Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
So here I am with a deadline quickly approaching. I’ve been devoting much of my year to Fijian and it occurs to me that I am solidly B2 in terms of speaking (probably where I am with a language like Hebrew or Finnish).
This would be a great situation but…as it turns out, Fiji also has Fiji Hindi as well, and I’ve read in multiple places that Indo-Fijians play prominent roles in the tourist industry.
And concerning Fiji Hindi, I am NOWHERE NEAR where I want to be.
What I can do:
(1) Very simple sentences
(2) Order stuff in restaurants
(3) Ask for directions
(4) Speak quite slowly
What I CANNOT do:
(1) Read most texts.
(2) Significantly understand naturally spoken speech (even though I can “get the gist”)
(3) Have anything resembling an intellectual conversation at all.
I’m not going to lie, 2018 has been a hard year for me, probably one of my hardest is recent memory. Luckily things are looking up.
That said, I have one chance to get Fiji Hindi to shine courtesy of this blog and my YouTube channel, and so I’ll have to set a plan in motion.
(1) COMPLETE the Peace Corps book in the language learning series (I think I’m slightly more than half-way-done)
(2) NO ENGLISH AUDIO for news or almost anything unless absolutely necessary while I’m at home. Fiji Hindi except for things related to business, or maintaning Fijian or other languages I may need for classes or business.
(3) I have to listen to Fiji Hindi audio on the street constantly. Luckily I have that.
(4) Maintain my Fijian (which I want in ship-shape) by translating every Facebook post I write into Fijian…until I leave.
(5) Truly build an immersive environment during what time I have left.
Fiji Hindi has been hard for me just because of the whole “not many resources” and “no standard” thing. Most South Asians I have encountered been very supportive, even if they didn’t even know that Indo-Fijians existed until I told them.
I am in panic mode right now. And on top of that I’m working on translations AND “Nuuk Adventures”.
But I guess this post will be something hilarious for me to look back on. Especially if I succeed.
I will make a prediction: I will have managed better with Fijian and POSSIBLY Fiji Hindi than I did with Burmese last year. I have learned much since the last time.
Leave me encouraging messages! 🙂
Not all plans are realized, and that’s okay. Especially given that May was considerably tumultuous for multiple reasons. For one, I needed to go into overdrive concerning “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” as well as the fact that I found myself more often without the motivation to rehearse languages and doubted myself more than I usually do.
That said, any variety of victory is to be celebrated. I devoted the first third of this month to Rotuman, a minority languages of Fiji, and it was very difficult for me to make recordings due to the fact that sometimes making a simple sentence took ten minutes that I had to cross-check from several sources. (THIS is what it is like learning a minority language with extremely few resources, this warrants its own post).
There is a new website devoted to Rotuman and I may glance at it at some point in the near future or even devote videos to it.
In addition to that, I got sidetracked a bit too often in May. Kiribati for the beginning, Hawaiian in the middle, and above all I had Fijian hogging almost all of my time to the detriment of any new “acquired” languages.
What’s more, rehearsing languages like Spanish and German feels like a dull chore (and Jewish and Nordic Languages, well, I sort of have to in order to continue teaching and so that really renews my motivation. I make no secret of the fact that I “don’t love popular languages any more than I have to”, although maybe the Jared of the future will be different in this respect).
May was a tornado for way too many reasons to count, and I got sidetracked and I did make a lot of new videos or new blogposts and that’s okay.
But this really enables me to clearly define my goals for June:
For one, I’ve decided to priority for the REST OF THIS YEAR one of my prominent heritage languages, Hungarian. 30 Minutes a day, every day (excluding emergencies, illnesses, travel, etc). If I don’t, I delete my blog. I may miss one day if I make up the minutes the previous day.
I’ll also let on the fact that it is my intention in the more distant future to raise my children multilingually (ideally in English / Spanish / Hebrew and two heritage languages from both my side and my spouse’s side). That’s a topic I’m not qualified to speak about quite yet.
