Serbian in a Year?

Волим те, Београд.

I mean, why not, right? There are intrepid bloggers out there who learn Russian and Turkish and Italian in a year (and Polish in a week, since those blasted Slavic languages are all the same, aren’t they? AREN’T THEY?!?), German in three months, Czech in two months, and – gasp! – Mandarin Chinese in three months! If they can do it, why can’t I? I mean, I speak fluent Russian, don’t I? And we’ve already established that all those Slavic languages are exactly alike, give or take, right? So therefore, my friends, I fully expect to be reading Ivo Andrić’s The Bridge on the Drina and Miodrag Bulatović’s The Red Rooster Flies Heavenwards in the original by February at the very latest.

I jest, of course. It used to bother me a lot when people claimed to learn languages to fluency in a short period of time (especially when I knew it was not true – there is a person who, to this day, claims fluency in Russian, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that he is not fluent). I think it bothered me because in the vast majority of cases, learning a foreign language takes an incredible amount of time and effort, so seeing (false) claims to the contrary appeared to demean the efforts of hard-working language learners who actually put in the time to learn a foreign language. Such false claims do not bother me anymore. I simply refuse to be annoyed because in the end, those of us who put in the time will be rewarded with actual fluency. And besides, mercilessly mocking the pseudo-polyglots is just too much fun.

I have been itching to add another language to my study for a little while now, but have been unable to decide and commit to a single language for an extended period of time. (This is probably a good thing, as I do not know if I was ready at the beginning of last year to do so.) I considered returning to Spanish (I took it in school), branching out into Ukrainian, or even tackling a Germanic language like Dutch or Swedish. And, of course, I considered Serbian, which is what I have ended up settling on.

I have had an interest in the former Yugoslavia since Dr. Radovan Karadžić’s arrest in July 2008. Back then, I had such an interest in the Serbian language that if I had had the opportunity, I would have enrolled in a Serbian language class if my university offered Serbian. Unfortunately, Serbian was not offered (and still is not), so I signed up for the next best thing – Russian – and promptly fell in love everything Russian-related.

It did not make sense to start Serbian (or another foreign language) for the first two years of my Russian studies. Russian has a lot of strange little quirks, so getting a strong foundation is important and I did not want to get confused by another language. When I was finally at a stage where I felt ready to begin a new language, I could not decide which one to focus on. After a few false starts in Dutch, Swedish, and Spanish, I decided to just go with my desire to learn Serbian.

So in addition to doing Russian, I am going to be learning Serbian this year. I’m quite excited about it – let me know if you speak Serbian! And I definitely plan on reading some of Andrić’s work in the original. Not in February, but by July or August at the latest. 😉


5 thoughts on “Serbian in a Year?

  1. Happy New Year!
    Serbian sounds like a brilliant idea, I’d definitely learn it if I had the time, but unfortunately I don’t. Instead I’m going to be a big cheat and do a beginner’s class in Finnish (the basics in a second Finno-Ugric language is required in case I want to continue with Hungarian next year) – nevermind it’s my mother tongue… 🙂

  2. By the way, the local library has some books in Croatian, which I’ve started reading. And well… I understand quite a bit (I think) thanks to knowing Russian & Polish.

    1. I think that’s funny you’re doing a Finnish class as a native speaker 😉 I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do English as a foreign language…

      Yes, the knowledge of Russian definitely helps me, and I’m sure Polish would be helpful too! (Unfortunately I don’t know Polish, at least not yet.) I can understand more written Serbian than spoken Serbian at this point.

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