Slovak matters, and so do expats

"Offering a Slovak-language tutorial - even focusing on a single case declension or just 3-6 new words - in each issue would be valuable. The more valuable lessons would be those that use (a) words that are relevant to a hot news article and/or (b) explain an otherwise non-translatable idiom or cultural

reference. For example, I once read a French newspaper's English edition. It had a culture/language section that walked its French-speaking readers through items like

"hitting a six" (a Britishism that means "doing well and achieving a quick and valuable result" [taken from cricket, the UK sport]). In the same section in a different edition, the paper explained "smacking one out of the park" (an Americanism akin to the British "hitting a six" ["...out of the park" is taken from baseball, the US game]). Slovak is a rich, old, beautiful, and complex language that surely has many such idioms to be explained to new students like me!"

- Shane F. Hockins

"I'd like to see a more useful language column. Slovaks love their language and so appreciate it when foreigners speak the language. It's hard to underestimate the amount of good will that a little bit of effort learning Slovak generates. The language columns you've had (that I've seen) in the past have not been very helpful - mostly about interesting but not very useful phrases or adages. Particularly outside of Bratislava, a foreigner who travels and knows the language finds his experience completely changed. I'd like to see a column that focuses on basics, practical phrases, pronunciation, spoken language, the basics of grammar explained. I found learning Slovak to be great fun once I was introduced to the basics. (I'd be interested in writing such a column, actually.)"

- James Francis, Boston


Comments calling for the return/improvement of the language column we used to run, Slovak Matters, were a pleasant surprise. They reminded us of the paper's potential to help expats orient themselves in the Slovak environment, and the different things we could be doing to help them do so.

Such comments also give me a way in to something I wanted to communicate to readers but didn't know where to start. There are many such columns and features that we could and should be doing. However, much as foreign auto industry investors are complaining they can't find technical employees, I'm finding it much more difficult these days to replace a staff member who gets pregnant, leaves the country, goes AWOL or gets hired by Reuters. You may have noticed that we're trying to get by with about four full-time staffers, at least until editor-in-chief Beata Balogová returns from her MA program at Columbia next year.

The answer, of course, is to have people willing and interested to contribute write what they can, whether language columns, news and short articles from remote or near places, opinion pieces, restaurant reviews.

There is no reason the Internet should have a monopoly on interactive news, especially in such a small but focused community. One of our priorities next year will be to get members of the expat community contributing more writing to The Slovak Spectator, not only as a way of finding thoughtful and informed material, but also of making new contacts in a community we have become too isolated from.

Please, if any of you have ideas or pieces you would like to submit, write me at

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