Wednesday, 9 August 2017


The Albanians...

Hello and welcome to my newest blog post. Today, I'll try to answer everyone's most important question - where to find Albanians.

Say you've mastered enough grammar and vocabulary to roughly survive in Albania a few weeks (I'm talking about Albania only here, Kosovo is another story as their dialect is quite different). You know how to order a coffee, how to understand the menu and order in the restaurant, how to ask for directions to your hotel... but you have only that book knowledge, nothing else. Where on Earth could you find someone to practice with?

Now that is the hard part. Except the obvious answer (in Albania, Kosovo or the neighbouring countries), there are quite a lot Albanians living abroad and usually if you know one, you could meet the whole community in your city, if you want. If you're like me though (a girl living abroad alone without her family), that may be a bit risky, depends on the person in question (don't get me wrong, what I mean is that usually Albanians are very family-oriented and used to living with their parents, so the whole concept of you going abroad by yourself seems a bit awkward). I still have no answer as for why the guys form very wrong opinion of me (but I usually keep my strong card of knowledge hidden). But say you don't live in a "popular" country and you can't meet anyone, except by some chance.

Your second best option is to go on Facebook and join some learner groups. In that way you could a) keep your motivation to learn the language strong as you'll probably meet other learners and b) you could meet Albanians who would be willing to help you learn, or at least willing to answer any questions you may have at that point. If your language level is higher, you could try some Albanian groups in Albanian and try understanding what they talk about, plus they tend to describe good language points in them. Or you could even ask a question, being brave enough.

I have met quite a lot people in different language exchange places (like Interpals or HelloTalk), but I find it hard to find someone who is genuinely interested in practising (I usually offer help with English due to being fluent), and not in hitting on you, if you're a girl, especially one who learns a rare language. It's definitely not impossible, it just takes time and nerves to judge who is worth your time. Another very good option is to ask someone you know to introduce you to a friend of them - in my experience, friends of friends are always the better option, especially if you trust your friend in the first place. You could also try language exchange groups in your city, if there are such (like Meetup).

Now, don't get me wrong - I am the living proof of someone who loves the country and the culture, but has had very disappointing experiences in the past. But I've had very good ones too - so as everything, it really depends on the person in question. So good luck with your search, and I hope that I managed to give you a few ideas of how you could meet people to practice with too.

P.S. The first Albanian I met... it was very unexpected and in person. I've never thought that I'll end up here, knowing everything I learned by myself, writing a blog about it and battling the prejudices of people who think that I'm wasting my time instead of learning something "useful" like German or Spanish. I'm not ideal, but I achieved that level of knowledge using all resources I could find, and I even translate from/to Albanian in my free time (although my translations are still far from ideally fluent). Nothing is impossible if you really want it.

You just have to love what you do.

Monday, 31 July 2017


The music...

Hi and welcome to one of my favourite topics - today, I'll share with you my experience about Albanian music. As a Balkan girl, I've grown up loving the beat and the oriental sound of more of the music of this region. It is very specific - and although many artists recently have started producing music for a broader audience, the "original" Balkan one has very specific sound. I'm not talking about traditional music here - more about the pop/hip-hop/R'n'B one.

Every morning/evening when I drive to/from work, I love playing something. I am a fan of singing along (although I'm far from becoming a singer myself), and one of the "tasks" I like doing is to try and figure out what is being sung in the songs I love. The more I listen to them, usually the more I understand (no cheating looking at the lyrics). I put aside Macedonians like Tuna and Adrian Gaxha, because as much as I love them, they sing in a far too "alien" dialect for me. I put aside Kosovar rap too, as it is too hard to get (and let's face it, most rap is meaningless in general, as long as there is a rhyme - although I love some songs, it's just out of my league).

A piece of advice - Albanian music is very bad "teacher" when you first begin learning the language. It took me probably around a year or so to start getting fully the meaning of some songs - the reasons are two. First, as a language, Albanian has the most non-unified use I've seen - some singers sing in Gheg, some in Tosk, some in something in the middle, and others in very specific dialects from Macedonia/Kosovo/Montenegro etc. It is very, very rare to get a "proper" Albanian song (I'd suggest some later, keep reading). And second, the online lyrics sometimes are horrific - having missing ë's, having missing letters, having extra letters or pretty much requiring some knowledge in general to figure it out. I personally have started getting some simple Gheg phrases that they use often, but again, it took me years.

