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TAC 2012 - Team Ne Nur - Hrvatske Krave

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ellasevia
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Japan
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 Message 57 of 76
09 September 2012 at 1:18am | IP Logged 
Hello from Croatia! It's already past midnight here and I'm very tired, but I've put off writing this update long enough, so here we go...

I arrived here in Croatia two weeks ago from yesterday. As I mentioned before, I first flew to Frankfurt, Germany, where I had a 7-hour layover. I intended to take the train into the city and meet ReneeMona at the main train station there, but unfortunately my lack of sleep and familiarity with the German railroad system got in the way of that plan. I successfully found my way to the part of the airport that functions as a train station, bought a ticket for the day, found the line that should take me to the city center (I had looked it up ahead of time), and boarded the train. About 10 minutes later, I was beginning to seriously doubt whether I was going in the right direction, and after asking some fellow passengers (in German, of course) I discovered that I was on the correct line but going in the wrong direction, and was headed for the town of Wiesbaden instead of Frankfurt! I got off as soon as I could and boarded a train going the opposite direction. As I was glancing around on the train I spotted a woman reading a book in what appeared to be Croatian, so I asked her in Croatian if she was from Croatia. It turns out she was from Bosnia but lived in Germany, and we spoke for a while in somewhat labored Croatian/Bosnian. At some point the subject of me being Greek arose and when I replied that I did in fact speak Greek, she asked me to say something, so I just said the first random thing that came to mind -- and she responded in fluent Greek! As it turns out, she was married to a Greek man and their children are trilingual in Bosnian, Greek, and German. We conversed in Greek until she had to get off the train, and it was a very nice multilingual and -cultural experience -- speaking Greek with a Bosnian woman while riding the train in Germany! Anyways, I eventually arrived at the Hauptbahnhof in Frankfurt and wandered around for quite a while looking for ReneeMona, but to no avail. I had no Internet connection there and no functional phone, so I unfortunately didn't receive any of her messages describing her location to me until later on once I had returned to the airport. After searching all over and even briefly walking around outside the train station, I was beginning to lose hope and was panicking that I would get lost again and would miss my flight to Zagreb later that day. With that in mind, I found my way back to the airport with the help of a very friendly German lady who helped shoo away a beggar woman who had been harassing me. Thank goodness I speak German. Once back at the airport, aside from the intense boredom and fatigue associated with the long layover, everything went smoothly and without further complications. My host family was awaiting me at the airport in Zagreb and soon we were in the car on the way back to their house on the Croatian coast.

I haven't yet had the chance to see much of Croatia outside the vicinity of where I'm staying, but what I have seen so far is absolutely gorgeous. My host family lives in a hill district up above the town of Lovran, so gazing out my bedroom window -- even while lying in bed -- I have an incredible view of the whole coastline from Lovran all the way to Rijeka across Kvarner Bay, and the islands of Krk and Cres. The first whole day I was here my host family took me along with some friends of theirs to go swimming on the island of Cres, and last weekend we went to a kind of folk festival in the mountains. Of course I've also been into Lovran itself multiple times, I go to Opatija every day for school, and today I took the bus all the way to Rijeka for a brief visit. Next week I'm going to Zagreb for an orientation meeting with the other exchange students in Croatia, after which we're headed to the Plitvice Lakes near the Bosnian border and then to Hrvatsko Zagorje in the far north of the country.

