Kubo! How could I forget Kubo?! Since my first visit to Slovakia, Laco’s nephew Kubo has learned A LOT of English. Two summers ago he traveled to Japan and stayed with us for a month. During that time, he had a crash course in English much like the crash course in Slovak I’m taking now. (Strangely, neither of those language immersion courses taking place in Japan were concerned with Japanese :-). Kubo’s mom was hoping that a month-long stay with us—during which he was expected to communicate in English as much as possible—would help prepare him for his new school, where the language of instruction is English.
When Kubo first arrived, he was completely focused on X-box and “energeeya drink.” He slept a lot and when he wasn’t sleeping he was often a bit edgy…and thinking of that summer with Kubo—as I undergo my own immersion lite (it doesn’t really count as a full immersion if I’m still in my own house and can run to my husband to translate!)—I feel ashamed that I was not more compassionate, patient, and kind toward him. Both Laco and I had forgotten just how much havoc language and culture shock can shake on a brain. Surely his fatigue and resistance had much to do with the constant onslaught of foreign-ness and the relentless search for language to communicate even the simplest thoughts. It is exhausting. Still, Kubi was a trooper. He worked hard to communicate, and he even used the bit of language he had to crack us up (Kubo, I’m so proud of you!!).
It seems that Kubo found his connection with English through Ron Burgundy. Yup, that’s right: The Anchorman. Let me tell you something: If you have not had the pleasure to hear a 14-year-old with a strong Slovak accent recite strings of dialogue from Anchorman…well, my friend, you are missing out on hours of belly laughter. Here’s a snippet of Kubo’s blooming love affair with English:
“Big box emotions and scotch is velmy dobre and I had funny with skateboard and I love Baxter and poetry and big sandwich with chicken and Brick it is dobre.” Laco and I would howl with laughter as Kubi threw together every bit of English he could muster and as he goofed around with the language he knew, he became more courageous and got more and more practice.
We all notice other people’s accents but few of us are cognizant of our own. Even fewer—if it’s possible at all—can conceive of how silly he or she sounds when learning to communicate in a new language. God, I wish I knew how funny I sound when I plug poorly conjugated verbs to unmatched subjects and mispronounce and misplace an adjective (if I’m bold enough to even throw one in the sentence). On second thought, it’s probably better that I don’t know how ridiculous I sound in Slovak—I might lose heart!
Yesterday I memorized the ever-so-random question (curiously included in the phrasebook that Mama brought me): “Shall I put on a dance record?” Having discovered the previous evening that Otec is a master of the random thought, I figured he might appreciate being matched with equally random questions. So, yesterday morning I greeted him nicely with a dobry rano (good morning) followed by “Màm pustit’ platňu s tanečnou hudbou?” Otec really got a kick out of that! He clapped his hands, repeated the question and insisted, “Ano, Ano!” Yes! Put on that dance record! Little does he know I dance about as well as I speak Slovak!
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