At times I feel like I really will be able to learn this language. That maybe I’ll have a decent conversation with a family member some day and that I’m making good progress.
Other days I feel discouraged. There are so many words, so many rules, so much to practice, and still so much that I have yet to uncover. What if eight months is not enough time? Will I ever speak and understand as well as I want to? Is this goal unrealistic and am I naive for thinking I can achieve it?
There are moments when these thoughts plague my mind, and I have to remind myself that this is something I’ve always wanted to do, knowing full well how difficult it was going to be. Sure I could’ve taken the easy route, gone on living in America, only speaking English while continuing to fantasize about speaking Slovene…
And forfeit the potential to fulfill a dream I’ve carried with me for over ten years?
I could never let myself do that. I already know the ball and chain of regret I would carry with me had I chosen to stay behind. Growing up with this desire to learn Slovene is the equivalent of an itch never getting scratched. How painful it would be to look back on my life knowing I didn’t even try, despite how much I wanted it and how open the door was.
I’ve always known that I would never be content with only knowing one language. As much as I’ve tried to find that feeling, it has never come. I’m jealous of people who are bilingual. Always have been, always will be. This ever present envy is the result of having extended family whom I cannot communicate with effectively and growing up with a mother and close friends who speak multiple languages. I wanted to be a part of the club. It pained me when my fifth grade English teacher asked our class who was bilingual and I had to keep my hand down. I so badly wanted to raise my hand. Wanted it to be true. Even seeing strangers on the street who I know can speak Slovene with as much ease as I speak English reignites that spark of jealousy within me. It’s something I have always wanted. Something that’s always been just out of reach.
It’s hard when you can’t be a part of something that feels very much a part of you.
Each year that passed of me only knowing English, I grew more jealous, more bitter, and more resentful. I had to learn to get over these feelings, which was easy by no means and took several years. I still have days where I don’t feel “over it” at all and have to remind myself that you can’t change your past, but you can shape your future. For me, that meant letting go of the fact that I grew up monolingual, and choosing to focus on what I can do now to change that.
After spending about a month here, I realize that my decision is viewed differently by Americans and Slovenes. In the US, when I told others about my decision to move to Europe in order to study a language, I was met with countless oohs and ahhs, an endless stream of encouragement and admiration.
But the people who are from here give me the impression that what I’m doing is odd. Why would she leave America to come to Slovenia of all places? And just to learn the language? Why would she want to learn Slovene anyway? There are only 2 million of us! Guess they don’t know my backstory.
I’ve also heard things that have led me to believe I’m wasting my time. That I should hurry up and go to college instead of taking this much needed break not only to learn Slovene, but also figure out what I might want to do with my life. There are a million and half other reasons I could give in defense to spending a school year here, but I’ll leave that for another post.
Even though there are times I fear I won’t learn as much Slovene as I want to or that I’m silly for even trying, I remember my classmates who are much older than I and have chosen to do the same thing despite their age. Did I mention I’m the youngest in my class by 11 years?
Though I often feel discouraged and overwhelmed when thinking of how much I have yet to learn, I remember the showers of encouragement I’ve received from others (thanks by the way) and that progress counts for a lot more than I give credit.
Even still, I fear coming out of this experience feeling just as lost about my calling and purpose as before. But then I remember that God was the one who led me here. If he didn’t have a good reason, he would not have done it. There is so much that will happen over the course of these eight months that I cannot even imagine, even if they aren’t the most grandiose or the most obvious.
And that’s all the comfort I need.