The little things…

December 4, 2011 by 11 Comments

Bulgarian FlagWe often hear that the little things in life are the things that bring us most joy.  I can definitely confirm this for many of the life events I have lived through so far, my child’s first words being one.


As a parent, when you first hear those words, you react.  That reaction has an effect and it encourages the child to say more of the same to get more reactions.  This is a common theme in life for many things we do.


As language learners we have an advantage over babies learning their first language(s) because we already have language patterns and can guess more easily how to construct thoughts and ideas.  We also have the ability to read, write and ask very specific questions too.  These all play to our advantage as students of a foreign language.  We learn grammar and vocabulary, listen to the target language and then try to put words together ourselves.  When we get a positive reaction for our efforts, we are elated and that drives us forward.


Just two weeks ago, I was fortunate to be in Sofia (a city I love to visit).  Whenever I go to Bulgaria, I like to only use Bulgarian.  I like the sound of the language.  It has quite dramatic intonation, which appeals to my ear and it is very familiar to me because of my linguistic background in The Balkans.  Usually I go there and no one passes any comment on my Bulgarian.  This time, I was with my wife and daughter and I was speaking Macedonian and English too; so very much the foreigner.  I think that speaking Bulgarian to the locals came as a bigger shock to them.  Everyone had such a lovely reaction to me using the local, it was really encouraging.


Sometimes I forget about those feelings in a foreign language as it doesn’t quite feel the same with languages I have been speaking for years and years.  In fact, I would be sad if the level wasn’t up to scratch.  Bulgarian, however, is a language I only started speaking last year.  I experience something similar now in Turkish too after two months of study.  I am at a level, where I can communicate and hold a nice little conversation in the language.  The reactions I get are very rewarding.


Keeping it real


I am very big on keeping things securely anchored to the ground.  Sometimes we get a negative reaction from people, and they need to be evaluated for their motivation and then any validity they may have.  More often though, people will complement you on your language, sometimes even if you only say the most basic things, with a heavy accent and lots of mistakes.  I know when I first started learning Czech and could barely say a thing, people kept telling how wonderfully well I spoke the language.  Of coruse, they were just being nice and their kind words, even if OTT, were encouraging.  Retaining perspective over our abilities helps us to feel better about our progress.


Keeping our feet on the ground and our eyes on our language goals is key to a being a happy, satisfied and motivated learner.


What has your experience been?  I’d like to read what sort of reactions most stick out to you.  🙂

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This post was written by Richard


  • What kinds of methods are you going to use for teaching your child language?

  • Free Movies says:

    This is a great blog you have here

  • ИвαN says:

    Радвам се, че харесваш българския! Чудесно е, когато полиглот оценя един не много популярен език така 🙂

  • Sebastián Alarcón. says:

    Nice entry in this blog.

    Well, from te topic of this entry, yes. This happens all the time with all the languages I know or currently I’m studying (except from english). Mainly, this happens with a language that is not common (in my case: basque, catalan and bulgarian), but also with languages thar are widely spoken (italian, chinese and russian, although these two latter languages are widely spoken but in recent years, it has been a boom in the global learning, so it’s as not commercial (I can’i find the correct way to express this) as for example, german or french). This aims me to master the language, never minding if it’s so difficult. You reminded me from why I’m studying languages as a crazy.

  • Robert says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative comment… but perhaps I manage to steer clear of people that aren’t so polite. I’ve spoken German in Germany, Ukrainian in Ukraine, Russian in Russia, French in France and last year I did a short Czech course and managed to have a lengthy transaction at the railway station in Czech even though I’d heard the person to whom I was speaking, speak English with the previous customer. In retrospect I’ve had almost no huge compliments such as one is likely to get if one speaks Mandarin or Cantonese. I suppose they don’t normally know that this is the first time that you’ve ever been to, say, Russia and you’ve mainly learnt from books. Perhaps no compliment/comment in itself is already a compliment. Well, an example of this was the Czech class. I was a little surprised that my teacher didn’t comment on my progress but at the end of the course I found out that she presumed that I’d been living in the Czech Republic for a couple of years already.

    And during my last trip to China I was rather surprised to find that people have started taking it for granted that a non-Asian like me can speak reasonably good Chinese. Perhaps the ex Australian prime minister’s fluent Mandarin has changed everyone’s expectations…

    But I suppose with the major languages there are heaps of learners that reach a good standard. There’s nothing for anyone to be really surprised about.

  • mlhpolling says:

    I pretty much like make people from other countries amazed by saying some phrases in their mother tongue. I did it with a pretty good pronunciation and accent and it worked. Most of the time they are astonished and asked, “Can you speak (their language)?”. “I only know that!”, answered I. I am quite lucky to be studying here in India where there are many other foreigners from different countries like China, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, many other African and Arab countries and so on. In India there are also many other languages than Hindi, you can learn any language you wish and speak with them. I want to learn all of them but time does not permit.

  • Vlad says:

    Hello Richard! I really admire your capabilities, it is astonishing what you manage to do with your talent:)))incredible!!! I recently uploaded 2 videos on youtube, where I also talk about one of my biggest passions, which are languages, of course:) could you maybe have a look at both of them and tell me what you think? Do you think that could I in a couple of years at least aspire/aim/dream of being part of the polyglot community? It would be a great honour for me to be able to do this, but it also depends on what you think:) It would be though so interesting:) here are the links to my videos Richard:
    Thanks a lot for your time! Greetings from Romania.Vlad

  • greenocool says:

    Здравей Ричард! Като българин, искам да те поздравя за твоите усилия при изучаването на един не много популярен език (в световен мащаб). Желая ти късмет и занапред. Много поздрави и здраве от България! Поздрави на жената и детето също… 😀

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