In some incongruous universe, I speak fluent Albanian. I laugh at local Albanian slang and colloquialism is my middle name. Realistically and regretfully, none of this can be further from my truth.
My level of Albanian is equivalent to that of a preschool flunkey. I can count to twenty…albeit, to say “17” I need to count up to it starting from one. I can utter “please” and “thank you” along with “thank you very very much.” I even have the accent down for the few words I can say…I say them pretty darn well. With the exception of the word, “boy” which when I say it, comes out “devil”—and rightfully so. I do alright with my sub-preschool level Albanian.
As I am sure with everyone who is learning a second language, it’s not the acquisition of elementary words and witty phrases that is a hurdle (Vamos amigas la noche es joven!), but it is the understanding of the native spoken tongue or having “the ear” for the language that is the most formidable.
The funny thing about my Albanian family is, they truly believe that I understand everything they say. There is no baby talk for the dumb American—Do. You. Want. Me. To. Iron. Your. Underwear?—When the truth is, that I, at best, understand two words of Albanian out of 10. That is not a lot. Knowing just two words from a huge sentence can lead to a lot of misunderstanding…unfortunately, always on my part.
Be that as it may, I am fortunate to have two little translators at hand on my current visit to Albania and they both are definitely more fluent than their wannabe mama. For this, I must be thankful to their Babi/Dad.
Before my first mini-Albanian was born, my husband genuinely worried he wouldn’t be able to speak to his flesh and blood in his native tongue…could you imagine not being able to tell your own baby, “I love you so much you little monkey-butt” in your own loving way?
Our boys would eventually watch English cartoons, go to English schools, and have English-speaking friends…the odds were not good. But we were determined to make sure our American-Albanians spoke and understood Albanian. Eleven years later, my husband still only speaks Albanian to his boys and only rarely in mixed conversations with others will say a few words to his boys in English. That is hard-core Albanian pride for ya and I love it. When my oldest was five-years-old, he was convinced his Babi didn’t speak or understand ANY English…so how did he talk to me?! (too cute!) Now, not only can Babi speak for hours with his boys from his loving Albanian heart, but our boys can converse with their Albanian Nana, endless Uncles, countless Aunts, and thousands of Albanian cousins.
Thanks to our boys, I too was able to learn Albanian just like a baby. Phrases like, “Open your mouth,” “Don’t touch that,” “Don’t say that,” and “You are a pain the butt!” have certainly come in handy at the grocery store when you don’t want people to understand that you are disciplining your child.
Now that I am --almost-- an official owner of a home in Albania (I’m counting the hours), I am praying that I can up my understanding of Albanian from two out of ten words to at least two out of eight? One can only hope.
Above Image: This was a picnic my Mother-In-Law and Aunt put together for an Albanian house tradition, I guess it's good luck to move into a new house during a fuller moon and eat a meal, and light a propane tank and say a few prayers. Even though we still haven't really moved-in, I guess it still counts? Pffff!!! Details, details!
Do you struggle to learn languages?
What other languages can you speak, or understand?
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