July 12, 2010 by jessperriam
I have been in Albania for just over 24 hours and already I probably know and understand more Albanian than I do Egyptian Arabic and Turkish combined.
It’s not hard to understand why when you’re in the country with someone who is just coming to grips with the language themselves.
Amy and I go way back… ok only about three years. But we lived together for a year when I was being a
paid tourist baby online producer with training wheels on with the ABC in Orange, New South Wales. She’s pretty much the best big sister a girl who doesn’t have a real sister could have.
Amy’s taken an enormous step and become a missionary in Gramsh, Albania and she’s six months into a two year stint. And she speaks great Albanian (that’s coming from a complete non-Albanian speaker).
Compared to Egypt and Turkey where others (being tour leaders, locals who’ve adopted you) speak the local language for you, Amy has been speaking, explaining and teaching me at the same time.
The best example of the language experience so far? Well it wouldn’t be a post on Mediterranean travel if we didn’t have gratuitous references to the World Cup (I promise it’s the last post with football references).
We were watching the game in the courtyard of a bar in Tirana. I was exhausted from a massive party celebration in Istanbul the night (or morning) before but I kept awake because my Protestant work ethic demands that I see things though to the bitter end. Or else. I was going to see that game because I said I would.
There was beer (I can now add Tirana beer to my list of exotic beers tried and tested), there was ice cream and there was a lack of explanation of how the game would work if it was nil all at full time. But there was a language lesson to be had.
Po is Albanian for ‘yes’. It’s pronounced how’s it’s written – like Po out of the Teletubbies. An example of how it would be used in a sentence? “Po! Po! Sneijder has outrun the Spaniards and looks like he can line up an easy goal!”
Jo is Albanian for ‘no’. In Albania they say the letter ‘J’ like a ‘Y’. So you say no as ‘yo’. Yes, I realise if an Albanian read my name, they would say ‘yes’. Using it in a sentence? “Jo! Jo! The Spanish goalie cannot be that prepared for that surprise running moment of awesome!”
And ‘oh bo bo’ is Albanian for ‘oh no’. The ultimate disappointment… well not quite that harsh. So… “Oh bo bo, I can’t believe he missed such an easy shot at goal’ would be your everyday usage of the phrase.
But don’t go thinking that Albanian is all mono-syllabic awesome times. The word for ‘thank you’ is ‘falemnderit’. Now that’s a tongue twister.
As I write on Amy’s laptop, there are a few dozen post-it notes with little nuggets of Albanian grammar and vocabulary on them. Little does she know I’ve just added another one to the mix.