Posted by: Moon | April 14, 2011

Nerozumiem !!!

I have a strange sensation every day at work, it’s a weird one, one I sometimes enjoy, other times it gets on my nerves …. I sit in my office, and I can always hear not one, but two languages that I don’t really understand.

I can pick up some Slovak now, and if people are talking slowly, and directly to me, I can pretty much work out what they are trying to say, but when the Austrian talk, I cannot understand a bloody word ! I have enjoyed starting work for a few reasons, but one of the biggest things is my furthering use of Slovak. I am able as I pass people in the factory or the office to say Hello, ask how they are, and in general make small talk about how things are, and what people are doing. This is a real confidence builder for me, and gets me out of my comfort zone. I make plenty of mistakes, but people seem happy that I am trying.

In huge contrast to this are the majority of Austrians that are here. They have made no effort at all to try to learn Slovak (one manager aside) . They keep within themselves, all able to speak good English, but not really here to try to learn Slovak. To be fair, they are only based here temporally, as an emergency team to help try to get things back on track, however, I am pretty sure in that time (over 6 months now) they could have learnt some Slovak.

To me, it can be quite interesting to sit in amongst people that do not speak your language. Sometimes I get annoyed, and frustrated, wanting them to shut up. If you cannot understand what is being said, you can get paranoid, and then try to make up what people are saying. As I sit and listen to this most of the day, I have come to realise that the German they speak sounds very funny. I don’t think it is a nice, smooth language at all, It is full of abrupt and horrible noises. Slovak sounds smoother to me, more friendly, but I gather harder to learn.

I am disappointed that I haven’t learnt things faster, I am not a good student, and being cocooned inside the comfort zone of mainly family and friends, I have become lazy, now I have no choice and it feels much better. People that know I am getting it all wrong, but they do not correct me, they just let me get things out, and we work out what I mean, no offence to my family around me, but I get nervous trying to speak when they, quite rightly, correct me all the time.

So, next time you are on holiday, and think “why don’t they speak English”, have a little thought, and maybe wonder why we don’t speak other languages. Some of you probably do, and fair play to you, but so many of the Europeans I have met here speak other languages, and I feel guilty that I don’t. I am trying hard, and I am proud that I can at least be polite, have some small talk, and certainly understand what people are trying to say to me. My PIL said they wanted to try to learn some English, I quickly said no for two reasons, firstly, I should learn Slovak, I am living here, and I have to embrace that, but also, I don’t want them to understand what I am saying to my wife…. We have to have that private conversation, and we can do that even if they are about. We have to be careful not to use certain words, they do know “Mum” and “Dad”, so we have to disguise that.. for example “Can we feed the older female of the family to the pigs please” … you get my drift !

So living life in a foreign country is one thing, when you have the safety net of the family taking English, but once you get out into the real world, even a trip to the supermarket can be daunting, I get easily embarrassed when trying to talk the language, but it’s the only way to learn. Now I am in work, I try to make sure I speak as much Slovak as I can, as for the Austrians… well, they can learn Slovak too…. Or speak to me in English. But it is weird to be sat listen to two other languages being spoken all around you, can make you feel very alone.


  1. Bewilderment is what I feel at times. I empathize completely. Best of luck.

  2. I understand completely. When I first moved to Florida my first position was working for Dole Fresh Fruit, the vessel management portion. We had two engineers who were Norwegian, two Indians – one a higher class than the other, two men from Bermuda, one from the UK who was VP of Vessel Operations. He was my boss and we did things his way usually, down to using the Queens english of course. But when things went a bit wrong and heated everyone would speak their own language and I sat there learning how to curse in quite a few languages, or – so it seemed. It was one of the most wonderful jobs I ever had, I learned so much about foreign relations with many other countries, Japan, China, Honduras, etc.. I learned the banana trade and pineapple trade. But I won’t ever forget the people and friends I made while I was there. It was a great experience and opened me up to learning so many new things, but, it was definitely intimidating. Now I am strongly considering retiring at least 3/4 of my time in Thailand, which means I must try the language. I purchased a program for my computer – Rosetta Stone and so far I have learned some, but not as well or as quickly as I would love to. I get frustrated easily as I think I should be picking things up better. I have little excuse for not practicing every night, but gosh, after just a half hour I am brain dead. Of course I am not as young as you, being 63 Isuppose has its downside, but I so want to learn. So, I will keep plugging away little by little and hopefully when I get to Thailand next month they won’t laugh too hard at me, actually, they are some of the most patient people I have ever met. They just want to help all the time. I feel so bad cause I just don’t feel I am smart enough but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Ok, enough of my missive. Karen

  3. I work with a lot of Spanish. Can’t understand a word beyond the usual polite greetings. Very frustrating. Keep trying to learn some but my brain isn’t having any of it. I speak a little French and less German but French is stronger because they will not speak English whereas the Germans will.

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