Parents in diaspora, speak Serbian to your children!

Parents in diaspora, talk Serbian to your children!

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

Roditelji u dijaspori, pričajte srpski sa svojom decom!

Magdalena Petrović Jelić

[I recommend reading on a big screen for comparing the two languages in two columns. On mobile, scroll down for Serbian.]

On a sunny day last September I was with my son in a playground. There was also a dad my ear caught talking French to his little girl, about a year and a half old. I always notice these things because I love hearing foreign languages in my town. 

As I was lurking for an opportunity to use my rusty French, the dad – to my surprise – addressed me in his obviously native Serbian language.

 

I plan to teach her how to talk Serbian

After I gave him the information he asked, I couldn’t restrain myself from asking: why in the world don’t you talk Serbian to your child?

“I will”, he said, “I’ll teach her Serbian, I plan to do that.”

He explained further that the girl’s mom is French and that he was proud of her for learning to write Serbian very quickly – even though she hasn’t learned to speak the Serbian language. And French is so difficult to write!

 

It’s easier for us to learn foreign languages

I dare to say that it is much easier for an average Serb to learn French then it is for an average French person to learn the Serbian language. I can guarantee that.

Even if Serbian is so easy to write and French is so difficult to write.

Because a Serbian child is learning all the case endings and exploring nuances of verbal aspects, as well as the diversity of tones and accents, already at two years of age.

I’m closely watching my son, two years and 4 months old now, experimenting with all these features of the Serbian language and growing his grammar brain.

I like to call him “my little linguistic miracle”.

 

They never learned the Serbian language from their parents

Then I remembered many people with a Serbian name and surname that came looking for my lessons, unable to utter a simplest sentence in the Serbian language.

I also remembered my students who wanted to learn the language of their parent(s) and had to start from scratch because their parents didn’t teach them the language. Like Laila whose mother was afraid that her Serbian would interfere with her Arabic.

And I remembered other students who had the opportunity to speak Serbian language at least with their grandparents: they learned it so much quicker, and their pronunciation was so much better.

 

So I said: talk Serbian language to your child!

I said to that dad, speak Serbian to your child! Make her bilingual, she will be grateful one day.

Here’s what you do: each parent simply speaks in their own language to the child, consistently. You speak Serbian, your wife speaks French. And you’ll create a powerful bilingual brain in your child. She might take a little longer to start talking, but when she does, she’ll speak both languages.

Finally, I said what my profession was and I told him about my experience. He looked me puzzled in the eye and thanked me.

 

That is when I decided to tell this story and to make this video. I speak Serbian language, but there are English subtitles so you can share with your friends and partners.

My message is short and clear:

Speak Serbian language with your children! 

Jednog sunčanog dana prošlog septembra bila sam sa svojim sinom na igralištu. Tamo je bio i jedan tata kog sam načula kako govori francuski sa svojom devojčicom, starom oko godinu i po. Uvek primetim takve stvari zato što baš volim da čujem strane jezike u mom gradu. 

Vrebala sam priliku da upotrebim svoj zarđali francuski, kad mi se – na moje iznenađenje – tata obratio na očigledno maternjem srpskom jeziku.

 

Planiram da je naučim srpski

Dala sam mu informaciju koju je tražio i nisam se mogla suzdržati a da ne pitam: zašto, zaboga, ne govorite na srpskom jeziku sa svojim detetom?

„Hoću“, rekao mi je, „naučiću je srpski, planiram da je naučim.“

Još je objasnio da je devojčicina mama Francuskinja i da je jako ponosan na nju što je brzo naučila da piše srpski – iako još uvek nije naučila da govori jezik. A francuski je tako težak za pisanje!

 

Nama je lakše da učimo strane jezike

Usuđujem se da kažem da je mnogo lakše jednom prosečnom Srbinu da nauči francuski nego što je jednom prosečnom Francuzu da nauči srpski jezik. Mogu to da garantujem.

Iako je srpski tako lak za pisanje a francuski tako težak.

Zato što srpsko dete uči sve završetke za padeže i istražuje nijanse glagolskog vida, kao i raznolikost akcenata i narečja, već sa dve godine.

Pažljivo posmatram svog sina, kome su sada dve godine i četiri meseca, kako eksperimentiše sa svim tim elementima srpskog jezika i razvija svoj gramatički mozak.

Volim da ga zovem „moje malo lingvističko čudo“.

 

Oni nikada nisu naučili srpski jezik od svojih roditelja

Tada sam se setila mnogih ljudi sa srpskim imenom i prezimenom koji su zatražili moje časove, nesposobni da slože i najprostiju rečenicu na srpskom jeziku.

