Thursday, May 5, 2011

The following is a story I wrote a while back when we lived in Croatia. It's about my friends and I learning Croatian at a cafe. I thought it was appropriate to share with you at this time because I've been motivated to brush up on my Croatian and hopefully inspire Beli to do the same.  I invite you to stop by and read the article I wrote about our transition back to the States and how it has impacted our trilingual daughter, or should I say, bilingual???? 

"And the rooster goes Cockadoodle Doo!," exclaimed Peter.

We all spoke English well, with the exception of Clementino who insisted we speak only in CROATIAN--after all, it was in taking our Croatian class that we met one another. And we were all living in Croatia yet didn't speak the Croatian language.

One evening after class a few of my classmates and I decided it was time we got acquainted. We agreed to have coffee at the Cafe Luxor, an Egyptian-themed Italian restaurant located inside the Diocletian Palace. The cafe was luxurious and from the moment we stepped inside, we were embraced by the friendly waitress and consumed by the warmth of the cafe's atmosphere. She took our coats and offered us a table, "I will give you a few moments to look through the menu," she said in a polite and sweet tone. We looked around at the intoxicating interior design. Directly above us was a ceiling that resembled a small portion of the Sistine Chapel with angels floating on white fluffy clouds. "I wished I had my camera," I thought. A big black piano sat in the corner of the restaurant as someone wooed us with Italian music.

Our after-class meet up was very international: Peter was Canadian, Clementino was from Italy while his girlfriend Visnja, was Croatian. John was American--from New York--and me, well, from Mexico. Quite a diverse group, right?

We ordered drinks and began a conversation in English but Clementino interrupted, "Govori Hrvatski Jesik. Speak Croatian!" Easier said than done and I could see it by the expression on every one's face that I wasn't the only one who was worried. This was only our 3rd class. I wondered how to say, "This place is lovely." But I was lost in translation. We all stared at one another for what seemed like an eternity with no one saying a word. Silence. Then we heard, "So Peter how are you adjusting to life here in Split?," Visnja asked.

"Well, I really like the city...," Peter answered, but he was quickly interrupted by Clementino who again shouted, "GOVORI HRVATSKI!" And after several more minutes of awkward silence, the strangest thing occurred.

John: What's the sound of a dog, in Croatian?
Visnja: Vau-Vau
Peter: How about in Spanish?
Me: Guau-Guau
Clementino: Bau-Bau

This was fun. Adults at a cafe in Croatia making animal sounds over coffee. Then I got the question-asking bug and got in on the fun. "What about a rooster?," I asked. Everyone got a cheerful glee in their eyes and took turns.

Visnja: Cucu-riku
Peter: cockadoodle- doo
Me: Kiki-ri-ki
Clementino: Keek-a-ree -kee

We roared with laughter as we exchanged other animal sounds. People at the cafe thought we were crazy and we gave them reason when we began to sing Old Macdonald with each of us sounding out animal sounds in our native tongue. It went a little something like this:

Old MacDonald had a farm, Ee i ee i oh!
And on that farm he had some dogs, Ee i ee i oh!
With a woof-woof here and a vau-vau there,
here a guau, there a bau, Everywhere a guau-guau.
Old MacDonald had a farm, Ee i ee i oh!

It was an exciting and fun evening although the natives thought we were intoxicated. But we didn't want to stir trouble since we wanted to return to this cafe. We said good-night and good-bye and promised to do this again--minus the animal sounds but we couldn't make any concrete promises. So the next time you encounter someone who doesn't understand English very well, and you need to communicate with them, try animal sounds, it works every time! I'm not sure how that will work out in an emergency, but it'll be fun finding out!

What silly things have you and your friends done while in public?
By the way, Happy Cinco de Mayo!! 
I will be eating lots of salsa and chips! And you?
Jalapenos from our garden in Croatia. September 2010


  1. Ha! Ha! How fun is this post!!! ^_^ I could see you all sitting around singing Old MacDonald!...My friends and I have signed (sign-language) in public restaurants, and danced with waiters. But nothing like this! ^_^

  2. I have the same with Hungarian...hahah..Its such a hard language to learn! That story is so sweet. Thank you for sharing it with us! Hugs and kisses, darling

    Ps: I’m hosting a stunning Sima Gilady jewelry GIVEAWAY later today!

  3. Like your post Elisa (and article too):) I know this caffee in Split, it's so much beautifull!!
    It is amazing how Beli already knew three languages (I also find it very difficult). I spoke Spanish (not quite good as you since it's your native language, put preatty much good), so I know how it is hard when you translate some things in your head (and other things remains unspoken):) Hope you will learn some Croatian words!
    Nadam se da ćemo se vidjeti ako ikada budeš dolazila u blizinu Splita :) Kiss

  4. I love it! What a fun memory!

    Happy Cinco de Mayo to you, my dear. Have a wonderful day!

  5. just read your article over at the link....that's so fascinating! How awesome will that be when Beli grows up and knows 3 languages? Pretty awesome, I think.

  6. Elisa, your grammar is good, you'll learn it as the time pass :)Tnx for your feedback :)

    Besos :X

  7. @Poetess, thank you my friend, I also enjoyed reading your post today.

    @Diana, yes, grammar is a bit complicated to say the least.

    @Maja,I also hope to meet you in person when we are back in Split. Wow, you speak Spanish as well? that's neat!

  8. oh, I came accross your post on Cupofjoe blog (regarding the children's books). I am Croatian living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands together with my English boyfriend (whose parents are originally Indian...) and we have a little baby girl that is 6.5 months old. And we have decided to bring her up trilingual (Croatian-English-Dutch) and now I am already struggling as I want to read to her so many beautiful books that are in English and I am worried that I will confuse her as I read that I should only stick with "my language" if we want her to speak both and that we should not mix them up (i.e. I should not speak English or Dutch to her).

    I was looking for books on this subject but have not found many and the ones there are not really telling you how to handle things in practice, they are mainly theories....
    So, getting to talk to somebody who is actually dealing with the same language would be amazing!

    hope to hear back from you!


  9. how wonderful! it sounds like it tuned out to be a fun and spontaneous outing. amazing how language differences can get people together in so many ways.
    happy mother's days to you dear!

  10. I am TOTALLY going to try this with all of my international friends here, that is HILARIOUS!

  11. Elisa, this is so cute!! I love your writing and I enjoyed it so much! I will try this with my international friends, too! I think that will be so fun, just like Krystal said!

  12. What a sweet and lovely story! it's definitely a challenge living in a different country. Thanks for sharing.

    Rambles with Reese
    p.s. I'm having two giveaways on my blog this week.
    Have a great day!


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