I use my “professional” Twitter account for three things: occasional reposts of TSN stories, a moshpit for engaging with Brexiteers, and a way to learn Slovenian 280 characters at a time. With regard to the latter I follow local names and dig down into the tweets and replies, hitting Google Translate when needed and saving the texts for printing and study at leisure. It’s a lot of fun, and I like to think I’m progressing, but one person who certainly is Julia Borden, the woman behind the excellent Živjo Luka! account, which documents – a word or phrase at a time – her quest to master the language. Her joy of discovery is beautiful and inspiring, and intrigued by her tweets I sent along some questions to learn more, and she kindly replied…
When I first heard Slovene, I thought people were so friendly because everyone got adorable nicknames. Like Ana became Ani, Marko became Marku. Only once I started to learn the language did I realize that this was simply standard noun conjugation. #Slovenia— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) May 6, 2020
Who are you?
My name is Julia Borden. I’m from California and currently live here. I’m a PhD student and avid Slovene learner.
Why the interest in learning Slovenian?
My partner is Slovenian, and even though he speaks English fluently, I’m trying to learn to better communicate with him and his family. The language is really difficult to master, and I’m often frustrated with the grammar. But it’s also interesting linguistically, and I find it to be quite poetic!
I love that the word for plant, "rastlina", comes from the root "rast", which means growth. So a plant is "one that grows". So poetic and reflective of Slovenes being gifted gardeners and plant lovers! #Slovenia #LanguageLearning— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) June 19, 2020
I started the account because I wanted to capture everything I was learning and discovering. My partner and I both love basketball and Luka Dončić, and this was around the time that Luka was really becoming a sensation on the Mavs, so I thought it would be fun to base the account on my desire to talk to him one day in his native language. It’s maybe not the full reason I started the account, but it would still be amazing to say “Živjo!” to Luka!
What other languages do you speak, and how difficult do you think Slovenian is?
I’m a native English speaker, and a proficient Spanish speaker. Slovene is my first Slavic language, and man is it tough! The trickiest part is trying to learn the six declination cases, since we don’t have this in English.
Every time I try and say a sentence that requires noun and adjective inflection (which is all of them) I feel like I'm throwing darts at a board. Maybe it's -e? or -a? or -om? I'm right about 5% of the time, and those moments are pure joy. #Slovenia #LanguageLearning— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) June 16, 2020
When did you start learning Slovenian?
I started taking an online class through the Slovenian Union of America once a week about a year ago, though it ended in May.
What methods do you use, and why do they appeal to you?
Unfortunately, since not many people speak Slovene outside of Slovenia, there aren’t many easily accessible ways to learn such as through Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or even university classes. I have 1,2,3 Gremo, and the class worked with the textbook Slovenska Beseda v Živo. Having a class and learning with other people helps a lot, since I’m not living in Slovenia, which would be the best way to learn! I also learn quite a bit through brainstorming ideas for Živjo Luka.
A basketball phrase for y'all: if you sink a basketball into the net it’s called “brez kosti” which means “boneless”. @luka7doncic we Americans out here tryin to learn some SLOVENE! Retweet so Luka knows we exist :) #Slovenia #LanguageLearning— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) June 12, 2020
Do you plan on visiting Slovenia?
I’ve been to Slovenia a couple of times, and I was planning to go again this June, but the coronavirus prevented that from happening.
What are some of the words, phrases that you find most interesting?
I absolutely love the unique idioms and phrases that Slovene has! Like “pojdite v gosjem redu”, “to imam v malem prstu”, and especially “tristo kosmatih medvedov”.
Next time you encounter a toddler with too much energy who is zooming around, you can do as the Slovenes do and tell them "imaš sršene v riti!" ("you have hornets up your butt!"). #Slovenia #LanguageLearning— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) May 25, 2020
How are you enjoying Twitter?
I’ve received some really great comments from people on Twitter, pointing out nuances of the language I hadn’t noticed or thought about. It’s been a great way to learn that takes me beyond the pages of a textbook.
Slovene has formal & informal "you". So if I say to a Slovene grandma "Kako si?" (how are you (informal)) she could say "Vikaj me!" (say formal "you" to me!) which is an informal way to tell me to be more formal. Meta manners. #Slovenia #LanguageLearning— ZivjoLuka (@ZivjoLuka) May 17, 2020
With the introduction over, and a few examples shown in this story, it’s time for you to head over to Twitter and follow Živjo Luka!. But also click here to check out all our stories on learning Slovenian.