene available in America (through online bookstores), as well as Colloquial Slovene...which is the one I own. It's also written by Albretti.

The colloquial book I own has quite a few errors in it, and IMO the book layout was done rather poorly. Unfortunately this book isn't as well written as the rest of the Colloquial Language books. And on top of that it's more geared toward Slovene for travelers so it touches on basics but doesn't go into detail. Also I was a little leary of purchasing the Teach Yourself series since it's by the same author and from what I've researched the Teach Yourself books aren't highly praised by most consumers.

I was kind of hoping the Universities in Slovenia taught from a published (complete language course) textbook..something I could perhaps purchase next time I'm in Slovenia..but it appears that is not the case.

Yes, you are correct, there is not a large demand for Slovene books in the USA. I doubt you would ever find one sitting in a bookstore. At least I never have, the only way to purchase them is through online retailers like Amazon, or Barnes & Noble

I'm actually half-Slovenian..I was born there but never had the chance to live in country. I've been all over the world..lived in places like South Korea, Saudia Arabia, and of course the US. Oh and hopefully I will be able to live and work in Slovenia one day, hopefully as a pilot. I figure it would help if I also can speak "proper" slovene.

Unfortunately I never picked up the language when I was little, when we went on vacation to visit relatives in Slovenia. Not like it would really matter though, most of them speak one of the local dialects, so by learning from them I would pick up quite a few "local" words that others across Slovenia probably wouldn't understand.

Michael said...

I would probably say this book: Slovene Routledge Grammar (by Peter Herrity, ISBN-13: 978-0415231480) is probably the best one out there. You can find it on Amazon. But this book is more for intermediate language learners who already have a firm grasp on the elementary language points, and want a more focused approach on Slovene grammar. I have yet to find a good book or series of books that takes you from start to finish.

Disablez said...

Slovene: A Comprehensive Grammar, -ISBN 0-415-23148-5 , EAN-13 the one Michael said, "The yellow big thingie" according to my personal classification- is one of the few that I found to be sincere and more advanced, it's great to get deep into the grammar, "reasons why" included.

I found it in the center of Lj, a library in Dunajska. But it was like 60-70 € at the time, maybe worth having a look in Amazon as well.

Pair of webs...
http://www.e-slovenscina.si/ ... this one I saw when it was starting, as a state-of-the-art place to learn, according to the government... I don't know if it grew or it stayed almost empty as soon as elections finished...


julia said...

so many comments!

anyway, jay you are not in the minority. just because your partner is from an insane family of people who can teach themselves mandarin over the weekend (and this is no slight to them either, i adore said family and i'm sure they spend lots of time on said learning, but they are the only people i know who can teach themselves languages the way they do) doesn't mean you should compare your language learning skills to them in any way. a year in sudan and i left with like, 10 words of arabic. 12 years of french class and i can ask where the bathroom is. 3 years of advanced spanish and an equal number of months in mexico, and i can order beer, look for an orange suitcase and understand when other non-native speakers talk about things like weather or school.

so yes, you are not alone my friend.

and i'll reiterate again my respect for said family so that they won't use their giant brain power to telekinetically squash me like a bug.

Jay said...

My only problem with Blogger is that I can't reply directly with everyone's comments.

Michael and Disablez: Thank you for your book suggestions! I'm always on the look out for new materials.

Michael, I hope you can make it over someday, Slovenia is a beautiful country and flying over it would be amazing. My father was Quebecois, and I never picked up French while growing up, so I can appreciate your desire to learn the language.

Julia: As usual, your kind words brightened up this bitter, shrivelled-up heart o' mine. Lisa's family does have a formidable collective intelligence, but I balance that out with my insane dance moves.

That's right y'all: insane.

Lisa said...

Aw, Julia, *blush*. I am in danger of getting too big for my britches here, if you persist in saying this. I am well far from learning Slovenian in a weekend. It'll take me at least another week or so. /modesty

Maja said...

Hey everyone!

I realise that my comment is a bit late but I just recently stumbled across your blog. Anyway, I teach Slovenian as a foreign language and there are plenty of textbooks available in Slovenia. You can check out this web site for more information.


Good luck with the studying!

Jay said...

Thank you Maja!

Michael said...

@maja: So I take it the only way to purchase these books is from the university bookstore in Ljubljana?

I looked on the internet and any slovenian online bookstores I could find and nothing was listed. The only place I could find was on the Knjigarna Filozofske fakulteta website. So the only way to get these books is to go to Slovenia and purchase them at the university bookstore in Slovenia?

Lisa said...

Hey Michael,

If that is indeed the only way to get these books (and I'll wait to see if Maja comments again about this), maybe we can work something out. Postage might be killer, but if you need the books and its the only source for them, it might be worth it.

Maja said...

Michael, I think you're right, you can only buy these books at the university bookstore. You can order them online, but I'm not sure if you can do so from abroad. If you like I can call the bookstore and ask.

Michael said...

Weird ordering system they have...it just asks for your address, but no payment information. Just curious anybody know how they charge you if you order it?

maja: I assume you've at least seen all the books, which one is the best (from the beginner books) for personal study without a teacher?

maja said...

I guess I'd recommend A,B,C...1,2,3 GREMO. It's good because the instructions for the exercises are written in English as well as Slovene + it comes with a CD. It's intended for short courses, so it focuses more on developing communication skills than on grammar. You get to learn a lot of useful expressions for different everyday situations.
Slovenska beseda v živo is better if you want to learn the grammar properly, but I'm not sure you can use it without the help of a native speaker since it's all in Slovene. If you do decide to go for it though, I recommend you buy the CD as well + it's good to complement it with the exercise book Slovenščina na koncu jezika (unfortunatelly also completely in Slovene).

Here's another useful link:

Feel free to ask if you have any other questions!

Lisa said...

Hey Maja, not sure if you still check back in on this thread, but if you do: you wouldn't happen to be our teacher would you? I just realized you share a name.

maja said...

Hey Lisa!

Nope, sorry. Maja is a very common name in Slovenia and I'm sure there are plenty of us teaching Slovenian. :) Hope your studying's going well! :)

Lisa said...

Yeah, it was a long shot (and I figured you probably would have introduced yourself as such) but I thought I'd check. It's quite a common name in Canada too! :)