January 1, 2014, by Guest blog

The greatest hindrance for speaking Serbian was simply nerves

Post written by Rebecca Wright.

Having only studied the Serbian language for two academic years before arriving in Belgrade, admittedly I did feel rather anxious about living in the country. Of course, I knew my teachers at Nottingham would never have let me arrive without giving me all the knowledge I would need, but I kept questioning myself: Have I really done enough practice over the summer? Could I have done more? Honestly, I feel like a little more listening practice in my own time would have gone a very long way, as on arrival, I found that the people speak so fast that I really struggled to understand what they were saying. By the time I had translated one phrase in my head I had missed the next! However, after nearly four months of being in Belgrade, I can use this as a great measure of my listening development. Making the effort to listen to Serbian radio and watch Serbian television and films with friends, I now feel that my understanding has improved dramatically. Rather than translating each word as I hear it, whole sentences simply make sense, which is a level of understanding I feel I could not possibly have reached outside of a Serbo-Croat speaking country.

The classes I have been attending at the FiloloŇ°ki fakultet, or the Faculty of Philology, here in Belgrade, have also been mostly useful for my listening and speaking. Most of the grammar we cover in class I have already been taught at Nottingham, but as all the classes are taught in Serbian, and our teachers will not let us speak English, they still work as excellent practice, and both my teachers here in Belgrade, and my friends, have commented on the improvements they have noticed in my spoken Serbian.

Though I found listening difficult, I feel that speaking was certainly my weakest point when I first came to Belgrade in September. This has a great deal to do with having to think quickly on the spot and, unlike in written work, I am of course unable to backtrack and correct my mistakes. However, I believe that my greatest hindrance regarding speaking was simply nerves. I would not consider myself a shy person generally, however, it was so important to me not to make any mistakes when speaking, that sometimes I would choose not to speak rather than risk making a mistake. After a lot of persuasion, however, from some newly-made friends, I opened up, and risked just speaking. I found that everyone, be it friends, waiters in restaurants or the porters at my student dorm, was so willing to help and enthusiastic about the effort I was making to speak Serbian, and this is undoubtedly where I can see my greatest improvement.

Posted in Language acquisition