My first "introduction" to this beautiful country and music was by an Albanian I used to be close to a couple of years ago - one of the first songs I remember was this one:

As most of the Balkan songs, the main "topics" are usually love, hate and having fun. The lyrics of the one above are rather meaningless (let's dance on the table, drink on the table and so on). If you've ever been to the Balkans, you'd recognize that it is pretty much the standard party night out in the club - the beat is great though, and I just love Ermal. Others doing music in that "style" are Sinan Hoxha, Ermal as I mentioned,  Sabiani & Marseli, and Flori.

Another one of the old but gold ones from my first steps in Albanian is this one: 

(Off topic: I'd love to visit Ohrid lake, but by the looks of it, it won't be this year).
Again, the topic is pretty much a huge party, they have much money so they want to burn it down, set the place on fire, don't want to hear about problems and so on. Pretty catchy beat!

I personally think that these singers are very good, and they make a very nice music. I try not to get too "deep" into the lyrics, as the beat is just very dance-y and it gives you a good mood. I recently stumbled upon the new song of Enca, which I really like:

Now, Enca has always been very controversial - many people don't approve the fact she's very young, but she dresses in a very provocative way and wears lots of make up. I personally like her voice (and hair), but she signed a contract with Universal and it's targeting a broader audience, which is admirable. As for her new song Ciao... well, don't ask about the lyrics (if you're curious, a translation of mine is available here, any corrections are more than welcome!), as you guessed it right, she is singing about having a wild party and how she wants to drink. Popular topic, isn't it?

If you want to hear songs in a "proper" Albanian, my first recommendation is Alban Skënderaj - he has very beautiful voice, beautiful ballads and very proper Albanian lyrics (suggestions - Mirëmëngjes, 1000 premtime, Duart lart, Unë dhe ti, and many more). Then I have an old Enca song - E ke rradhen ti (it has lyrics on screen, so very handy!). Then I have Mentor Haziri with his song EngjellLamtumirë, one of my favourites too. Elvana Gjata also has some very good and "proper" songs - for example Love Me, Afër dhe larg, Njesoj. And lastly in this list - Më fal.
(Of course, this is far from a complete list, but I could add new and new songs until tomorrow!)

That's it from me for now, hope you enjoyed this post. When you practice listening daily, it helps a lot for your understanding, so if you haven't done so - try it!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Jam këtu përsëri... shpresoj që do të jetë për më shumë këtë herë

I'm here again... I hope it will be for longer this time

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. I must admit that I am pretty bad at keeping timetables or working by lists, and my enthusiasm for things usually comes and goes.

The truth is that I have put my Albanian learning at the background for a while - I have started a new full time job and there are quite a lot of things to be taken care of, so somehow it just slipped through. I haven't forgotten it completely though, it's just a learning "as you go" without any particular dedication per day or something like that.

I plan to return to my reviews, hopefully I won't give up that easily this time *sigh* Fingers crossed.

I'd like to use this post to give you a few updates on my own progress during the last few months.
- I've somehow managed to finish the "Discovering Albanian" Memrise course (consisting of 1850 words, most of them with pronunciation). I loved it, the only problem is that some words in the reviews are not very well selected and have more than one correct answer (and I usually choose the "wrong" one, although it's not wrong technically!)
- I've returned to the Discovering Albanian textbook, and I'm up to lesson 15. Learning the vocabulary definitely helped a lot, although as I said already, making to-do lists is not one of my strengths and I am very spontaneous as a person. So I'll finish it off eventually, one day.
- As I drive to work every day, I usually play music from my phone - it made me an impression that I have actually increased my own amount of listening and understanding of the songs I like (no cheating reading/knowing by heart the lyrics).
- I started catching up some more common Gheg words/expressions, and I have also started to "guess" the meaning of some words (only if they're not far too different though). I consider that a huge achievement due to the fact that I'm teaching myself and I rely pretty much on music (and lyrics found online, some of them very badly written).
- I started translating/writing in Albanian more; I also started searching for people to speak with, but haven't found anyone for a long period of time yet, probably because I'm not very consistent.
- I love "overhearing" (or whatever the equivalent is of listening to others' conversations) random Albanians whenever I hear them on the street - my heart always skips a beat as I consider that a huge achievement. I used to have an Albanian housemate up until a year ago, and I didn't understand almost anything he was saying to whoever he was speaking with. Luckily for me, I live in an area where the Eastern European population is not scarce, so there is a good chance to listen and try to understand.
- I've discovered a few Facebook groups (review of them in some other post) - both for learners and for Albanians. I love reading what people say, and especially trying to understand what someone is asking entirely in Albanian without cheating.
- I've been working on my pronunciation and I hope to finally manage to get l, ll, r and rr right as they should be.

