Slovenščina je romantična: How to Start Speaking a Foreign Language in Five Days


The first class of the “Slovenian for Beginners” course organized by the 2TM Company was held at the Cene Štupar Ljubljana Language School on 22 August.

язык, мова, languageThe last week of August was chosen for the start not by chance. The courses will last until 22 September and will end just before the start of the academic year. The majority of the participants (4 out of 6 people) enter educational institutions in Slovenia, where the programs are offered in the Slovenian language. These 5 weeks in Ljubljana will become for them a kind of adaptation period, during which they will have time to accustom in the country, to travel and to get involved into the language environment.

Seven days have passed since the start of classes, which means that 4 * 4 = 16 hours of intense course have been already completed. We talked with our students to know about their impressions of the country and share their first success.

A Room, in Which the Code is Rewritten

We arrived 15 minutes before the end of the classes. The premises provided by the language school appear to be a small but bright room with desks and a large whiteboard. Students at the front desk are a married couple, who pore over a task from distributing materials, while Polona discusses mistakes with the guys at the second desk.

Polona is a young active teacher. She explains with maternal care, why in the specific case the used word should be replaced with another one. She communicates only in Slovenian, paraphrasing one and the same sentence several times and making a pause between words, so that her students could have time to go deep into the point. She can devote required time to each of the students due to their small number. The topic of today’s lesson is cases, and thus the white board is full of rules and examples. All are tired after 4 hours of studies, but they still are trying to combine words into sentences with admirable zeal. Finally, she announces that everyone has done a great job today, and finally it is time for a rest. “Kaj je bilo najtežje?” Polona refers to the class. A chorus of voices answers in Russian-Slovenian. Each voice we have recorded separately.

Mikhail, 21 years old

How did you happen to get here?

– I chose Slovenia very simply. We were here with my family 2 years ago, I really liked the country, and I decided that I wanted to study here. I decided to enter a college — GRM, agriculture. I think that in Slovenia, this area is highly developed, and it is possible to obtain education of high quality here. So, I decided to try it. After all, if I fail, I can always go back to Russia.

How did your parents react to such a decision?

– Very calm. I left home long time ago, studied in St. Petersburg for 4 years, and my parents always supported me. They said, “Go and try. In case of any problems, you can go back to Russia.” It is always easy to come back. It is more difficult to leave. Therefore, I advise all coming people just make a firm decision. You lose nothing in this situation. On the contrary, you gain a lot, even if the experience is negative. You just have to decide and go.

What is your language progress?

– I am still in the process of learning Slovenian. I am progressing. I often listen to the radio. I already start understanding other people. The language is not very difficult. I hope that soon I will be able to keep a conversation. However, it is still hard, of course. The hardest thing is that everyone is talking fast, and I do not have enough time to catch the meaning. Only Polona talks to us slowly, so that everything is clear.

Vladislav, 17 years old, adds, “…Besides, the problem is that the structure of the language is very similar to Russian, but at the same time, it is different.

What is the similarity, and what is the difference?

– For example, in the Russian language there is only singular and plural forms, while in the Slovenian language, there are several options for plural, including the dual number. Cases are also different from ours. However, words and the language structure are similar to Russian.

And how difficult is it for you to study the language?

– No, it is fairly easy, but at the same time heavier than for Vlad and Nikita, simply because I am constantly trying to fend in English, but the guys do not have this option. I already can communicate with other people, for example in stores. I have mastered some basic phrases. The Slovenian language is definitely easier than the English language. But it is better to study it as the first foreign language, not as the second one. Earlier I have already explained why.

What is your story of coming to Slovenia?

– I have lived in many places of the world, but chose Slovenia, because its language is very similar to the Russian, and I like southern Europe. Earlier I lived in the United States for several years, including an exchange student program. I studied at school. For some period of time I lived far from Russia. Now I am entering the University of Maribor. My aim is to study on the IT program.


– My parents work in this area, and I decided to follow in their footsteps. I chose between Maribor and Nova Gorica, but Nova Gorica has another program — Management in Engineering. Whereas my goal is to study programming. Besides, it seems to me that Maribor is the most “computerized” city in the whole of Slovenia. Historically, in the time of Yugoslavia, there were a variety of production facilities in Maribor, and, apparently, thanks to this fact, the University of Maribor is known for its technical programs.

– Are you alone here?

– Yes, I came here without my family. My parents, of course, are worried, but they are quite forward-minded. My mom travels a lot and has experienced Europe first-hand.

Nikita, 17 years old

Are you also alone here? Aren’t you scary?

– Yeah, I am also alone. And I am not scared. I think it’s interesting. The family will move here later.

Where are you going to study?

– I have 9 years of school and 1 year of college. So, the only variant for me is a higher school. I will study the Construction of Wooden Houses. I have moved to Slovenia, because I like the country, and people here are very kind. I had a choice between Austria and Slovenia, so I chose the latter.

– Why?

– My mother works in a travel agency and advised me to pay attention to these countries. One of our family friends lives in Austria. She studies at a university there. However, it is easier to enter a university in Slovenia. The country is very beautiful. I have already been to Izola and Koper — they are very nice, just amazing. I like it that the mountains and the sea are nearby, that the towns are small, you can move around a town on foot and by bicycle.

What about the Slovenian language?

– I am currently attending the courses. They are simply amazing. The teacher explains everything clearly. The language is quite easy. I am already trying to talk. The hardest part in the Slovenian language is its grammar. I cannot say more specifically, because I have been studying it just for one week.

Lost in Translation

Polona finishes explaining a sentence to Vladislav, and we have time to talk to her for another five minutes at the door.

Polona, please tell us based on your experience of teaching — is it easy for the Russian-speaking students to study the Slovenian language?

– I cannot answer this question precisely since this is only the fifth our meeting. It seems to me that students grasp quickly the material. Just today, for example, we have talked about cases in the Slovenian language, though my students have spent only a few days in the country. I think this speed of mastering a new language is very fast.

What causes the most problems?

– The main source of problems concerns some specific words. For example, we do not have separate words for certain things. The same as in Russian.

How do you manage to understand each other? You speak Slovenian, and your students speak Russian or English.

– We understand each other (laughs). First, we had a Russian-speaking assistant from the organizing company (2TM), but now it is almost unnecessary. Sometimes we make explanations in English, but basically, students understand my lectures in Slovenian quite well. They ask challenging and logical questions. Everything is clear for them at once. Today we have studied the instrumental case. They immediately got the idea and asked what the difference between the prepositions “s” and “z” (“with” in English) was. I explained the difference and the students understood it immediately.

A Man and a Navigator

We leave the school at 12:20 p.m. Some of the guys have to come to our office. For obvious reasons, it is necessary for us to get there quickly as well.

– Guys, would you like coming with us bus or on foot?

– We will walk!

– Won’t you get lost?

– We have Vlad for this purpose! He is better than GPS!

So, Vlad really was at his best.

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