A Month In Slovenia

A few months ago, one of my podcaster comrades from The Incomparable, Anže Tomić, posted a link to a YouTube video that completely captivated me… which was surprising because the video featured people in Slovenia speaking Slovene. But once I started, I found that it was weirdly entertaining to watch people speaking a language that I didn’t know.

“I could learn that language,” I thought. “I could do an extended stay there, and take a course.”

I’ve done this before, but it’s been a very long time. I’ve studied French in France and German in Germany. I even studied Russian in Vermont. I love learning languages, and it’s been a long time since I learned a new one. I started looking into the options in Slovenia. Everything I learned about this small country located between Italy and Croatia got me more interested, and a plan started to form.

In the past, when I decided on learning a language, it was always with an eye to its utility, i.e. will this language help me get a job someday? For Slovene, I’m pretty sure the answer is “Not at all.” And the sheer lack of practicality made the choice more compelling. It’s also the chance to immerse myself in a Slavic language again. I love the Russian language. It’s beautiful and challenging.

And so, the vaguest outline of a plan was taking shape. But I wasn’t listening to my heart, or at least not taking it seriously. Who in their right mind goes to Slovenia to learn Slovene for fun?

In early November, Cate posted a tweet that caught my attention:

Everything is terrible lately? Let’s find something to be cheerful about… suggestions:
1) something you accomplished
2) a thoughtful thing someone did because they care about you
3) something you are looking forward to
If you have an answer for all three, your prize is hope 💜

That particular day, I was feeling hugely unproductive, bordering on useless. At first glance, I could think of NOTHING that I had accomplished in 2018. But I forced myself to give it some thought, and realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve been producing three podcasts every week. That is not nothing.” And a little dam broke, and suddenly I felt capable and even hopeful again.

I replied:

1) I hosted/produced over 100 podcast episodes.
2) People sent me nice tweets when I missed a conference due to illness.
3) Planning travel to somewhere I’ve never been. I have a cool idea.
You’re right! I do have hope.

Number 3 was the Slovenia plan. I hadn’t realized that I was quite looking forward to it. It had been a long while since I had a concrete plan for extended travel, my favorite kind of travel where I rent a flat and get to know a place, the people and the language.

So, big thanks to Anže and to Cate, who helped me reconnect with a passion I nearly forgot about. I’ll be flying in and out of Munich, and spending the month of July in Ljubljana, studying at the Centre for Slovene As A Foreign Language. The most important details (flights, flat, course, pet sitters) are sorted. I’ll be learning as much Slovene as I can in the meantime with the goal of placing out of the beginners’ level, starting with important vocabulary such as “morski prašički”, i.e. guinea pigs.

Jean MacDonald @macgenie