For June, in addition to 30 minutes of Hungarian every day I’ll most likely choose to focus on a Southeast Asian Language (given that my Fijian is probably good enough to join the ranks of my conversationally fluent languages). The likely candidates are Lao and Khmer, the less likely candidates are Burmese and even Thai (which would be close enough to Lao to not be stressful, I can understand a significant amount of some of the Disney Animated Films dubbed in Thai because of my Lao studies). Vietnamese, while I like it, would probably be too stressful at this point, not withstanding my promise of no new languages for this year (I did study Thai previously, even with an exchange teacher, so I can re-activate it if necessary but it seems unlikely now that I’ll do so).
The biggest challenge for me right now is not only maintenance but also learning to believe my good fortune. Thanks to some unsavory encounters online I’ve actually learned to lie about my language skills–by downsizing them or claiming I speak fewer than I actually do. This is true even in person.
I also feel right around the time that there are certain languages that I “don’t feel the spark with” anymore, and I may have to drop some accordingly. I’ve noticed this happens right around the time that the seasons change.
In addition to this, I think I do need to devote at least ten minutes (if not thirty) to each of my fluent languages every week. Ones I teach are exempt from this (given that the classes count towards this quorum). This will almost certainly be time spent in public transport or waiting for it rather than anywhere else.
Here I am in Milwaukee at my grandmother’s house, bidding you greetings and wishes for success. Now I’m going to ponder as to which Southeast Asian Language I like the best. 🙂
Happy 4th birthday, World With Little Worlds!
To honor all of my readers and those who have provided me praise and constructive feedback throughout the years, these are your questions, answered with love and consideration by yours truly.
What do you look for in a mentor?
How learn any language from scratch in my own?
The first thing to ask yourself is how much you can PRONOUNCE, how much you can READ (and understand what you’re reading), and how much you can UNDERSTAND. Depending on which combination of the three you have, your approach will have to be different. However, the more prior knowledge you have in a related language, the easier it is to get “lazy”.
Generally, I would start with “hello, how are you? What is your name? My name is… Where are you from? I am from…” and then go onto “I have, you have…” “Do you have…?” and then the same with “to want”, “to go”.
I’ve spoken about this in the interview I did with Luke Truman of Full Time Fluency a few months back:
This should help.
What was the catalyst for your interest in languages of the Pacific in general and Palauan in particular?
Climate change in the case of Oceania in general, a childhood fascination with that area of the world, and, in the case of Palau, the sound of the language as well as how it looked on paper. Oh, and the flag. Who could forget the flag? As a kid I could look at it for hours. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.
How much Japanese do you understand with your Palauan knowledge?
Same as how much Latin you would understand from English.
Apart from Yiddish and Hebrew what other Jewish languages have you studied?
A tiny bit of Ladino in college and a handful of words from Jewish Languages of Azerbaijan in the early 2010’s, but aside from that, pretty much nothing seriously.
Have you ever looked into Krymchak or the Udmurt-influenced dialect of Yiddish?
Now I may have to!
When studying Breton, do you prefer the artificial French-influenced “standard” or one of the dialects?
The KLT (Kerne-Leon-Treger ) variety used in the Colloquial Breton book and in the Kauderwelsch book is my go-to. It seems fairly consistent with what is used on Wikipedia although there are some songs that have “curveball” elements for those overly accustomed to KLT.
Apart from Northern Sami, Finnish, and Hungarian, do you plan on learning any other Uralic languages?
I never say I won’t plan on it. Right now I do feel “overloaded”, however.
When you were in Israel, did you encounter any Circassians or Hungarian Jews? If yes, did they speak their ethnic languages?
Possibly and yes respectively. My Hungarian was limited to a few words in 2009 but my efforts were appreciated. What’s more, do keep in mind that I had heavy limiting beliefs about language learning back in those times. Odd, because my experience in the Ulpan should have actively proved those beliefs wrong.