Setila sam se i mojih učenika koji su želeli da nauče jezik svojih roditelja, a morali su da počnu od nule jer ih roditelji nisu naučili tom jeziku. Kao što je Lejla, čija se majka plašila da bi joj srpski smetao da nauči arapski.

I setila sam se drugih učenika koji su imali mogućnost da govore srpski jezik makar sa dedom i babom: oni su mnogo brže učili i njihov izgovor je bio mnogo bolji.

 

Zato sam rekla: pričajte na srpskom jeziku sa svojim detetom!

Rekla sam tom tati: pričajte srpski sa svojim detetom! Neka bude bilingvalna, biće vam zahvalna jednog dana.

Evo šta treba da radite: svaki roditelj jednostavno govori na svom jeziku sa svojim detetom, dosledno. Vi pričate srpski, vaša žena francuski. Tako ćete stvoriti moćan bilingvalni um u vašem detetu. Možda će joj trebati malo više da progovori, ali kada počne da priča, govoriće oba jezika.

Na kraju sam rekla čime se bavim i ispričala mu svoje iskustvo. On me je zbunjeno pogledao pravo u oči i zahvalio mi se.

 

Tada sam odlučila da ispričam ovu priču i da snimim ovaj video. Govorim srpski jezik, ali tu su titlovi na engleskom tako da možete podeliti sa svojim prijateljima i partnerima.

Moja poruka je kratka i jasna:

Pričajte srpski jezik sa svojom decom!

/English translation of the video/

 

Many friends of mine, acquaintances, friends from university, went abroad. They live in Germany, Austria… I even have a friend in Malta.

And many of you ask me: „What with kids, which language to teach them?“

 

What language will children learn in diaspora and mixed marriages?

Many of you are in mixed marriages and things get complicated there. You speak Serbian, your spouse another language, among yourselves you often communicate in that other language, or in English, a third language, and what will your child learn?

Many parents are afraid that the child will be deprived if they don’t teach her the language of the country they live in. That’s why they’re trying to speak with the child in that language, because they want the child to assimilate.

Then, as the child grows older, the parents feel sorry because he doesn’t speak their native language. And then they contact me, or other teachers, and want that their child to learn the language from the teacher.

And that’s much harder.

 

Speak in the Serbian language with your child from their birth

Speak in the Serbian language with your child. That’s the biggest gift you can give him. Serbian is a very complex language. Our cases are something that no foreigner will ever learn as native language.

And for many of you who live abroad, many of your children (I’ve worked with such people) learn it as a foreign language. They have some knowledge, but it is very difficult that they will learn it as their mother tongue.

That’s why the biggest gift you can give to your child is to transfer to them the love of your language and to transfer the knowledge of your own language only by talking to them in that language, from their birth.

Tell your child what you’ve been doing during the day, recount. Tell him about what he knows. That’s how he can connect the language with reality. Tell him about what’s going on around you, tell them about what he can see, what he experienced. Because that’s how he can connect the language with reality, what the language signifies in reality.

 

Knowledge of Serbian will help your child learn other languages

The Serbs are famous for their capacity to learn foreign languages well. I’ve been to Greece and Italy at universities and there I heard that we rank very well. In England also, we rank very well for our capacity to learn foreign languages.

That much, to that extent, your child will never learn Serbian if he’s learning it as a foreign language. Only if he’s adopting it from you, if he learns it from your mouth, will he learn it the best.

 

Don’t worry, your child will certainly fit in

And don’t you worry, children will most certainly learn the language of the country they live in. Your child will socialize with other children, he will go to kindergarten, he’ll go to school, where he’ll learn that language.

And he’ll certainly learn it.

Don’t you worry that your child won’t speak the language of the community if you speak Serbian with him at home.

 

/Transcript of the video/

 

Mnogi moji prijatelji, poznanici, drugari sa studija su otišli u inostranstvo. Žive u Nemačkoj, u Austriji… imam čak i prijateljicu na Malti.

I mnogi od vas me pitaju: „Šta sa decom, koji jezik podučavati?“

 

Koji jezik će deca naučiti u dijaspori i u mešovitim brakovima?

Mnogi od vas su u mešovitim brakovima i tu se stvar komplikuje. Vi govorite srpski, vaš suprug ili supruga govori neki drugi jezik, međusobno se sporazumevate često na tom drugom jeziku, ili pak na engleskom jeziku, na trećem, i šta će dete naučiti?

Mnogi roditelji se boje da će dete ostati uskraćeno ako ga ne nauče jezik te zemlje u kojoj žive. I zato se trude da sa detetom pričaju na tom jeziku, jer žele da se dete asimiluje.