That's all I could think of. I plan to come back and continue with reviewing some of the most helpful resources in my opinion, so stay tuned!

Natën e mirë!

Sunday, 19 February 2017


I was dreaming...

Hey, I haven't come around for a while, but I've been really busy lately as I started a new full-time job and I still try to sort out my time... which sadly is not dedicated as much to my Albanian learning as I would like. But today I got inspiration as I stumbled upon a really beautiful song I wanted to share...

(excuse me if the formatting still looks bad at some places, I tried to fix it to match, but Blogger hates me today :/)

Ëndërroja t'jem me ty dhe të ndërtoj një ardhmëri // I was dreaming that I'm with you and that I'm having a future
Fluturoja si një flutur por krahët mi theve ti // I was flying like a butterfly, but you broke my wings
S'kam më forcë as të them "kthehu përsëri"! // I don't have more strength even to say "come back again"!
(The whole translation by me is here... I feel like I have to practice my skills so I don't forget it sometimes, haha)

So today's topic of the discussion is one of the past tenses - imperfect. Which, in my opinion, is actually the easiest one as it's probably the only one that has only 3 irregulars - jamkam and them. I still have such a hard time trying to process all the different classes and subclasses of verbs in the other two past tenses in the indicative mood, and I actually found out that learning them one by one is probably the only way to do that. I like the imperfect as it's fairly straightforward, plus it forms the conditional "would" (do të + imperfect), which is used quite a lot too. The only peculiarity is that some verbs change stem, otherwise the endings are always ja, je, (n)te, nim, nit and nin for anything other than class 6 (reflexives). Regarding them, the endings are (h)esha, (h)eshe, (h)ej, (h)eshim, (h)eshit, (h)eshin. The n/h ones in the brackets are used only if the stem ends in a vowel - easy and straightforward, almost as nothing else in this language!

As a person, I love reading, I even found a children's book sometime ago in a second hand bookstore here, but I still don't feel confident enough to understand it mainly because the past tenses give me a headache. I feel the lack of good resources there, as it's always covered "for a bit" in the books, and always at the end, not giving you enough practice - probably if a higher level book existed, it would be amazing!

Talking about books, verb-wise I'd personally recommend "541 Albanian verbs" by Bruce Hintz and Rozeta Stefanllari - while it doesn't cover absolutely everything, it's still a good base and it has some of the most popular verbs for you to learn.

Probably I should have started with the present, but hey, I just like to discuss whatever impressed me in some way, or whatever I feel like sharing some knowledge about. There are many, many other things that I would love to write about, I hope I will have some more time in the near future.

Natën e mirë, shpresoj që të shkruajmë së shpejti!

Friday, 3 February 2017


The time

Ky është posti im i parë në shkurt. As I always like to learn the things with prepositions, the times expressions have always been so confusing to me, as pretty much every case uses a different one. I'll take a look not only at the clock-time, but also some expression that indicate time.

