Learning a new language can be an embarrassing experience. There are the moments of triumph when you have a conversation about a new more complex idea or when another layer of the fog that veils everyday communication is lifted. Those moments feel good and are motivation to keep studying and plugging away at Albanian. But the real motivation comes from the miscommunications. The times were what you said and what you were trying to say are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Here is the countdown of my greatest language misteps:
5. The expression on my host families face when I told them I was 40 instead of 20.
4. Asking the kids in Pajove where the live (Ku jeton?) when I meant to ask them if the remembered (Kujton?)
3. Ordering pilaf with chofta but adding the quantity of sausage as a side note and receiving twice the amount of food I meant to order.
2 . Being impressed by the number of gymnasts in Pajove until I realized “gimnazi” meant high school and not gymnasium.
1. In a children’s English class, I was trying to say the word for stuffed, as in stuffed peppers, and accidentally added an extra letter that turned it into a curse word.
The most important lesson I have learned in learning a new language is to admit when I don’t understand everything. Saying “Po” to everything is not always the best idea when you don’t understand.
There are also joys to learning Albanian because many foreigners that Albanians meet don’t speak Albanian and they are appreciative of the effort it takes to learn their language. Some of my favorite triumphs in learning Albanian are:
5. Telling a kid selling pens in Tirana that I didn’t know how to write and him offering to give me lessons.
4. Learning and solving Albanian riddles.
3. Ordering correctly in restaurants.
2. Traveling to southern Albania and having Albanians correct me when I speak in the northern dialect.
1. Being able to ask a shepherd for directions on our hike to Belsh. There is no way we would have made it otherwise.