How often do you encounter peoples of the Pacific in real life apart from the times you actually go there?
Hawaiians about once every three months or so, same with people who have been expatriates in places like Fiji and Samoa. Aside from Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, I haven’t met anyone in person from Oceania yet. That will change this year, I hope.
Will your RPG “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” be playable in Greenlandic?\
I’m going on record: YES.
Have you ever written poetry in the languages you learn?
I believe I did once or twice in Yiddish at the National Yiddish Book Center. I also have done improvisational singing in Tok Pisin. I may have also written a piece or two in Hebrew while at Wesleyan University but I have no recollection of it. I did write an absurdist play about talking jellyfish in that same Hebrew class that makes most internet memes look tame by comparison.
How do you deal with the blurry boundary between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is, in my view, taking one element of a culture (let’s say, clothing) and claiming it as your own without having a basic understanding of where, why and how that culture or cultural element exists.
If I were to wear a national costume in public with holy significance, that would possibly be breaching a boundary in that culture that I may be unaware of. But obviously me wearing a shirt with a Greenlandic flag on it despite not being Greenlandic or Inuit (or any Native American at all) does not make me a cultural appropriator. It is a mark of solidarity and appreciation.
On this note, I would like to say for the first time that I am fully aware of the fact that there are people who are prepared to call “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” cultural appropriation despite the deep involvement of actual Greenlanders at every stage of its production. I look at the Greenlandic story as a whole in a way that contemporary American pop culture and its sad legacy of cartoonish national caricatures will probably never do otherwise.
If you would prefer Greenlandic culture would remain a virtually unknown mystery in much of the rest of the world instead of appreciated for the wonderful slice of the human story that it is, then I have nothing to say to you.
What was, to you, the most easily graspable non-Latin orthographic system in any non-L1 language you’ve studied? What was the least?
From Easiest to Hardest:
Have you ever SAVED SOMEONES LIFE with language?
The answer is: yes. And surprisingly, my own. Several times.
For one, my decision to become a tutor of several languages actually ended up saving my life. Shortly after graduating from JTS, I fell ill for a while. My own parents, who hold medical degrees, misdiagnosed me several times.
What ended up saving my life was one of my students of Swedish, who casually recommended based on my symptoms that I had Lyme Disease. Thanks to his suggestion, the disease was caught in time and my life was saved.
There is also the story about how Greenlandic saved my life, but I will relate that in future interviews when “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” is released. There is a specific reason I chose Greenland as the setting for my first video game (well, one of several specific reasons) and one of them in particular may come as a shocker to many of you.
Speaking of which, I’m going to continue doing character sketches for Nuuk Adventures right now!
Happy Birthday, O Beloved Blog of Mine!
A few days ago (four days ago, to be exact), I had grown significantly burned out from studying languages of Fiji and Rotuman proved to be a heavy challenge for me with even the most basic level seemingly out of reach (as things stand).
I decided I needed a break from my routine of having my studies of Fijian eat up any gains any of my other weaker languages would have had. I yearned for something more, a language that didn’t feel like it was a “chore” or an “obligation”. I tried to improve Kiribati and Burmese but I sort of “wasn’t feeling it” for either…not right now, at least.
Then, after having a feeling that I couldn’t shake, and a certain infatuation with a language I haven’t felt in a wrong time, I knew I made the right choice when I began to study Hawaiian (as of four days ago).
I do remember my promise to not learn any new languages for 2018. Well, the promise was to not learn any language not related to business, travel or romance. But as a game designer and someone who hasn’t played the seventh generation of Pokémon games yet (set in “Alola”, heavily inspired by Hawaii), I’m going to need to play through the games with some knowledge of Hawaii / the Hawaiian Language first. After all, I’m also designing a game set in a real world location and I’d like to see what Nintendo / Game Freak / the Pokémon Company do(es) well.