In terms of the language situation, I'm quite understandably getting in a LOT of Croatian practice every day. My host family doesn't really speak English, so whenever I want to say anything I'm forced to speak Croatian. The first several days I collapsed into bed every night mentally exhausted from having to think and speak in Croatian all day, but now it's already becoming much easier and more natural to speak it. That's not to say that I'm speaking it well; on the contrary, I'm all too conscious of all the mistakes I'm making, but I don't seem to be having quite so much difficulty communicating as when I first arrived. I've also become slightly more accustomed to the local dialect here, which made comprehension fairly difficult at first. I started school this past Tuesday and all of my classes are of course in Croatian. It largely depends on the teacher and the subject, but as a general rule I usually understand about half, sometimes a little more or less, of everything they say in class. Most of the teachers at my school don't speak much if any English so if they're talking to me and I don't understand, they just have to rephrase it in Croatian so I understand, or sometimes switch to German if they know it. All of the students in my class have been very friendly and welcoming so far, and my only problem is that I can't really remember most of their names yet since for the most part they all introduced themselves all at once. Though they all seem to speak very good English, they've been pretty about trying to speak to me mostly in Croatian so that I can practice and learn, unless I really don't understand something or don't know how to say something, in which case we switch to English for clarification. As for language classes at my school, I'm taking German as my "primary language", English as my "secondary language" (I wanted to take Italian instead, but since I hadn't taken Italian in school in the United States they didn't want to give it to me here), and French as my elective (because it was either that or chemistry). :)

Well, I do believe that's enough for now and I'll try to update here again sometime soon. I hope this has satisfied your curiosity for now, hribecek!

Edited by ellasevia on 09 September 2012 at 1:21am

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Chung
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 Message 58 of 76
09 September 2012 at 3:13am | IP Logged 
Jeeze, your experience on the train beats the pants off anything that I've ever done when it comes to talking to strangers in foreign countries.

It seems that you'll be fluent in BCMS/SC in no time; perhaps even with a slight Chakavian twang. ;-) Koliko dugo ćeš biti u Hrvatskoj? Ja se spremim za krakti odmor u Europi kasnije u ovom mjesecu, ali neću doći na Balkan. Putovat ću dalje na sever.
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hribecek
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 Message 59 of 76
09 September 2012 at 12:16pm | IP Logged 
That was a really interesting insight, my curiosity has most certainly been satisfied, thanks! I do have some follow up questions but no rush with the answers obviously.

As Chung said, what a crazy combination of languages on the train.

Have you noticed many differences in the teaching styles between American and Croatian teachers? Would you say the level of education of the students is higher or lower than Americans of the same age?

What are the levels of your German and French classes?

How does your English class work? Does the teacher use you as a teaching tool during the class? At least you must feel confident in that class!

I don't mean to irritate you with my questions and sorry if I do, it's just so darn interesting to me!
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ellasevia
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 Message 60 of 76
26 September 2012 at 9:54pm | IP Logged 
Sorry to make you wait so long for a response to your questions! I keep forgetting to come back here and update my log.

@Chung: Bit ću tu u Hrvatskoj cijelu godinu, do sljedećeg srpnja. Govorim na hrvatskom skoro cijeli dan i sporo se poboljšavam. Pokušavam pričati uglavnom na štokavskom (hrvatski standard); iako ga malo razumijem, pokušavam izbjegavati čakavsko narječje. Nadam se da si uživao tvoj odmor u Europi! Koje države si posjećivao?

@hribecek: Well, there are quite a lot of differences between American and Croatian schools, but since you specifically asked about the teaching styles, that's what I'll address. One thing that I've noticed which has been especially difficult for me as someone who isn't very proficient in the language yet is that the teachers rely heavily on dictation for note-taking. They usually only write the bare minimum on the board (which I often can't read because of their weird handwriting here), and then just read off the rest of the information aloud. Sometimes they have us copy down texts into our notebooks that way, which is usually an exercise in futility for me since I can't keep up because of all the unknown words which I just have to sound out. By contrast, in the United States, we get tons of handouts in class so that we always have something in front of us to follow along with, and so that we can see as well as hear what's being discussed. The teachers here also don't seem to give as much actual homework, and tend to instead orally quiz the students on the material or call them up to the board the next time we have class. Additionally, most of my Croatian teachers seem to put up with a lot more talking in class than my American teachers would have tolerated. The students usually talk through almost the entire class and the teachers are constantly yelling in vain to get their attention. Of course, in the United States people talk in class as well and rarely pay attention all the time, but the difference here is that they don't even bother trying to conceal it.

