TRACEY NICHOLS, USA
My first visit to Split and Croatia in general was in December 2007 and I stayed for one month. Despite the cold weather and as a result lifeless city it was a fun and exciting first time in Split filled with lots of new, interesting people and memorable experiences. I loved everything about it, but the language. However, my dislike of Croatian language really had nothing to do with the language itself, but was strictly due to the fact that I couldn’t speak it. Okay maybe it had a little to do with the language since everyone says it’s ranked the third hardest in the world after Russian and Mandarin and I knew it would that much harder for me to learn how to speak it. I came back to Croatia in June of 2008 and this time stayed for five months and became increasingly frustrated with the language or rather my lack of knowledge of it and inability to speak or understand it. I officially moved to Croatia in January of 2009 and immediately started studying Croatian at the Filozofski Fakultet in Split in an attempt to solve this problem.
It is definitely true that Croatian is a very hard language to learn, but through my university courses I have significantly improved my knowledge of it and consequently my quality of life in Croatia. For the past two semesters I have studied Croatian three hours each day and four days a week and learned not only the necessary grammar structure, but also cultural and historical facts as well as useful information used in the everyday life of Croats. Luckily, I have a lot of Croatian friends and family here to help teach me the things I don’t or can’t learn in class, which really isn’t much, and obviously they are the best people with which to practice speaking. A month into my third semester I realize that the biggest problem I have with Croatian is a limited vocabulary and simply not speaking it enough. Unfortunately, foreigners trying to learn Croatian will find that most Croats speak practically perfect English due to their excellent primary school education system and exposure to English speaking films and music. I usually always feel more comfortable speaking in English with a Croat than in Croatian so I must force myself to feel uncomfortable in order to learn and progress. The first year of study was the worst, but it’s much easier now to understand and communicate with people in Croatia and as a result life is much more enjoyable here, just as it should be.
The city of Split is somewhat similar to my hometown of San Diego in California in that it has beaches, sunshine and nice weather, but that’s about as far as it goes. The lifestyle in Split is very different from the one I was used to in the states, but definitely not a bad one. When I first moved here I often found myself bored and restless since I was trained to always be doing something, producing somehow and, of course, consuming constantly. “All work and no play” is the appropriate motto and a ‘live to work’ mentality is not only acceptable where I come from, but often expected. So switching my mindset to a Split one, which insists that you enjoy life to the fullest, was not automatic, but also not unwelcomed. As I mentioned, people in Split enjoy life. They enjoy the city with all it has to offer, they enjoy food and all the possibilities of preparing it, they enjoy music, especially when they are the ones singing it, and most importantly they enjoy people including; family, friends, or even foreigners. Whether I’m lounging on the beaches, strolling through the parks, exploring the downtown Diocletian’s Palace, sitting in a café bar or simply being with people, I definitely enjoy my life in Split and much more so since I started learning Croatian.
ANDRO ŠILJIĆ, COLOMBIA
Hace ya alrededor de un año estoy viviendo en Split. Mi intención inicial era aprender el idioma croata, una de las cosas que decidí hacer en mi vida, ya que esto significaba descubrir una parte de mi historia debido a mis raíces.
Ahora estoy cursando mi segundo semestre en Croatica, comencé con muy poco conocimiento del idioma, pero a pesar de que el idioma croata no es fácil y tiene una gramática bastante diferente al español, entre clases y el diario vivir comienzas a comunicarte y cada vez más fluido, casi sin darte cuenta. Pero para mi sorpresa, este tiempo no ha sido solamente el idioma lo que he aprendido, sino la experiencia de conocer la cultura y las costumbres croatas además de otras experiencias de vida.
Split es una ciudad tranquila, relativamente pequeña, por lo menos en mí caso que venía de una ciudad de aproximadamente 4 millones de habitantes. Esto en principio fue un cambio bastante brusco de estilo de vida, además del sentimiento de que dejas parte de tu vida allá. (Familia, amigos, trabajo, habitos, etc.), pero poco a poco y sin mucho esfuerzo te vas adaptando a las nuevas costumbres, claro que no es muy difícil adaptarse a ellas. Por ejemplo una muy típica, sentarte en la ”Riva” y disfrutar de un café mientras a un lado disfrutas del maravilloso mar croata y al otro lado la arquitectura del centro de Split que tiene más de 1500 años.
Por muchas cosas que solo puedes aprenderlas viviéndolas, mi experiencia en Croacia no solo a enriquecido mi conocimiento en el idioma sino también mi forma de ser y de experimentar la vida.