Foreigners and BCS

utorak, 7. juni 2011.


„Mogu li platiti?“ a foreigner, BCS beginner, attempts to speak to a waitress in a Sarajevo cafe. Obviously stressed out, the waitress replies, emphasizing: „I DO speak English, you know!“, and charges 10 KM for what the foreigner and his friends were drinking while doing their homework for the next day's classes of the intensive BCS course they were attending.

I'm in a car with one of my colleagues from work listening to a story she was telling. She had met a foreigner who needs to learn our language ASAP since they tend to have some misunderstandings now and then. My colleague tells me how she and her friends appreciate the girl's effort to speak Bosnian, but it's too much of a pain in the neck for them to speak Bosnian with her. As if the girl's got it easy with our cases, genders, pronouns, numbers and what not. Why should we bother helping her to learn our language?

The Association for Language and Culture Linguists is organizing the third edition of the Summer School of BCS with the aim of bringing our language and culture closer to foreigners, but also to make the native speakers of our language around the world see the importance of their native tongue. Thus all the participants come to our country, study our language, get to know our culture and very often, in the street, in a cafe, among people talk in English. It's not because of them, but because of us.

A Belgium guy, let's call him Sebastien, fell in love with Sarajevo. He often comes and visits his Bosnian friends. Once he was on a Bosnian, multicultural party, where everyone spoke English but where he spoke Bosnian from the moment he came in. He was sitting at a table with a Bosnian who was more than eager to show off his knowledge of English, and asked: „Kako se zove ovo?“ pointing at a bottle opener. „It's an opener!“ said the Bosnian, proud of his English. It is clear that a huge number of people here speak English and that it is not hard for foreigners to get round here, in any case, it is easier than in Hungary, where it would be hard to get instructions in English. But it is difficult for the people who really want to use their knowledge of Bosnian, even if it is only „Kako si?“ „Koliko košta?“ or „Ne treba vrećica“.

Somehow it seems to me that we always want to escape reality, even if it means that we'll speak a foreign language. It's as if we're eager to show the foreigners that we're not fat-witted, stupid Bosnians, cut off the rest of the world. We want to prove it to them how we study not only English in schools, but also German, French. Most of us speak Italian, and some have even managed to catch some Spanish from soap operas; in a couple of years, we'll be speaking Turkish as well. But what about the foreigners who want our language to be one of the other languages they already speak?

A friend of a friend is a proud Spaniard who always says „Gracias“ no matter what country he is in. His main assumption is that everyone will understand what he wants to say. Maybe we should insist more on our „izvolite“, „nema na čemu“ „Sve je deset maraka“, „to je vadičep“ when foreigners come to learn our language.


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