Hawaiian fit the bill. After Fijian (which I’m continuing to improve), Hawaiian seems more approachable with the sentence structure and many aspects of grammar no longer foreign at all.
What is odd, however, is the fact that there are so few letters. 13 letters (one of which is the glottal stop “ ‘ “, known as the “ ‘okina”). So “credit card” would be “kāleka kāki”. Personal names are also localized as well, and many traditional English names familiar to most Americans have been morphed into something not even remotely recognizable (Fijian had more letters so it didn’t really have this problem).
I really admire the community of Hawaiian speakers for bringing this language so far with communities and harnessing technology in every sector. I can imagine that, despite the fact that it is still listed by UNESCO as “severely endangered” (It is the least safe language in Google Translate, I believe), Hawaiian will continue to survive and proliferate contrary to all expectation.
Upon hearing speakers from universities and schools speak, they don’t speak of Hawaiian as “dying” but rather in a constant surge of revival. It seems that, from the sheer looks of it, that Hawaiian speakers seem to be more hopeful about the future of their languages than, let’s say, Icelanders would be about theirs (that said, I think that the reports of Icelandic’s “decline” are heavily exaggerated).
Hawaiian, unlike many other languages of the Pacific, has a TON of resources to learn and, I would imagine, many ways to find speakers in New York City and many other places. The amount of loan words founds in English from Hawaii is staggering (luau, kahuna, hula, wiki, etc.) The idiomatic similarities it has with Fijian also make it a lot less stressful experience and a more enjoyable one. I can imagine that future languages from Oceania will come with ease to me.
I should also say that, at this point, it seems that my true language “loves” lie with Oceania, Scandinavian and the Jewish Languages (not also to mention languages of my heritage like Hungarian, which I sadly haven’t been focusing on as much as I could have been but I was sidetracked by Fijian for travel reasons quite early into 2018. Late 2018 will get Hungarian handled, this I promise.)
I also can’t keep on picking up new languages forever and maintenance is already starting to become an issue. That said, perhaps I need to be more inventive and hopeful and silence voices in my mind telling me that I can’t. Or I need to think more deeply about what I want.
That said, at the very least 2018 brought me Fijian. It seems that Fiji Hindi (a small amount), Hungarian, and maybe Hawaiian and Kiribati can also be mine by the time 2019 comes in. Maybe deep improvements in Greenlandic and Lao as well. If I try. I had a long list of languages that I wanted to improve or at least sample in 2018, but with several new games coming out this year and changes in my life it doesn’t seem likely.
That said, I encourage you to follow your dreams in any capacity you can. Your life belongs to only you and you deserve your best shot. End of story.
2018 has had its share of victories for me so far, but sadly it also resulted it a huge series of rude awakenings.
For one, especially after the Polyglot Conference and my growing presence online, I’ve felt my inbox flooded with people asking for learning advice and resources and many other things. I am very grateful for that, in a sense, but to some degree I feel overwhelmed because the day is not far off when I will get WAY too many messages for me to deal with.
I started this blog and became a teacher because I know that the contemporary world is full of pain (as has, most likely, all of human history to date). Contemporary marketing thrives on insecurity, building up limiting beliefs and convincing people that their dreams are out of reach.
I know how it feels to be confused and without hope, and I hope that my writings have brought at least a little bit of healing to the world.
On the other hand, since this year started, there have been a number of difficult happenings. I woke up on morning to find an entire thread on Reddit devoted to hating me with every imaginable awful thing said about me (they linked to my blog and that’s how I found out about it). Thankfully the moderators got involved (perhaps a bit too late) and doled out warnings and deleted the thread (sort of) but the damage still lingers in my heart, despite some apology messages I got.
Anti-Semitism has also entered as well in ways I don’t want to describe. Suffice it to say that, while being Jewish has largely been a source of advantage and comfort for me nowadays rather than either a social liability / point of discrimination / source of guilt, it has been used against me….especially in private messages from complete strangers who don’t hold back.
