Saturday, March 29, 2008

Apparently, I’m a Slovenian.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve started hearing the same question from many of the Bosnians I meet for the first time. Jeste li Slovenac? They hear me say a few words, know I’m not from around here, but they’re not really sure where I’m from. The “where are you from” game has been one of my favorites since the first time I came to Europe, back in 1999. That summer, I worked at a grocery store in Switzerland. My German wasn’t very good at the time, and most people picked up on the fact that I was an American, or at least a native English speaker, very quickly. Nevertheless, when I worked as a checker, people would still sometimes try to guess where I was from. I thought I’d made real progress when someone guessed that I was German, but it was pretty clear that they only said that because I spoke German-German and not Swiss German.

When I was in Austria, my German improved, so people had a much more difficult time trying to figure out where I came from by my accent. I even picked up something of an Austrian accent. By the time I left, people just thought I was “not from here”.

I started learning Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian while I was in Austria. Consequently, I’ve got a little bit of a German accent when I speak B/C/S. When Melinda and I came to Bosnia in September, everyone thought we were German. Melinda’s blonde hair and my accented Bosnian, gave us away as Germans…even though we’re not. My Bosnian has improved, so now the default guess has moved south to Slovenia, a place I’ve only visited. The Slovene language is distinct from but similar to Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, so I take it as a great compliment that folks here think I’m one of their neighbors from the north and not from another continent.

8 comments:

Spyder said...

Very cool!dfe

meesha.v said...

I was in the same boat. At first people were placing me outside the US after I said Hello. Then one time a lady said I sounded just like someone from Montana. That's when I knew I mastered the language.:-)

Melinda said...

I loved it when people thought we were German. That's one reason I hardly spoke until we told them - I didn't want to spoil the surprise!

Logtar said...

I did not know Meesha spoke, I thought we were communicating through sign language :)

John,

Do you find that people are nicer to you when they confuse you with a non American?

meesha.v said...

I have a sign just for you,pal, and it doesn't need translation.

John said...

I've found that most people don't like America but do like Americans. Usually, the novelty of an American speaking their language gets people on my side.

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