Onda kad dete malo poodraste, onda roditeljima bude žao što ono ne zna njihov maternji jezik. Pa onda kontaktiraju mene, ili druge profesore, i žele da njihovo dete nauči jezik od profesora.

To onda bude mnogo teže.

 

 

Pričajte na srpskom jeziku sa svojim detetom od rođenja

Pričajte na srpskom jeziku sa svojim detetom. To je najveći poklon koji mu možete dati. Srpski jezik je jako kompleksan. Naši padeži su nešto što nijedan stranac nikada neće naučiti kao maternji jezik.

A puno vas koji živite u inostranstvu, puno vaše dece (ja sam sa takvim ljudima radila) uče ga kao strani jezik.  Imaju nešto znanja, ali je jako teško da ga nauče kao maternji jezik.

Zato najveći dar koji možete da poklonite svom detetu jeste da mu prenesete ljubav prema svom jeziku i da mu prenesete znanje svog jezika samo na taj način što ćete govoriti sa njim na tom jeziku, od rođenja.

Pričajte svom detetu šta ste radili tokom dana, prepričavajte. Pričajte mu o onome što ono zna. Tako može da povezuje jezik sa realnošću. Pričajte mu o onome što se dešava oko vas, pričajte mu o onome što ono može da vidi, što je doživelo. Jer tako može da povezuje jezik sa realnošću, šta jezik označava u stvarnosti.

 

Znanje srpskog će vašem detetu pomoći da nauči druge jezike

Srbi su poznati po tome što dobro uče strane jezike. Ja sam bila u Grčkoj i u Italiji na univerzitetima i tamo sam čula dosta se dobro kotiramo. I u Engleskoj takođe, dosta se dobro kotiramo koliko smo sposobni da naučimo strane jezike.

Toliko, u toj meri, vaše dete nikad neće savladati srpski jezik ako ga uči kao strani. Jedino ako ga usvaja od vas, ako ga uči iz vaših usta, tako će ga najbolje naučiti.

 

Ne brinite, vaše dete će se sigurno uklopiti

A nemojte se brinuti, deca svakako, svakako nauče jezik zemlje u kojoj žive. Vaše dete će se družiti sa drugom decom, ići će u vrtić, ići će u školu, gde će učiti taj jezik.

I svakako će naučiti taj jezik.

Nemojte se brinuti da vaše dete neće govoriti jezikom sredine ako vi kod kuće sa njim govorite srpski.

Vocabulary vs Grammar: An experience that changed my teaching philosophy

Vocabulary vs Grammar: An experience that changed my teaching philosophy

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

 

When people start learning Serbian, or another new language, they often have a vocabulary vs. grammar dilemma. They realize that there is so much to learn, and they wonder where they should invest their time. What’s more important: the words or the rules for using those words correctly?

The old-school teaching method fostered grammar. And not so long ago, as a language student and a young language teacher, I too was obsessed with grammar.

 

Obsessed with grammar

I believed that a student needs to understand how grammar works in order to be able to learn the Serbian language. Even the books for teaching Serbian that were available didn’t prove me wrong: they were all centered around grammar and gave little material with lots of rules in it.

And I focused on grammar to the extent that, once, I even explained all the seven cases in a single lesson to a beginner-level student! I mean, he asked for it – but still I would never do that today.

 

 

An eye-opening experience: why vocabulary prevailed

In this video I wanted to tell you about one crucial experience that opened my eyes, offered a different point of view and helped me change my teaching philosophy.

/Transcript of the video/

 

I’ve wanted to tell this story for years. This is a story about a student who changed my teaching style, who changed my idea of teaching Serbian as a foreign language.

 

The student who changed my view of vocabulary vs. grammar dilemma

He was a Mexican, I met him in Belgrade, maybe five years ago or even more.

He wanted help with his Serbian, and told me that never before he had a lesson of Serbian language.

He was fluent in English and Spanish, but from the beginning I was able to talk to him in slow Serbian and he could understand me perfectly well.

He had been married at a time to a Serbian women for five years or so, and he had been learning Serbian by watching movies with Serbian subtitles. His vocabulary was huge because ha had learned the language from the people, and he had no idea, basically, about the grammar.

 

Life-changing experience

That encounter was crucial for me as a teacher. That encounter taught me how important vocabulary is for communication. For basic communication you can disregard the grammar and learn only vocabulary. Because you can speak Tarzan Serbian and still tell what you want. You can learn lexically and have no idea about the grammar behind the structures, but only know the meaning of the structures.