Unlike in previous years, I find myself in a permanent spotlight. I can’t live a private life anymore, even if I wanted to. But this is what I wanted for years and it is surprisingly stressful when I got it.
I have to be aware that every interaction I have with anyone ANYWHERE has the potential to be used for me or against me. I have to keep my fluent languages in even better shape.
This ties into another thing: I’ve been focusing a lot more on my fluent languages than I have on ones I’d like to know. Part of me wishes it were otherwise, but I also fear that I am suffering from burnout as well.
Thankfully earlier this year I also became a video game tester as well so that has been something new, exciting and quite fulfilling. But if you’re expecting that a job like that is “play games and get paid”, you’re not exactly right. (A lot of the games can be extremely frustrating and you have to take detailed notes on what does or doesn’t work).
Earlier this month I said I was working on Kiribati and Rotuman, but I gave up on improving Kiribati after the first day (for now, at least). I’ll come back to it another day, perhaps one in which I haven’t suffered from so much “Oceania fatigue” (Rotuma is different given that it will likely come of use in Fiji, however slim the chances, and if it blossoms into something to write about I can’t lose that chance).
I constantly feel as though I need to maintain ALL of my projects PERFECTLY AT ALL TIMES, in a twisted perfectionism that has left me confused. I find myself wondering if the good fortune I’ve had so far is something I even deserve, and doubting my successes is another thing I do with unfortunate consistency.
One day I think I will no longer be vexed by this “new state of things”. But much like adjusting to a new reality, as I had too many times throughout my life (going to an Orthodox Jewish Day school for the first time, entering an inner-city high school from there and then Wesleyan University and then four other countries FOLLOWED BY a confused return to my homeland which didn’t seem as though it was mine anymore) will take a lot of difficulty at the beginning, followed by (what I hope can be) some variety of solace.
The Fijian and Fiji Hindi recordings are almost ready, I just need to compile and upload them!
Do YOU relate to anything that I’ve described here? Go ahead and let us all know!
May 3rd. The Day of the Polish Constitution. Sure, I could write a piece about Verb Conjugation. I could write a piece about the cases in the Polish Language, or even a list of my favorite Let’s Play Channels in Polish (which I’m going to watch as soon as I’m done writing this article.
Poland is a fascinating country and one that used to be the largest in all of Europe (not to mention the fact that it was deemed very powerful in “Civilization V”). The landmarks are memorable and virtually every tourist I’ve encountered who has been there has been changed on a very deep level (and luckily I think even with Holocaust tourism there are new dimensions opening up that are facilitating Polish-Jewish dialogue like never before).
Unlike many tourists, I’ve had the privilege of actually having LIVED in Krakow for one year. It was a fantastic experience and one of the best years of my life. As that experience continues to fade into memory (even though it will always be a part of me), I thought it would be wise of me to make some reflections about what I liked and what I didn’t like so much.
Didn’t Like So Much: “Straight-Talking” Can Get Time to Get Used to (As an American)
Unlike in many English-speaking countries, the culture in Poland encourages people to be blunt with what they’re feeling. Surprisingly, when I look back at it, I’m somewhat…grateful for this mindset. In the United States, where you usually have to be all smiles even with someone who you have intention of getting along with, you constantly doubt social interaction as a façade. In Poland, I knew that if I was doing a bad job, I would be TOLD so, and that if I was doing a good job, I would also be honestly and straightly told as such.
In the United States, a major error would result in a delicately worded speech. In Poland, people would be visibly angry. Like in Israel (in which much of the same culture exists), it felt painful at first. One of my Polish friends told me that it was the primary reason he disliked American culture (he didn’t dislike it as a whole, just that aspect of having to be “nice” all of the time).
For the first month, it was very much like there was a nagging voice telling me that “I would never fit in”. Not even in a previous year in Israel prepared me for the return of “straight-talking”. And…a lot of Polish people can actually be PROUD of the fact that they do this!