The easiest one - no preposition.
Sa është ora? Ora është dy. Ora është gjashtëmbëdhjetë e një çerek. Ora është tetë e njëzet. Ora është dhjetë pa dhjetë, etc.
As far as I know, usually the 24 hours system is used (not for formal occasions though, like airport times etc, then it's 12 hours system), to avoid confusion whether you talk about 8 in the morning or 8 in the evening. However, there are 5 expressions that help you to specify what time of the day is exactly, these are:
(ora është dymbëdhjetë) e ditës - 12 noon (literally, of the day)
(ora është katër e dhjetë) e pasdites - 4 PM (literally, of the afternoon)
(ora është gjashtë) e mbrëmjes  - 6 PM (literally, of the evening) - as far as I know, that one depends on when the sun sets, so probably in the summer can be "e pasdites" instead of "e mbrëmjes"
(ora është dymbëdhjetë) e natës - 12 midnight (literally, of the night)
(ora është tetë) e mëngjesit - 8 AM (literally, of the morning) - morning is considered the time the sun rises, so again, in the summer some hours may become "e mëngjesit" instead of "e natës"

Please note that they still do not have a preposition - "e" is a linking article, part of the genitive case, so they're still following the rule.

Another preposition-less case is when you answer the question "Sa është data sot?" or "Ç'datë është sot?" or "Çfarë date është sot?" - the answer is "Sot është 3 shkurt 2017".

Të is not a preposition either, it's again a linking article, but I'm separating it from the previous one. Të is used mainly for the days of the week to say "on Monday, on Sunday" etc. What you're literally saying is "THE Monday" - the days of the week have an genitive "e" in front of them, which is a "leftover" for "ditë e hënës", and dita was later omitted..
So Të hënën shkoj në punë. This means that I go only this Monday though, if you want to say I go to work all Mondays, then it is Të hënave shkoj në punë. Here we meet two different cases - the first one (on Monday) is accusative (in case you wonder, it answers the question "when", and if I'm not mistaken, it should be a direct object). Të hënave is either genitive or dative because of its ending (I'm not that huge expert on the grammar and I honestly don't know, but I lean towards the genitive because of the linking article).
I used only Monday, but it's the same logic for every day: e hënë - Monday, të hënën - on Monday, të hënave - on Mondays, it can also be seen as e hëna when following the preposition nga (from), or when it's the subject of the sentence (what does that mean and what is a nominative case, you can remind yourself here).

For me, that word has always been a mystery, as it has so many different uses... Regarding the time, it's used to say "on" a specific day, for example më 3 shkurt 2017. Or më 10 korrik 2016. And so on. The only use is to specify the date - and actually to say you're born on some day, you use it again - jam lindur më 10 janar 1985.
Here is a sentence combination of the previous 2 - I was born on Saturday, 7 April 2000 - jam lindur të shtunën, më shtatë prill dy mijë.
is also used in the combination "më datë" - on the date - më datë 29 shtator 1983. Popular one when some kind of history is described.

Now that is the proper preposition. Pretty much it's used for everything else that hasn't been already covered, so I call it almost universal. Learning the exceptions, it should be easy to "guess" it right. Some examples:
in January, March, August - në janar, në mars, në gusht
in 2015 - në 2015/në vitin 2015/në 2015-ën
in the summer, in the winter - në verë, në dimër
in the summer of 2015 - në verën e vitit 2015
on the date 3 February - në datën 3 shkurt
at 10 o'clock - në orën dhjetë

It's also used in a combination with "nga" to indicate "from... to" - the trick here is that the word after "nga" is nominative definite, and after "deri (në)" is accusative definite. (is usually used for hours, and it's the accusative noun is definite because it carries extra information, but I'll write a prepositions post at some point). For example:
I work from Monday until Friday - Punoj nga e hëna deri të premten.
I work from 9AM until 5PM - Punoj nga ora nëntë deri në orën pesë.
I'll live there from 2017 until 2019. - Do të banoj atje nga viti 2017 deri vitin 2019.
And so on.

That's everything I can think about at the moment, thank you for reading. I wish I could post a bit more often, but please bear with me as I'm in a process of staring a new job next week and my birthday is a few weeks away too, so I can say I'm pretty busy in my real life, although I learn Albanian everyday, even for a few minutes. Consistency is a key, it helps a lot.

Oh, and I made the mistake to switch to half-translated by Google Translate Albanian Facebook, but that's a topic for another fun post. Hopefully I'll have time to write about it soon too.