It's hard to compare the levels of education because the school systems are so fundamentally different. For example, in Croatia they have 15+ subjects per year, but don't have each subject every day. In the United States, we usually only have 6-7 subjects per year but have all of them every day. As a result, whereas American schools can cover the entire curriculum for a given subject in a single school year, Croatian schools have to divide it up between multiple years. There's also a lot more freedom in terms of choosing classes in American schools -- you can often choose which course to take within a given subject area, which level to take it at (regular or advanced/AP), and in sometimes even when (ie, during which year of high school) to take it. Here, though, everyone takes almost the exact same classes, with the only choices available being your selection of primary and secondary foreign language (English, German, or Italian), whether you want to take chemistry or a third foreign language (French), and whether you want to take religion or ethics. I could go on, but I'm going to stop myself here.

I just realized that you asked about the education levels in both countries at the same age. Well in that case, I'd have to say that American students are at a higher level if only because we start school earlier than they do in Croatia; we start school at around age five, whereas they start around age seven here. Everyone in my class was so confused when I said that I've already graduated from high school, even though I'm "only" 18 (and was 17 when I actually graduated).

I can't make up my mind about my German class. Sometimes it impresses me with how in-depth it goes into the subtleties of German grammar, talking about rules I never consciously knew existed, but at the same time, very few people in the class can actually produce a coherent sentence in German. As for my French class, I'm not too impressed so far. It turns out that it's only a second-year language class and it only meets for two hours per week, so I can cut them some slack, but I was still shocked when on the first day we learned how to conjugate regular verbs in the present tense and it was like people were seeing it for the first time. Even the teacher has trouble expressing herself in French sometimes (I think she's normally an Italian teacher). In any case, both classes are very easy for me with one exception: it's very difficult for me to have to be constantly switching between Croatian and German/French. It's one thing for me to switch between English and Croatian/German/French, but when both languages are involved are non-native, the result is that I end up mixing and butchering them both.

My English class is interesting, to say the least. It's funny to see how English is taught as a foreign language here. My teacher does indeed use me as a teaching tool and a reference in the class, and often asks me to say something so that the other students can hear how it's supposed to be said, or to explain what something means. The problem is that the textbook teaches British English, so sometimes the expressions are different than what I'm used to or in some cases, I don't even know what they mean. There have been a couple occasions when she's asked me to explain something to the class and I have to admit that I myself have never even heard of that word or term. But for the most part, yes, it's very nice to have at least one class where I don't feel like an idiot all the time. She's also had me give a presentation on Colorado and on the town I'm from, which was helpful for making people actually take an interest in me. Apparently all it took was mentioning that I've had mountain lions in my backyard and that three bears once wandered onto my elementary school playground during recess.

I hope I've answered all of your questions satisfactorily! Let me know if there's anything else you're curious about. ;)

I also wanted to talk about my trip to Zagreb, Plitvice, and Hrvatsko Zagorje in this post, but it took longer than I expected just to answer the questions and now I'm tired, so I'll save it for my next update. (Hint: someone specifically ask about it so that I remember to, and also so that I don't avoid it again.)

Edited by ellasevia on 26 September 2012 at 9:55pm

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tarvos
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 Message 61 of 76
26 September 2012 at 11:05pm | IP Logged 
How was your trip?

:D
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akprocks
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 Message 62 of 76
28 September 2012 at 9:38pm | IP Logged 
I've known and made friends with many foreign exchange students, and I always get a kick out of how quickly they progress in English. For example, a Colombian went to our school a couple of years ago and he had only been learning English for one year and only knew how to say 'Shit' 'Hello' and 'I don't understand'; in a few months he was about an average foreign learner. By the end of the year he knew thousands of words (slang too) and could understand 100% of what a typical high school student could. You'll be C2 in Croatian before you know it!
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hribecek
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 Message 63 of 76
29 September 2012 at 12:37pm | IP Logged 
Another really interesting post. Thanks for answering my questions, I'll refrain from asking any new ones for now to give you a break! :))

The one exception is of course - How was your trip? :))


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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 64 of 76
07 October 2012 at 5:24pm | IP Logged 
Dear Ellasevia, I am so happy to know that you enjoy Croatia. I knew that you would be amazing at learning
Croatian, and I am confident that you will be absolutely fluent by the time you go home.


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