Liked: A Lot of People Were Willing to Ask About My Story (And Listen)
Poland has a distinction of being what is nowadays a very monolithic society in terms of its ethnic makeup but before the Second World War there were significant minority communities from all of the neighboring countries as well as Ashkenazi Jews (yes, contemporary Jewish communities exist in Poland! I know because I visited them every week! Several times every week, actually!) Almost all Poles have a trace of German / Ukrainian / Lithuanian / Jewish / Belorussian / anything I forgot ancestry somewhere in their family tree (and sometimes more than just a trace).
One result of this is that there is a certain “phantom pain” concerning the communities that were killed off en masse (in the case of Jews and Roma) or forcibly repatriated (in the case of many of the others). A lot of people wanted to hear about my story as an American, as a Jew and how my relationship with the Polish story came to be.
Sometimes I would find out intriguing Jewish stories as well, including childhood friendships their grandparents had before Hitler invaded, or noteworthy acts of resistance as well.
Didn’t Like So Much: Some People Can Ditch Political Correctness Entirely
The fact that I heard a number of Islamophobic macroagressions (not a typo in that last word) can’t be ignored. Thankfully they were sparse (very sparse, come to think of it. As in “five times max over the course of a year”). Some of the locals parroted a similar variety of Islamophobia that was motivated in part by “horror stories” from Sweden and Germany, not also to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When I was headed to Sweden for the following year and made the announcement, some people were actually…legitimately worried for my safety.
Dialogue can definitely help with this. And learning the Polish Language is one way with which to meaningfully engage!
Liked: A Lot of Forward-Thinking People Who Are Constructively Critical of Their Milieu and Have a Good Relationship to Their Polish Heritage and History
I wasn’t pleased about the Holocaust Bill that passed earlier this year. I understand fully that the Polish Government was dismantled by Nazi Germany and that the Polish state itself did not exist at the time the Holocaust was carried out. I also recognize the acts of resistance as well, wholeheartedly. That said, a full reconciliation will come with a look into the past, including the acts of some Poles who either stood by or may have actively aided the genocide.
I say this as someone to whom Polish culture has changed on a deep level and to whom this country and people mean an awful lot to me and…yes, I owe this country and the fact that I lived there the bulk of my future successes. My relationship with Poland, like my relationship with the other countries in which I have lived, is overwhelmingly positive.
With that also comes a “relationship maturity” in which you will help your country be the most forward-thinking, productive motherland it can be. And I think a lot of my Polish friends have well-developed resistance strategies and constructive criticism that they use to bring their country forward. It is something that I think Americans can really learn from (and, possibly, have been).
It is one think to criticize a country you have no relationship to (and I never do this with a place that I either haven’t visited OR don’t speak the language / haven’t studied the language). It is another thing to reason with your homeland as an adult and bring him or her up via acts of constructive criticism. And that criticism doesn’t take away from the fact that Poland has a lot to admire.
Didn’t Like So Much: Some People Can Be Very Defensive
Some outsiders have this image of Poland as a backwards place where everyone is racist and anti-Semitic. Poland is very divided but in all honesty it isn’t worse or better than the United States (which has similar divisions as well). Krakow in many respects is a lot more accepting than New York City is, as are many other Polish cities.
Several of my Polish friends in Israel got subjected to a significant amount of macroagressions (again, no typo), and to some degree I can understand why some can be defensive, especially if they’ve had negative experiences abroad.
Be prepared for some people to be defensive and make sure to listen and ask questions. We have to learn from each other.
Liked: If You Express Any Love of Polish Culture, History, Language or the Like, You’ll Instantly Make Friends
My Polish isn’t the best (and given my whole Fiji thing I sort of haven’t been working on it actively), but if you want to make friends with Polish people, learn about their culture. You’d be surprised how easy a connection can come with that. Even a handful of words of Polish can have a magic effect on people.
