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Learning German in Slovakia – an Interview

March 25, 2015

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Interview with Veronika (23) from Slovakia, working in Zurich

Susi:
Veronika, what is the first thing coming into your mind when thinking about Slovakia?

Veronika:
Mountains! Slovakia is a really nice country. In the middle, in the heart of Slovakia, there are big mountains, the High Tatras and the Low Tatras. And every time I travel from Bratislava to the east part – home – I have to pass the mountains. So I see them every time I go home.

Susi:
That sounds absolutely nice! What do you think are the similarities between Slovakia and Germany or Slovakia and Switzerland? Veronika: The accent! Ours is hard! It is really different from other languages. For example, the Italians are singing and the Slovakians and Germans are talking properly, so that everybody can understand them. And this hard pronunciation is very similar to German. I think also food is very similar. (laughs) Susi: In what way?

Veronika:
When I go to typical German or Suisse restaurants and I am in the mood to eat something typical for the country it always reminds me home. You know, for example “Knödel” or such stuff it is the same what my mom is cooking at home.

Susi:
Interesting! The other way round: What would you describe as a big difference?

Veronika:
A difference? Hmn, I think you have to get used to how it works. I mean, it is not just like when you move to Germany or Switzerland, but when you move to a new country you have to learn how all the stuff works. For example the underground or the “Gemeindehaus” – you need to know how all this works and this can be very complex. Another thing is the way how the people think. In Slovakia they think much simpler. They think about life and the future like: ‘Yes, let’s get married and let’s have kids now, it is okay!’ but here in the west as in Germany or Switzerland it is more like: ‘ Okay, maybe we should think about getting a house and getting a good job before having children.’ Germans don’t live just the moment or just think about the moment. They plan a lot.

Susi:
Well, so do many people in Slovakia learn German?

Veronika:
Quite a lot, I think.

Susi:
Okay and what do you think why do they learn German?

Veronika:
They have to because of work! There are a lot of younger people who travel to Germany because of work and there are also a lot of older people or older ladies who start to learn German. For example, my mother started to learn German when she was 40 as well, you know, because she was working in Austria which is a German speaking country. She just had to learn the language. And in my opinion learning German at the age of 40 is much more difficult than learning it at the age of 20 or when you are in high school. Another thing is that the Slovakians have to learn two languages: The first is English and the second is German. And this is why people think that German is easier than maybe Russian – but this is not true. Nevertheless they choose German because they are forced to learn it when they want to go abroad but not as far as maybe Great Britain – then in most cases they choose Germany or Austria.

Susi:
That’s interesting! So you had the choice between Russian and German in school?

Veronika:
Yes.

Susi:
And you decided to learn German. Why?

Veronika:
To be honest, if somebody asked me about Germany and Russia, I would have told them that Germany is for me the more developed country. And if I have to decide where to go on holiday, my first choice would have been Germany – of course!

Susi:
What was the most difficult thing for you with learning the German language?

Veronika:
Oh, there are some difficulties, yes. For example the cases: nominative, genitive, dative and accusative. It is hard for me, even though we have it in Slovakian, too. Another thing is that I cannot get used to the fact that you have to put the verb at the end of the sentence when having a subordinate clause. I know the rule but I don’t get why to put the verb at the end? (laughs)

Susi:
I think it is a problem for many German learners – so don’t worry. Can you tell me what the easiest thing was when learning German?

Veronika:
The easiest thing was to learn the vocabulary from the daily life. You know when I go to work or go by train, everything is written in German and for me it was a really nice chance to learn this vocabulary all day long. I never had problems to remember these words of daily life.

Susi:
One last question to you, Veronika. In former lessons you told me about German words in the Slovakian language. Can you give me an example?

Veronika:
Aha! My grandfather always had a frühstück. And my mother always says that there is a fresh luft. I am not sure if this is German, too, but my grandmother used to ask me if I need new strümpfle. Maybe another German equivalent is knödel because in Slovak we call it knedlík. How to say ‘floor’ in German?

Susi:
Floor. Hmn, this is ‘Flur’ maybe.

Veronika:
Yes! In Slovak we call it diele! Susi: Yes, of course. ‘Diele’ is also possible! (laughs) Veronika: “You need to clean diele!” (laughs) Susi: Veronika, thank you very much that you took the time to answer these questions. German Online Institute and I would like to wish you all the best and a successful progress in learning German.

Connections between Slovakia and Germany

Slovakia is a country which is east of Austria and south of the Czech Republic and Poland. As we already know from the interview with Veronika, there are the High Tatras and the Low Tatras. Both are part of the Tatra Mountains two thirds of which belong to Slovakia. The capital Bratislava with its 400.000 inhabitants is the biggest city in Slovakia and lies directly on the border to Austria. Slovakian belongs to the West-Slavonic languages.

Because of its common history with the Czech Republic, both languages are very similar. This is why it is no problem for Veronika to understand Czech people – and vice versa. If you have a closer look at the history of Slovakia, you may recognize that at the time of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, the population consisted of 23 % Germans. Only when there was the national revolt Germans were banished from the country. Maybe that is an explanation for Veronikas parents and grandparents using sometimes a German word.

The Slovakian joining to the EU in 2004 influenced the offer of foreign languages at high schools a lot.

As we learned from Veronika: English is the first foreign language in the upper classes at school and it is the pupils’ choice which language they will learn as the second. In Slovakia there are approximately 5.300 German teachers and about 40 % pupils who learn German as a foreign language at high school. It is the goal that every German student should reach the level A2/ B1 according to the Hockiková 2010: 1794 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Veronika started learning at German Online Institute with level A2 and is able to use the knowledge she acquired at her school in Slovakia. -sorla- 4 Ibid.: 1796

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