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 Brave new world

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PostSubject: Brave new world   Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:10 pm

[size=85:1i6xxsqn]Sofia echo 23 April 2010

Brave new world

Learning Bulgarian for an English-speaker is marginally less excruciating than listening to fingernails scratching a blackboard. Only marginally. Yet, look on the bright side, it is considerably more bearable than having to drink the filthy concoction known as boza. However, given that the latter is a mixture of donkey’s urine, pig’s stool and human sweat, that’s perhaps not saying very much.

Other than that, most activities, indeed many forms of torture, are probably preferable to beginning to learn Bulgarian.

This, I hasten to add, is absolutely no reflection on the excellent services of Sofia’s Omega language school and its gifted staff. Truth is, it will enrich your life in Bulgaria considerably if you can come through this rite of passage and emerge undaunted the other side.

Gobbledygook?

At school I happily learnt Latin, French, Spanish and German and I can – immodestly – say that I was well above average at all of them. French, in particular, perhaps because it was in the blood (my mother is half-French), was like a melodic tune that seemed to resonate in my head. My young brain happily assimilated new vocabulary and the language flowed effortlessly.

I met my Bulgarian wife in Portugal and so was still unfamiliar with her language. I remember when she first showed me photographs of Mladost, I underwent a strange out-of-body experience, a kind of progressive disorientation. I saw a sign saying "
аптека"
and I remember poring over the second character as if studying an alien life form. It looked like a tunnel, with a passing resemblance to the Arc de Triomphe. Another sign "
фризьор"
was even more disconcerting. What was this scratched out zero? Surely these characters couldn’t be part of the alphabet? Unfortunately, they were, and are, and this was nothing compared to, of course, the ubiquitous "
pectopaht"
that so confuses foreigners.

So when I first came to live in Sofia, I panicked. Almost any other European language – although I’ve heard Hungarian is even harder – would have been easier. Trying to learn it was like learning to walk all over again.

"
You can learn the Bulgarian alphabet in a weekend,"
claims a well-known guide. Ummm. Technically, that may be true, but for the "
accomplished"
English speaker, and master of Latin languages, that isn’t the whole story. Learning that a "
p"
is really an "
r"
or that a "
з"
is а "
z"
somehow conflicted with every instinct in my 43-year-old being, like telling a dog not to bark when the doorbell goes. Just as somebody swaying their head from side to side cannot possibly mean "
yes"
– irrespective of the charming subtlety of the Bulgarian sideways motion that doesn’t quite correspond to the full head-shake.

The older you get, the more you stick to the familiar. A part of one’s brain rejects radical change. So learning the alphabet is one thing, submitting to it on a day-to-day basis and resigning yourself to its idiosyncrasies is something else entirely.

Francophile

Your ability to learn a foreign language, I think, also depends on your predilection for the culture concerned. At school I was arty-farty, somewhat sensitive and prone to exorbitant longings and extravagant demands. My palate, for example, although satisfied with traditional British fodder, somehow craved a Salade Nicoise, a French vinaigrette dressing for "
ze"
weekend avocado. I just knew I’d fit in in France. I relished my first trip to Paris and the thrill of being able to communicate and being able to order a "
citron presse"
. Even when a sarcastic waiter asked me why I wanted a "
squashed car"
I was undeterred and went on to enjoy not inconsiderable success with the lingo.

German, however, was a different story. I have a theory, scientifically untested but based on instinct, that Nordic types – and I concede this can be difficult to pinpoint exactly – would find it easier. My half-brother, a blue-eyed, typically English person in terms of his tastes and interests – and not especially artistic – floundered in his attempts to master French. I suggested that he learn German. "
You’re saying I’m an Aryan type of person?"
he said to me. Precisely. He was better suited to the stridency and authoritarianism of the German language.

I go into this because essentially I like Bulgaria and its people, so although I found the beginnings tortuous I have persevered and now find myself understanding the gist of conversations. Granted, some Bulgarians will laugh when I string a sentence together in a shop but I don’t take it as rudeness;
it’s more the unexpectedness – the contrast between what they anticipate (I am dark and could pass for a Bulgarian) and the reality.

My admiration for those people who can become totally fluent in Bulgarian after a comparatively short time is unlimited. I don’t think I’ll ever reach their level of proficiency but I now at least can look out of our bay window in Mladost and read that Verona Nova is just that and not – as I used to read it – some kind of establishment advertising a wild hobo.

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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Sun Apr 25, 2010 5:38 pm



Learning the language is really very important, no doubt about that but now that quite a few Bulgarians speak English it does make life a lot easier - I think in 10 years time English will be spoke all over. c

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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:04 pm

I agree with you oddy,but for us living here now,we have to learn,Heather is looking now at going to school,which for us is a must,if we are to expand our business,and be part of the community
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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:42 am

I'm still trying its just so dammed hard!!! but hey that's life
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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:51 pm



Ah diddles H Well done Daisy c

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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:14 am

bobski wrote:
involve yourself with the locals...try to get to know them.

Got no choice bobski ... we're the only brits in a town with over 3,000 inhabitants!

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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Mon May 17, 2010 4:45 pm

bobski wrote:
hi , i am finding that i am learning more launguage by not mixing with brits!!!

involve yourself with the locals...try to get to know them.

it works wonders,

bobski.


Sounds like a good plan Bob I will remeber that when I'm over there thank you
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PostSubject: Re: Brave new world   Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:52 pm

Great advice thank you Bob g
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