ABC is easy as 123 — but Bulgarian Grammar is NOT

Posted on Posted in Bulgaria

Today, As I was sitting waiting for the bus next to two elderly gentleman a semi-sketchy looking man sat down on the other side of me and began shouting random phrases at people and blowing smoke in my face. The old man on the other side of me gestures for me to move closer to him and away from the smoking crazy man. I responded with a simple “merci,” which is used as a informal “thanks” in Bulgarian – borrowed from French. Then he began to start a conversation with me and I had to cut him off and say “Govoryah Angleeski, Govoryte le Angleeski?” He of course responded “Ney” shaking his head up and down and proceeded to speak to me in Bulgarian, despite I having just explained I speak English. While I could sort of grasp what he was attempting to say to me, which was to make sure I knew which bus to take – I definitely could not understand the words. Besides vocabulary, sentence structure in Bulgarian is not comparable to English and once you get into basic grammar . . . I sadly admit I’m barely even fluent in English grammar let alone the grammar of another language.

In my Bulgarian class this morning, like most days, I was lost. As it turns out, despite having learned several verbs and their respective endings (based on I, you, he/she, we, they, you all), as well as present and some past tense – there are also other ways to conjugate that I need to learn. For example the verb “To Go” — I could say, “I go to the store,” “I will go to the store” or “I went to the store” all or which have different conjugations of the verb “To Go.” In addition, if you were to say, “Jon said he went to the store” – the “went” would be a different conjugation than the “went” used in “I went to the store” because it is the 2nd verb after “said.” It gets even more confusing from there – more so for me because I haven’t learned another language in a very long period of time.

With the complexities of the Bulgarian language – I was excited to have this intensive 3 week language course to improve my skills or lack there of. Our Beginners class of 5 students has varying skill levels. Two of the students speak Russian as a 2nd language, one speaks German as a 2nd language and the other speaks both Arabic & English as his 2nd language. I on the other hand really don’t have a 2nd language that I am fluent in – I don’t count Spanish, because I haven’t really used it since Junior year of High School. This has left me at a severe disadvantage – since by knowing a 2nd language you better understand the components of basic language structure; making it easier to learn. Of the 5 in our class the two who speak Russian are doing quite well and ask for additional more advanced information every lesson, and the other two are doing reasonably well and are able to understand what’s going on in class. So despite it being such a small class we are all at very different skill levels and the teacher has chosen to teach to the middle and sometimes to the more advanced end. Meanwhile, I can barely understand what the teacher is asking me to do most of the time and I feel like I am literally in first grade when I try to read in class.

To make matters worse our textbook & workbook are both in Bulgarian. You are probably thinking “of course its in Bulgarian silly” – but, try understanding the directions on how to do the exercises when they are in Bulgarian too. The teacher is extremely sweet, but she teaches by having us read out loud and then repeat sections of the book over & over again. And I’ve discovered that certain teaching styles don’t work for me. I’m used to the teacher writing the word in English and then the translation in the other language and learning the language in sections/groups. Our teacher may tell us what a word means, but doesn’t write it on the board and I of course don’t know how to spell it. I’ve found that certain words or phrases sound different to me and I’ve written them down wrong in my notes. And when the teacher speaks to me or asks me a question sometimes I find myself hearing Spanish – for example “Az Sum” (Аз съм), which means “I am” – sounds like “hacen” or “they do” in Spanish. Its almost like something in my brain is broken and I can’t seem to be able to fix the wiring.

Anyways, that is my language vent. I’ve got a week left of class and I’m hoping I’ll at least be given the tools to get better on my own. I’ve made myself flashcards and am trying to teach myself that way.