Language column an enjoyable addition
Dobrý deň. I really enjoyed your article ["Slovak Matters" by Tom Nicholson, Vol. 7 No. 9, March 5 - 11] and the start of a new series of columns about slovenčina. I'm an American quietly teaching myself Slovak, and an occasional reader of the online Slovak Spectator in California. I've been picking at the Slovak language well over a year, mainly through books and some tapes (like the Routledge series of tapes) since the selection of live humans to speak to is rather limited in this part of the world. I'm a third generation Slovak-American, but my Michigan-based family doesn't really speak the language anymore.
I visited Slovakia last May, and was really hesitant about speaking Slovak since I'm very self-conscious about talking properly. The first thing I knew I needed to improve right away was my numbers, since I think the waiters in restaurants thought I was trying to short-change them (I kept getting my tens and hundreds mixed up). But after getting away from the city crowds and talking to my relatives and other country-based people, it was a little easier. I figured if I at least made an effort to speak Slovak, they'd give me a break (having a Slovak surname seemed to cut me a little slack as well).
I'm returning to Slovakia in a couple months for another visit. I'm not sure that my language skills have improved that much since last year, but more insight into the Slovak tongue through your articles is a welcome change from the rather stiff and structured lessons you find in language books.
One thing I have hardly any knowledge of is real colloquialisms and slang. I ran across some Slovak slang/swearing on a web-site. I just want to be aware of what I'm being called when I say something stupid: hlupak I knew - debil I didn't!
Anyway, I just wanted to respond to your article, and say that I look forward to more.
Honest Slovak policemen display the 'other side'
I am a so-called Pre-Accession Advisor from Germany who has been living together with my wife here in Slovakia since December 1999. From our colleagues we can hear, and we sometimes read in your newspaper, strange things which could happen to foreigners here in Slovakia. Maybe we are an exception, but we have never had problems here. I think it is not only a question of fairness, but of objective information to show the other part of the real world too.
My wife and I had been out shopping and we came home late one evening when it was already dark. At around 22:00, our doorbell rang and I went out to the garden door expecting to find somebody who had accidentally rung our bell instead of our landlord's, which sometimes happens. Two friendly policemen who were guarding the embassy next door asked me in a mixture of Slovak, English and German if the car in front of the house was mine, and begged me out. Of course, I expected a damaged car, but instead of this, they put a piece of black leather in my hands and asked whether this was my wallet.
In fact, it was my wallet, and at that point I had not even noticed that I had lost it. When I opened the wallet to see what was left inside I felt I would have a stroke, not so much for the lost money, but for the all my papers from credit cards to my driver's licence. To my great relief, not only were all the papers still there, but not even a coin of my money was missing.
This was the other side of the real Slovakia. Two underpaid policemen, as everywhere else in the world, just did their jobs. Needless to say, I did not let them go unrewarded, although I have to admit only after my wife scolded me for being a miser and not having done so immediately.
Slovak Spectator is asinine and imperialistic
Whilst the article on Devon Lake ["Hoop dreams lived out in Pezinok" by Chris Togneri, Vol. 7 No. 9, March 5 - 11] was quite interesting (especially when compared to the asinine piffle in the previous edition about breasts and beggars ["Culture Schock: Of beggars and breasts: what a shame" by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 8, February 26 - March 4]), it still gives the impression that The Slovak Spectator is only interested in cosying up to middle-class American cultural imperialists.
Devon Lake may be a nice guy, but rich American imports over here on extended sabbaticals playing minority sports do not tell the whole story. If you are searching for true sporting heroes who have transcended both social, political and geographical barriers to be in Slovakia, why not look at three footballers (Or 'saaaaaakur' players as you Americans would have it).
I refer to Brazilian Fabio Gomes at Ružomberok, Cameroonian Souleyman Fall at Trnava and Alias Lembokoali from the Central African Republic who plays for Púchov. Surely in such small towns these guys will be encountering more problems than the pampered, college graduate Mr. Lake.
Or is it the case that football, unlike basketball, is too European and working-class for American imperialist tastes?
12. Mar 2001 at 0:00