April 02, 2012
In the Interim
A few new developments have cropped up along my Slovak learning path, however my blogging has failed to faithfully document them. They include:

1. Getting to know and regularly meeting with a tandem partner actually living in Slovakia a few times a month for about a year (we're presently on hiatus but may start tele-meeting regularly again later). She's currently busy teaching again (we started up while she was on maternity leave) and I'm busy gathering together the loose ends needed to wrap up my MA, but once things settle down again it'd be nice to do start the exchange again. I honestly forget exactly where we met but am fairly sure it was one of those language exchange web communities. Strangely, I've been helping her refresh not her English but her German (and feeling sometimes unqualified but I admit when I don't know the standard way of saying something).

2. Using this terrific beginners' level textbook, made for German speakers targeting Slovak. It supplements my English->Slovak materials nicely.

3. Starting to watch this Slovak soap opera semi-regularly. It's a fluff drama, sort of a lighter, cheaper, less invested version of Germany's Lindenstraße but one can easily reinforce basic vocabulary and discover new words from context. Stock characters include annoying prankster children, their parents who are too tired/stressed for sex (a joke which never seems to get old), teenagers who do manage to have sex, a rugged bachelor, a charming older couple, the new girl on the block, the mean girl who plots against her, the new girl's various boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, a live-in mother-in-law, a lesbian, a bimbo-type secretary, a fat jovial fellow, and a token foreigner.

4. Discovering that some of my distant Slovak relatives are on Facebook, messaging them, and subsequently Facebook-friending them. We still don't really know each other or communicate much, but that is coming soon. I have a page-long list of phrases and vocabulary I want to master before blundering my way through a chat with them in Slovak. My tandem partner was a university educated language teacher with whom clarification on some point of confusion could take place in English. I have no idea what level of education my relatives have what their language skills in English or German might be (if any). One appears to be a hairdresser and while there are certainly polyglot hairdressers to be found in this world, my suspicion is that living in a small village in eastern Slovakia would not be conducive to cultivating foreign language skills. I want to be able to express at least basic introductory information and getting-to-know-you questions to engage with them in their language).
posted by B.D. at 2:10 AM | Permalink |
May 13, 2010
Starting up again sans language partner.

Although I never intended to give up on this project, I did take a long pause after getting frustrated at the utter lack of native speakers in the area and willing to do a tandem language-exchange. A few weeks ago, though, something in me stirred and I began listening to some dialogues from my Colloquial Slovak book again and last week I started actually reading the book and making Anki flashcards.

You could say I'm giving this another go. Additionally, a couple day ago I went to the library and re-borrowed a few materials I had taken back last fall because I wasn't using them. The thick Beginning Slovak book is good but I'm also discovering how good an old German-Slovak textbook published back in the early 70s is. It's possible that some of the expressions therein might sound dated to Slovaks of my generation, but that's probably not too much of an issue with the lower-level vocabulary I am working on grasping at the moment.

Example of my current level:
Moja izba je malá, ale príjemná a účelná.
In English: My room is small but comfortable and practical.
As you can see, I'm at that silly stage of not doing much more than naming stuff and describing it with adjectives.

So, until I find my Slovak language partner (where the hell are you?), I'm going to go the route of pure self-study, at the (very great) risk of teaching myself some bad mispronunciations which will be difficult to correct later, but what choice do I have? It's either learn Slovak under less-than-ideal circumstances or forget it entirely. So here we go... alone.
posted by B.D. at 11:57 AM | Permalink |
October 02, 2009
Getting really discouraged
I recently found (and have dismissed) my third - or maybe fourth? - Slovak/Czech tandem partner. I keep thinking, "This time it will work out," but they always cancel the Skype sessions we plan, often last-minute. What gives? Does the internet as a means of making new contacts have the inevitable result that these contacts are flakier and less committed?

Jeez I just want a native speaker to listen to my terrible pronunciation and give me some pointers. Is that too much to ask?
posted by B.D. at 4:25 PM | Permalink |
July 08, 2009
Desperation & new materials
As it is proving nearly impossible to find a Slovak-speaking tandem partner online as well as in the two cities I split my life between, I am going to approach learning Slovak from a new angle. From the west.

I found a Langenscheidt Tschechisch Sprachlehrgang (Czech training program) at the local Bibliothek (link: http://bit.ly/puBVq), complete with nice audio materials and published in 2007. Sorry, Slovakia. I want so dearly to learn your own special band of the slavic rainbow, but numbers matter. There's just more material out there for Czech, and that's going to have to be close enough for now. I'm abandoning the tandem partner search for the time being as well.

I should be honest. At first I was avoiding any materials not published in English. I get so burnt out from using German during the day sometimes that I just want to curl up in a cozy den of English texts. Lucky for me that's what most of the world is communicating in these days. This Langenscheidt pack seems pretty good so far, though. I like the dialogues and I listen to them on the mp3 player and act them out. So much of Czech reminds one of Russian it is funny. I think the enjoyablity of this program makes me forget I'm learning it through German.

So that's the update. Still at square one, but I might finally make a wee bit of progress, especially after my classes let out for the late summer.
posted by B.D. at 11:59 PM | Permalink |
May 28, 2009
Possible Tandem Partner

I have been in contact over the past week with a potential tandem partner with whom I might undertake a language exchange: One hour/week of English, one hour of Slovak. Of course his English is already at a pretty high level, but I am up to the challenge of finding him good materials and practice exercises in return for help with the basics of Slovak.

I have also posted a few flyers around my Uni, asking if anyone is interested in a weekly exchange. I wrote on the flyer that I'd also be willing to learn some Czech, as it is fairly close to Slovak and would likely benefit my understanding of Slovak despite differences between the languages.

I am also working on writing my first (VERY) small text in Slovak., which I'll post soon at lang-8.com so the native speakers can shred it.
posted by B.D. at 9:31 PM | Permalink |