If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Здраво! Како си? што правиш? Дали сакаш да одиш да шеташ со мене? Нас се пријатели! Hi! How are you? What’s up? Do you want to go for a walk with me? We are friends! Learning languages is very important to me. I like to travel and I really like to study other cultures. Making friends in a new and different place from home can be very difficult. However, in my opinion, one of the most important ways to meet new people and make new friends is to learn their language. Lots of people around the world can speak English. Lots of people in Macedonia, especially the younger people, know English. However, if you can speak even a few words in a person’s first language this brings sweetness to the relationship.
Knowing what language to speak in the Balkans can be very tricky though. Even in the small country of Macedonia there are many different people who speak different first languages. My friends in Western Macedonia have to be careful what languages they speak with people. Some people in Western Macedonia speak Macedonian, but others speak Albanian. There are also other people in Macedonia who speak Romani and even some that speak Turkish as their first language. Here in Eastern Macedonia, majority of people speak Macedonian. This is why I am choosing to learn Macedonian.
Here are some photos where you can see Macedonian and other local languages:
Lyrics to a song in a church. McDonald’s in Macedonian. Road sign in Macedonian and in Latin.
Street sign in Macedonian. Shopping at the meat market.
Before I traveled to Macedonia, I didn’t know much about the Macedonian language. Because of this I did a little research by talking with friends who had lived in Macedonia before. They suggested I use an e-learning website developed for people interested in learning Macedonian. You can check out the website here: http://macedonianlanguage.org. I looked at the website before traveling to Macedonia, but I didn’t really begin to learn Macedonian until I started to interact with real people who spoke it. As soon as I arrived in Štip, I found a language tutor, and my roommate and I have been taking language lessons every Monday and Wednesday for the last seven months.
My friend, Daniela, with her husband. Dinner with Daniela’s family.
When I first arrived in Macedonia, I was lucky to find really good friends right from the beginning. One of these friends is my co-worker at an NGO, or non-government organization, where I volunteer. Her name is Daniela, and I call her дадо because she is like an older sister to me. I don’t have any sisters or brothers, but I imagine if I did have an older sister she would be a lot like Daniela. She looks out for me, and her family has invited me to spend time with them over holidays. It’s easier to adjust and settle into a new community when you feel like you have a family away from home. Daniela’s family has been very kind to me.
Learning a language has its funny moments. One of the first weeks I was in Macedonia I went to lunch with Daniela and her husband Ivica and a few other friends. I didn’t know Macedonian at this point, but I was eager to learn. Daniela speaks English fluently so during our lunch I would ask her what different Macedonian words meant. Each time she explained a word to me I would try to say it. Later she told me that it looked like I was preparing myself for a fight each time I attempted to repeat something in Macedonian. Arms up, fists clenched, I was ready to try and say something new!
Soon it was time to toast. In the United States when people toast we often say cheers! In Macedonia, people usually say na zdravje!. This means something similar to be healthy. Well, instead of saying na zdravje, to my surprise, what came out of my mouth was Strumica! This is a town in southeastern Macedonia and makes no sense at all to mention during a toast. It would be like saying Jersey! to someone during a toast if you live in New York. It just sounds silly. My friends thought it was very funny though, and so did I as soon as I figured out what I had said. Learning a new language can be difficult, but it is definitely worth it.