torek, 25. marec 2014

A Little More than Chaos?

Slovenian is the first Slavic language which I have ever studied. Slavic languages present a number of difficulties for the anglophone brain, and Slovenian is certainly (!) no exception. Nonetheless, the course I attended over Summer in 2013 helped me to make some sense of what I had perceived beforehand to be little more than chaos (as a side note, to anyone reading this who wishes to gain even a rudimentary level in spoken Slovene, I would urge you to enrol in a class; this language, for whatever reason, and in contrast to most other languages I have studied (quite a few), laughs in the face of those who hope to learn anything more than the rudiments from a textbook in their free time... not to say that I came away from the course with the ability to discuss politics or art or anything much with any degree of refinement; nonetheless, it gave me enough of an insight to the language's inner-workings to allow me to continue to progress, albeit slowly, on my own). 

Which brings me to my next point: Slovenians themselves frequently demand an explanation as to why you would want to learn Slovenian!? So, you'd best have one prepared. In my case, I was attracted to Slovenian in particular because I came across the writing of several Slovene poets, not all at once, but in a variety of contexts and over the course of several years. I am a composer and am often researching texts which I would like to set to music. I particularly liked the work of Milan Dekleva and Dane Zajc, two poets whose work has little in common stylistically (the former is something of a bower-bird post-modernist, the latter a quaint, socialist romantic), but which nonetheless share the characteristic (as I discovered) Slovene tendency in speech to juxtapose convoluted, drifting-in-the-wind anecdotal digression with brusque directness. But the subtle nuances of the Slovene character are a matter for another day. 

Now that I have spent some time studying Slovenian, I can say that you have to learn to love its almost impenetrable difficulties, its regional variants (read mutually-unintelligible dialects), its stubborn irregularities, its... well, you get the idea. These characteristics, normally dreaded by those hoping to become conversant in a foreign language, become, well... charming! The (not inconsiderable) frustration which felt in class is long forgotten, all that remains is a window (modest in size as it may be) through which I am now able to observe this language and culture, and for that I am truly grateful.

Paul Clift, skladatelj in prejemnik štipendije Jane Zemljarič Miklavčič 2013

2 komentarja:

  1. If you're into Slovene poets, I'd recommend you Gregor Strniša, probably one of the best there is, master of assonance, his poems are filled with condensed meaning.

  2. Oh, I would say that we are not the best in prose (although you can find some fine works) but we excel in poems, all the way from Prešern, Zupančič, Strniša to Makarovič (I really love her inspiration from folksongs), Pavček (one of the most citated Slovene poets) and the others ...
    Comment if you'd like me to recommend particular poems :)