On Friday just a few weeks ago, young Latvian Americans with a determination to learn the language of their grandparents travelled to Rota in New York’s Catskill Mountains for an intensive weekend of learning Latvian as a second language. ALJA has been able to provide stipends to a few of the participants in support of their journey. Stipend recipient Liana Pangburn has shared with us her reflections and impressions:
Pirms dažām nedēļām, Amerikas latvieši ar gribu iemācīties vecvecāku valodu satikās Rotā Ņujorkas Katskiļu kalnos uz intensīvu latviešu valodas mācības nogali. ALJA atbalstīja četrus jauniešus ar stipendijām šai nogalei. Viena no stipendiju saņēmējiem, Liāna Pangburn, ir ar mums dalījusies viņas iespaidus un atmiņas no šī piedzīvojuma:
I went into the weekend not sure what to expect, and since my base knowledge was so limited, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t quite intimidated. I could say good morning, good night, hello, goodbye, please and thank you, (and a few select words from dance/culture) etc. but couldn’t tell you a thing about where I’m from, what I do, or even my name in Latvian. I had tried to teach myself as much as I could though books or online sources, but when even the sound the letters make is unknown, it’s an extremely difficult language to learn without some help.
My expectations were not high, mostly because I doubted how much I would be able to remember and apply. Friday evening began with simple icebreakers and a small introduction to letter pronunciation, which I was told for the first time that, unlike in english, french, or any number of other languages, ever single letter in Latvian is pronounced. Extremely helpful information, needless to say. It became even more helpful when we began to read vocabulary words and put sentences together on Saturday. After reading the alphabet and taking the time to practice pronouncing the difficult sounds, we launched into dialogues where we learned how to introduce ourselves and practice a 1 minute elevator pitch.
-Labrīt, mani sauc Liāna. Kā tevi sauc?
-Es piedzimu tūkstoš deviņi simti deviņdesmit piekā gadā Albānija.
-Es esmu architekte.
-Es dzīvoju Ņujorka.
-Man patīk slēpot.
-Mans mīļākais dzīvnieks ir kaķis.
Although it’s not a very interesting conversation or elevator pitch, I am excited to have a basis for understanding the rest of the language and that I certainly know a lot more than what I started the weekend with. I am hoping to use these skills to have another shot at the self-guided books, as soon as possible!
Perhaps my favorite part of the weekend, though, was unwinding after a day of learning at the bar downstairs. In an impromptu fashion, everyone started to dance to traditional folk songs; some people who had never danced before were even dragged in. No one could seem to exactly remember the steps, but it also didn’t seem to matter, and we were laughing too hard to care. It was a full weekend of bonding over a culture we all love, and I am truly hoping to get the opportunity to do it again soon.