 

The Serbian Grammar

Serbian grammar is very complex and huge. For all of you who learn Serbian as your first Slavic language, you all feel overwhelmed by our grammar. And, as a teacher, I don’t want to give you everything at once, because that would kill you, that would overwhelm you. No. I give you one piece at a time, and I keep surprising my students with the complexity of the Serbian grammar they should understand and learn.

Often I hear from my students: „Wow, I thought I knew grammar!“ Yes. But with the Slavic languages, with Serbian or Croatian as with other Slavic languages, there are grammar things you didn’t even know existed if you only know Romance and Germanic languages.

 

My advice

My advice is to take it slowly on grammar. Because, you’re able to understand our grammar, of course you are – there thousands of wonderful books that will help you understand it – but to understand this grammar is one thing, and to use it efficiently is completely another.

So, take it slowly with the grammar, practice it bit by bit, and cram on vocabulary. That’s your task for the A1 level in Serbian or Croatian language.

 

Tako Lako Vokabular

That’s why I started the Basic Serbian Vocabulary project – “Tako Lako Vokabular” – with the aim of creating a bank of the most important words for you to learn at a beginner or A level.

It’s free and contains images to help your memory, audio files to improve your pronunciation, and quizzes to test your progress.

Come over to Tako Lako Vokabular and start learning right away! 

https://www.serbiancourses.com/2018/07/27/introduction-to-the-serbian-language/

 

https://www.serbiancourses.com/2018/10/09/3-basic-and-often-neglected-tools-for-learning-serbian-or-any-language/

https://www.serbiancourses.com/2018/09/27/what-cases-are-and-how-to-learn-them/

Starting Serbian? Discover When Is The Best Time to Start

Starting Serbian? Discover When Is the Best Time to Start 

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić

 

Making a decision to start a new language usually comes in slowly. First it occurs to us how cool would it be if we knew this new language. And we usually need some time to chew on that idea. If you’re thinking about starting Serbian, chances are that you love something – or someone – from the country, and that you’ve been thinking about that for some time.

That daydreaming will continue until you bump into a right trigger that will push you into taking the first step. And in my experience, the usual triggers coincide with two major periods when most people decide to learn Serbian or Croatian.

But are these really the best moments for starting a new language? In this video I explain when is the best time for starting Serbian and how to use that surge of motivation and avoid the disappointment many language learners face.

 

/Transcript of the video/

 

Two peak periods for starting Serbian every year

People often ask me when is the best time to start learning a language.

Over the years that I’ve been teaching Serbian, I’ve noticed that there are two peak periods every year when lots of new people contact me: in December and in May. These are the two periods when many people decide to start Serbian, or another language.

 

The first one is when they’re facing their winter holidays (and probably a New Year’s resolution), and the second is when they’re planning their summer vacation.

 

A heroic task

So, apparently, these people expect to achieve good results in a month or so: they want to start in May and get ready for their holiday in July, or they plan to start in December to get ready for January.

 

Then they try to learn as much as possible and they cram all the material they can find. Some even hire two teachers!

Eventually, they get tired and confused – especially if they tried to learn too much grammar at once – and they end up:

1) either disappointed,

2) or (which is better) resolved to take it all over again when they come back from their vacation.

 

Why this happens?

You probably ask yourself: Why this happens? The answer is simple. Because there is a limited amount of data our brain is capable of processing efficiently at a given amount of time. Also, because to remember a new word, one word, we need to see it or hear it between 5 to 10 times.

 

This is why we need to give ourselves plenty of time to learn a new language, especially if it’s a new language family for us – which is often the case with the Serbian or Croatian language.

 

Question the “miracle solutions” 

And anybody who promises miracles, like „learn this language in this many days“ is misleading you.

First, ask that person to define what does „to learn a language“ mean? To which level? Up to what point? What are you going to be able to do with what they’re promising.

 

Setting up a realistic goal

What you can do is that you can commit to get to a certain level in certain amount of time, like for example to get A1 in 4 months, so from 0 to A1 in 4 months, and you need a solid program to follow.

 

Also, you need to make a plan and stick to it: how to do it, what resources you’re going to use, how often you’re going to to study, if you’re going to take individual lessons, how many times a week, which days are you going to do that, when are you going to write your homework, how are you going to use your audio files, etc.

 

Anyways, give yourself at least 4 to 5 months to see noticeable progress.

 

The perfect time to start learning Serbian

And this is my answer to all of you who asked me „when is the best time to star learning Serbian“:

August or September is the right time to start getting ready for your winter vacation in Serbia,

and December is the perfect time to start getting ready for your summer vacation in Serbia!

 

In the meantime, visit serbiancourses.com and check what’s new.

I’ve made the Tako Lako Vokabular pages that you can use to start learning right away!