Not too long ago I vowed that I would spend more time studying Slovenian. I’m here, I’m learning it anyway, and I should put more time into it. Although Slovenian may be useless in terms of the grand scheme of the world-it’s spoken by about two million people- in other words, approximately the population of the Portland Metropolitan Area,- it is highly useful if you live in Slovenia. I use it every day. Plus, it makes people very happy if you’re a foreigner and you speak any Slovenian, so I’ve come to consider learning the language as part of my duties as a citizen diplomat. It’s awfully satisfying to make people so pleased by just talking about the weather or how pretty the mountains are, and I believe it’s important to honor Slovenia’s proud linguistic tradition.
On a less selfless note, learning Slovenian could also potentially have wider application beyond Slovenia for me. It’s closely related to Croatian and Serbian, (or would that be, Serbo-Croatian? Depends on whom you ask…) and all other Slavic languages. It’s pretty neat to be able to look at something written in, say, Polish, and have the most vague possible idea what it might say. How neat is that!? By learning Slovenian, I’ll be opening up a whole world of languages. Macedonian, anyone?
Any language skills whatsoever would be rather useful if I make it through the whole Foreign Service Officer exam process. It would bump me up on the hiring register, making it more likely for me to get a job. It might also enable me to be more choosy about posts if I have proven abilities learning a Slavic language if I’m lucky. Thus, my renewed passion for learning Slovenian. I’ve come quite a ways, I must say. I can hold a whole conversation, and talk about the past and the future! I’m looking forward to seeing how good I can get.
However. Recently, I came across a job opportunity that requires Spanish Language fluency. I’m applying for it, and I pray that I’ll at least make it to the interview process, so in the last few days I’ve been trying to brush up my Spanish. Now, I have been fluent in Spanish in the past. Talk to me, oh, four years ago, and I could have feigned Argentine citizenship. But it’s been years since I’ve lived in Spanish-speaking countries, and I’m terrified that I’ve lost too much of it.
A while ago I spoke with a Slovenian who speaks no English. In the past, we’ve only used Spanish, but since my Slovenian has improved so much, I found myself relying on Slovenian rather than Spanish to talk to her. Oh no! Bad bad bad. Even talking to myself in Spanish in my head I find myself drawing upon Slovenian words. (“Me gustaría gremo na pivo…Gremo na pivo. Beer. Cerveza.”) AH! Mierda.
I will not be defeated. I will attempt to spend the next week only studying Spanish, listening to Juanes, and praying to Santa Maria that my latent Spanish skills can emerge from their box in my head…All while living in the land of the Slavs. Wish me mucho suerte, por favor.