Kujdesi për vetën, mirë u shkruafshim së shpejti.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Mënyra dëshirore

The Optative Mood

Mire se vini, today I'm going to take a look at one of my favourite peculiarities in the Albanian language - the optative mood. Thinking about it, I'd say that one of the first things everyone learns is "mirupafshim" - while it's a way to say "goodbye", it's actually a wish! Will take a closer look at it in a bit.

First, what is the optative mood - it's a mood which Albanians use to express wishes (or curses), and it literally translates as "may I/you/he etc. do something". While we have a really similar one in Bulgarian, it definitely doesn't have that widespread function as it is here - so it was something old and new at the same time for me. As a friend of mine first described it to me, it's "the -(f)sha tense". These endings are actually the endings of the first person singular forms of the verbs. It can be used in any person, depending on whom you address it towards. The extra -f is added if the root of the past tense/past participle ends in a vowel. (Hard grammatical stuff here, I won't be able to explain that well, as it depends on the "regularity" of the past simple and the past participle of each verb) So let's take a look at a few examples, which you may find helpful. (all examples are in the informal/friendly you)

U bëfsh 100 vjeç(e) - typical birthday wish. It's used to say "Happy birthday", but it actually means "may you become 100 years old" (some people live more, but probably in Albania it's considered amazing to turn 100, will have to ask haha). The informal/colloquial speech skips "u bëfsh" and you can see something like "edhe 100 vjeç(e)" instead. (Thank you, Facebook!)
Kalofsh mirë - Have a good time (but literally means "may you pass your time well")
Të bëftë mirë - used to say "Bon appétit", but in fact it means "may it comes well to you"
Paç fat - good luck (may you have luck)
Rrofsh - mainly used as a way to say "thank you", which translates literally as "may you live long"
Vdeksha për ty - that one is a romantic one, I'd die for you (may I die for you)

And, of course, mirupafshim. Literally, you're saying may we well see each other - if you take a closer look, it's consisting of mirë - good, u - reflexive particle that means self, and pafshim, which is the optative first person plural of shoh. As there is an "u" in front of the verb, that indicates that the verb is reflexive, thus is shihem (to see each other), not shoh (to see).

Another way to say "if, whether", except nëse is në qoftë se - may it be in that (way). But it always sounds so formal to me, although its use is interchangeable, as far as I know.

The optative can be used in negative sentences with "mos", and it again can be used to express positive wishes:
Mos vdeksh kurrë - may you never die.
Mos paç më të këqija - don't have bad luck (may bad things not happen to you)

And a huge part of the Albanian swearing is converted in that mood too (which I'll not cover here today) - remember, wishes or curses. A way to be inventive is to wish someone something, probably. Just take a look the next time if you meet any of the -fhs- verbs, they use them A LOT.

There is also a past perfect optative, used mainly in conditional clauses. I haven't found a grammar explaining that properly yet though, just bits and pieces, and everything I know about it is from short coverage of it in books, my friend and YouTube lessons. Probably it's considered a higher than a beginner level, that's why no book has a good explanation and exercises on it. But learning that is so helpful, as you begin to see the patterns in so simple words.

Kjo ishte diçka për sot, shpresoj që t'ju ndihmoj. Faleminderit për vëmendjen dhe... mirupafshim. Shkrofshim së shpejti.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Book review: Discovering Albanian by Linda Mëniku and Héctor Campos

Mirëmbrëma and welcome to my first ever book review.

So, Discovering Albanian 1. I must say that this is one of the best resources out there for almost complete beginners, and one of the few textbooks that are available for English speakers.
The biggest pro of it is that it comes with a workbook and an audio recording of all dialogues, readings and new words. So if you're a grammar geek that loves the old fashioned way of writing and correcting yourself, then this book is great for you. Plus, there is a Memrise course available for it that consists of all the 1850 words in the books, as I already mentioned in this post.

I started it as almost beginner, with no formal background in the language, except few expressions/words that I heard and knew from the Albanians around me. Now, I'm going over it for the third time (once reading only, once with the dialogues and now with the workbook, although I still haven't finished it as I don't have time). I've supplemented the words with another Memrise course, the 763 most popular Albanian words. I'll be honest with you - that book is good if you know the grammatical structure of a language close to Albanian, which is... pretty much none of the existing ones. What I mean is that you'll most probably go over it a few times, if you start from the scratch like I did.