Didn’t Like So Much: The Police Can Be “No-Nonsense” To Unbelievable Degrees
That one time a friend of mine was holding a beer and took ONE TINY STEP beyond the rope indicating the “bar territory” and into the square. She was fined on the spot.
At least it wasn’t as bad as the story I heard about the German police officers who positioned themselves at a stoplight at 2 AM after a party for the express purpose of fining people who were jaywalking.
Jokes aside, given the history of “being invaded by everyone”, this element is significant unsurprising. Maybe.
Liked: Being an American was NEVER a Liability in Any Regard, and Poland and the United States Do Have a Lot in Common and Many of the Same National Strengths (and Faults)
In Germany, saying that I was American would subject me to a three-minute rant about the military-industrial complex by my barber. Israel was, to some degree, even worse in that respect. In Poland, Americans get a variety of special treatment, almost (even if you’re not Polish-American). Only once or twice was I told that Americans “have no culture”. Instead, I would get asked about my roots or otherwise be told about someone’s family members in Chicago (where it is very much possible to buy tickets in Polish in public transport).
We also have shared histories of multiculturalism and our expatriates being everywhere. Our constitutions guaranteed religious freedom (yes, the Polish Constitution of May 3rd which is the reason I’m writing this piece). Jewish culture and the Yiddish Language very deeply influenced both places. As a Jew, I notice that German-Jewish and German-Polish relations have a lot in common (a history of reconciliation and a lot of people who are mutually interested in both cultures, drastic improvements in Germans’ relationship with Jews and with Poles over the course of the past few decades, etc)
“We Love Americans”. That’s what a Polish friend told me. I doubt more needs to be said.
Didn’t Like So Much: Some People Conflated All Jews with Orthodox Judaism
Some people expected my family to look like Hasidim. Thankfully there were also others who understood fully that Jews, like any other people group, have a wide variety of appearances and classes. Others expected me to constantly live under the shadow of deep prohibitions all of the time (to be fair, I was more religious back then). Some had perceived that my religion was primarily a list of things I wasn’t allowed to do, rather than a collection of texts, traditions and cultures (come to think of it, it could have been THIS rather than my time in Sweden and Germany that propelled me to becoming less religious).
I will say this: in Poland religions are respected, and Judaism was no exception in this regard. Fun fact: even Polish Catholics sometimes leave notes at the graves of Hasidic masters (!)
Liked: Poland Had a SUPERBLY Encouraging Environment for People Wanting to Learn Polish (and an EXCELLENT Balance Between Polish and English / Other Languages)
As an elementary learner of Swedish, I felt pressured to really, REALLY not make mistakes, and that some people would switch to English without a second thought if I hesitated. (This, obviously, changes the more you progress “up the ladder”, and now that I’m fluent in Swedish this is a non-issue). Israel sometimes felt the same way outside of the classroom. In Germany there was a bit of the opposite, in which some people who knew English but not German felt that they were saddled with every imaginable difficulty.
In Poland, in contrast to all of these places, there was literally a PERFECT balance between people wanting to use Polish or English to whatever degree you were comfortable with either. A lot of Poles have relatives in literally every corner of the globe (and Polish and English have the distinction of being the two languages I’ve heard spoken in EVERY country I’ve been to, Spanish and Hebrew would have been on the list but I didn’t hear them in Greenland).
I never felt as though I was “bugging people” with using elementary Polish, and I felt that everything I said was heartily appreciated and I was heavily encouraged to continue. Last summer when I devoted some time to “awakening” my Polish again, I felt very much the same way among Polish speakers here.
I really wish that the rest of the world would be a lot more like Poland in this respect. Linguistic diversity and encouragement in language learning needs to be had. Everywhere.
Did YOU ever spend three months or more in Poland? How did that go for you? Did you ever try learning the Polish Language at all? How was it? Let us know!