Tongue Tied

“All that I’ve been taught
And every word I’ve got
Is foreign to me” — Hozier, Foreigner’s God

I used to have grand ideas about learning Shqip (Albanian). I thought I’d be fluent in the language by the time I left Kosovo! I thought my volunteer friends and I would speak to each other using Shqip in public! I imagined myself rapidly switching between Shqip and English, AND EVERYONE WOULD BE IMPRESSED.

Haha. I am beginning to understand how a person can live in another country and not speak the native language.

Six months in, and I’ll confess, my motivation to learn has hit a recent slump. I can speak the language well enough to communicate with my host family. I can speak it well enough to communicate with shop owners and taxi drivers. But the rest of the time, I speak English. And that’s if I talk at all. I don’t like to talk much in any language.

I have Shqip tutor, and she’s great. But my once-per-week sessions are probably not going to make me fluent in the language. I am also struggling with the usefulness of learning Shqip … will I ever need to speak it once I leave Kosovo? If I want to get some kind of international job after Peace Corps, would my time be better spent brushing up on my high school French?

So, yes, it’s been a struggle. I recently came across this article from Babbel, though, which has given me some hope, and also some ideas on how to acquire language. (I also keep reminding myself that, prior to six months ago, I had never heard Albanian spoken or seen it written … maybe I should go easier on myself.) The article lists these helpful tips when learning a new language:

1) Choose the words you want/need to learn.
2) Relate them to what you already know.
3) Review them until they’ve reached your long­-term memory.
4) Record them so learning is never lost.
5) Use them in meaningful human conversation and communication.

If you live under a rock, perhaps you haven’t seen the following video. (It’s been all over the Internet lately.)

Isn’t that sweet? I sometimes feel like I need a greater motivator to learn Shqip, other than, “I live here so I guess I should.”

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