There are two huge problems I've discovered and encountered with the Albanian books for English speakers. The first one is that there are no structured resources available after A2 level (when you finish the first level books) - they're either grammars, which require you to do extra research, or put too much information in a rather concise paragraph,, or Albanian schoolbooks, which require you to have reading knowledge in order to understand. Or you can discover whatever you want yourself by searching about it in grammars/reading in Albanian/watching TV etc.

The other big problem is that the book are not suitable for complete self-study beginners - not that you can't try it, it's just that the material goes forward rather fast. To gasp all aspects of something you have to practice it, but when practising, you encounter new and new grammar. Probably because these books are made to be taught by a real teacher. For example, I still struggle with the past tenses because they're structured in the book one after the other with not enough exercises to practice and learn the irregular forms of one, before jumping to the next.

Sneak peak at what's on the book as content: all the cases, definite/plural forms of nouns, linking articles, adjectives (both classes), the 6 verb classes, verb tenses: present, present subjunctive, present continuous, future, imperative, past, imperfect, imperfect subjunctive and present perfect, present perfect subjunctive, pluperfect, future perfect, numbers, direct/indirect pronouns, commonly used prepositions, impersonal forms, passive forms, possessives. Probably I'm missing something too, but it does cover a huge part of the basics and the language itself. The problem is that you may have it as theory, but putting it into practice is another topic.

Putting the too much grammar issue, the book gives a clear understanding of at least the most common verbs, nouns and so on, with real life situations that will help you for example to book a room in a hotel, to buy fruits and vegetables from the market, to ask for a different size shoes in the shop... what I really enjoyed is that after each chapter there is a cultural info about Albania, which I found really educating and it prompted me to research topics I liked myself. There is also a concise grammar at the end of the book that I still use as a reference point, as it's written in tables, so the information you're looking for it's easy to find.

There are a few exercises after each grammar point/reading/dialogue (usually there are 2 grammar points in a chapter, and 2 dialogues, plus at least 1 reading later on), which have their answers at the end of the book, so you can try yourself and then correct the answers. The textbook has even more for further practice.

The audio is nice, they speak rather slowly and clearly, so you can hear all the sounds. It becomes "more natural" when the book goes on, but I've learned that trying to imitate the natives' accent always helps. So try to learn the new words and read out loud with the speaker, it helps a lot. I've found that in an isolated environment (i.e. any, except if you're living in either Albania or Kosovo - the Albanians abroad tend to live in a community and know each other, rarely speak very well any other language, let alone more than one, plus I have no idea why, but it makes them have a really low opinion of you if you say you're from the Balkans and you're a girl; I've also seen [or rather, heard on the street] only 2 Albanian girls for almost 3 years and a half, and lots and lots of guys. Maybe it's just me, but that's a topic for another discussion), the "imitation" of their accent is the one that helps you the most to learn to pronounce words correctly, as there is nobody to correct you all the time, or you have really little chance to speak to anyone, unless you're having many Albanian friends. In this way you get used to the sounds, the letters, how the language sounds with the stresses (you start guessing them right after a while).

I'll be honest with you - the last chapter has 3 writing excercises to fill in the gaps, one for nouns/adjectives, one for verbs, one for pronouns, which I still haven't done, as I didn't feel like I had the right knowledge back then. As I mentioned, I still haven't finished my third time with that book, so probably now I'll be able to make them in an ok way. The thing is that everytime you go over that book, you continue to learn new and new things. So you have to be really determined and patient, because the more you know, the easier it becomes.

Now, people study in a different way - I'm the old-fashioned student that loves to read, write and gasp all the grammar aspects, in order to start writing and speaking. I have to know WHY - and I ask questions that sometimes are hard to explain/understand even for natives, I have a talent. If you're the other type that just listens a lot and can say lots of different combinations of the words they know, even if they're not many, then learn in your own way. I've always been awful for learning vocabulary unless I put it in context, so I gave up on the latter way a long, long time ago.

That's it for now, hope it's not that bad.

Faleminderit për vëmendjen, mirupafshim!