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Twice The Fun

I was asked why and how did I happen to learn both Czech and Latvian at the same time and why these two, not so very frequently learned languages. This may repeat more times so it’s easier to write an article and just link to it when being asked next time.
  So, in a single word, little girls. Yes, it’s a single word in both, holčičky, meitenītes.


It began in 2015, I mean, 1984. Thirty-three years ago, Czechoslovakian Television created a nice little series titled My všichni školou povinní, We All Go To School. One of the so-called workplace series, by the way, still popular, it told the stories of schoolkids of different sizes, their parents and teachers. Nothing extraordinary, just everyday life. Except two girls, as I saw them.
  They were the best friends ever. Or not. Depends on point of view. Barča felt Jitka her best friend, but Jitka merely accepted Barča like a pet. Barča did everything, even stealing for Jitka’s sake. Jitka did only one thing for Barča: they both took a vow to avoid boys and never let any near themselves. But Jitka didn’t take it so seriously. Actually, there was a boy already she found more than handsome. And gradually she realized she was loving him.
  Barča forgave everything. Jitka betrayed her twice and she forgave. Jitka couldn’t do anything she couldn’t forgive, except one thing: loving that boy. They parted forever, not so long before Barča discovered herself to be fond of another boy.
  I watched the series in 1988 and was thinking. Then, in 2015, watched it again, still thinking, and wrote a long essay on the theory about Barča being, actually, in love for Jitka, unscripted. It would be impossible, in a socialist Czechoslovakian family TV series, for a fourteen years old schoolgirl to feel a lesbian attraction, no way. It was Barča herself, not the author, not Michaela Kudláčková who played Barča lovefully, it was the girl in the series who felt the love and nobody else knew about it.
  I wrote other essays (click on Barča’s name below among the tags) about their possible future and on literature-theoretical questions arising from the observation that literature characters, both on film and in book, have their own feelings and emotions, their own thoughts and dreams, no matter what the author, the actor, anyone else wants or is aware of. An everyday experience with my own in-book daughters and sons.
  But later I discovered there is more in the series. All thirteen episodes were shortened in the Hungarian translation by several minutes (both that one and the original one are or were uploaded to the net), and the complete series was, originally, longer by an hour than the one I know. And I became curious about details of Barča’s and Jitka’s life, and of others, yet unseen. So began learning their language.
  I was raised up in a close contact with both Czech and Slovak. They were and are my favorite Slavic languages. Their movies and TV productions were aired those times frequently, we old movie maniacs all know Czechoslovakian actors, directors, everyone in the trade just like Hungarians and Americans. Lots of books were translated and available, my shelves still carry a lot of them, both physical and virtual. So, I was in near contact with both languages. Never had any difficulty with pronunciation, always knew a few words and had some basic grasp of the grammar – but everything important being translated, I never needed a real knowledge of either language. Until discovering this series wasn’t completely translated. I decided I want to understand them. Being sick most of the time, studies went very slowly for about a year, then completely stopped, but I hope I can continue it. How am I learning? Mostly from movies and TV series, My všichni školou povinní among them, randomly picking a moment somewhere and listening. Most of them are available in Hungarian, too, so I can get a grasp about what are they saying, then I take a dictionary (mostly Wiktionary) to learn the words I don’t know. I have a few books, too: a grammar written in English, a very bad language book in Hungarian, and some novels downloaded. The method is the same. Reading something, and trying to understand it.


That’s a much younger story. My contact with the Baltic languages was always minimal, never knew their movies or literature, nothing. I knew the alphabet only, could pronounce read text correctly for ages, that’s all. And found both Latvian and Lithuanian beautiful always, but that’s not enough to think about learning a language, I feel many languages beautiful.
  Didn’t think what will come last summer when browsing among music on Youtube and found several variants of a Finnish folk song, Ievan polkka. The version I liked best was sung by five little Latvian girls: NANDO. I watched the video many times, then other songs of theirs, and began writing about them (click on their name below). For the first case in my life, forty-five years old, I found myself a fan of a singing group, and I love it.
  Ieva’s polka is the only song they sing in Finnish, a few in English and the rest in Latvian. It was easy to translate some of the songs at a rough level, the lyrics can be found on the net, and there is Google Translate and online dictionaries. And I found very interesting thoughts in the lyrics. Wrote articles on them, and remembered words of course. Even invented an abbreviation for what I was doing, ULAS, Unintentional Language Acquisition from Songs. I did it many times before, I’ve learned a lot of Romani from songs, a little Welsh, Gaelic, Greek etc. So with Latvian. Didn’t take it more seriously for about half a year. How could I? I was learning another language still.
  However, I still loved Latvian, found it beautiful, a fairytale language, and liked the fact everybody in Europe understands Latvian. Nearly all words can be traced back to common ancestors with the vocabulary of Western European languages, or if not, then of Slavic ones. OK, the connection is sometimes a bit unworldly like the one between zaķis, rabbit, and Hibernia, the Latin name for Ireland.
  Then, just a few days ago, NANDO announced they’re nominated for another award. They’re harvesting awards. I was curious for the rivals and began looking for other Latvian singers. The result was so stunning once I said I’m going to stop listening to music originating outside of Latvia, having no reason to. But my ears are still tuned in harmony with those five little girls.
  And finally I decided ULAS is no longer enough. There are deeper thoughts in those songs that kind of learning, I mean, getting acquainted for, would be enough for a real understanding of, so, now I want to learn Fairytale language as well.
  The method is the same as with Czech, except that instead of movies, there are the songs. I have a book I luckily scanned two years ago, a very boring book again, though.