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!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Emra, pjesë e parë - emrat e gjinisë femërore

Nouns, part one - the feminine nouns.

Mirëmbrëma, today I'll take a look at the nouns of the feminine gender. As you probably know, the nouns in Albanian are either masculine or feminine in both singular and plural forms (thus a single noun can have 2 different forms, one for singular and one for plural). Sometime ago, there was a third, neuter gender in the Albanian (as far as I know, mostly used for materials, parts of the body and substances), which turned into masculine, ending often in ë - examples include ujë, djathë, drithë... And these actually change their gender from masculine to feminine in plural as far as I know, but that's a topic for another discussion.

An advice for me - pay attention to the definite and the plural form of every new noun you learn. You'll be surprised how many ways of forming the plurals as exceptions exist, especially with the masculine nouns. Also, pay attention to the definite form, it's the best indicator about the noun's gender. Knowing these in the nominative will help you learn how to form the other cases, as a feminine indefinite noun (either singular or plural) is used as a base.

So the feminine nouns. Pretty easy to remember most of their unstressed forms (which in many cases are the same for both singular and plural), and they have rather easy plural/definite formation and recognition. They usually end in a vowel, whether stressed or unstressed. Compared to the masculine, they're more straightforward and with far less exceptions, that's why I started with them.
Definite forms: They divide in a few groups:
1). Ending in ë, and having definite form that changes ë to a: vajza, dita, nena, gota etc. Usually that's the main rule.
2). Ending in stressed i - add an -a to it: shtëpia, kutia, Shqipëria. In many cases the -i at the end of the nouns is stressed, I've seen it a lot more often than an unstressed I.
3). Ending in unstressed -e, replace it with -ja: shoqja, dritarja, lulja.
4). Ending in any unstressed vowel - add -ja: kafeja, gruaja.
5). Ending in -ër, -ërr, -ël, -ëll - drop the ë and add a: motra, letra, ëndrra.

Regarding the formation of the plural...
1). Most of the nouns that end in -i, -a, -e, -o, either stressed or unstressed, have the same form as the indefinite singular one: shtëpi, mace, shoqe, lule.
2). Most of the nouns that end in -ë change the -ë to a: gazeta, vajza, gota.
3). Some of the nouns ending in ë have the same form for singular and plural - these you must remember, but here are some: ditë,  gjuhë, javë, botë.
4). The ones that end in -ër, -ërr, -ël, -ëll again drop the ë and add a: motra, letra, ëndrra.
5). The last group are some irregular ones, these again should be learned - gra (grua), dyer (derë), net (natë) and so on.

The plural definite just add t (or të, if ending in stressed vowel) to the indefinite plural form.

So if you're pattern learner like me, you'll realize that most of the nouns have the same form in both their plural indefinite and their singular definite form. That was something that confused me a lot at first when I started studying, how to distinguish them. Here is the trick - in order to understand whether you talk about "the girl" or about "girls", for example, you should read the context and pay attention to the words around - are the verbs in plural? (if yes, it should be plural) Is that noun an action doer? (if yes, unless it's vajzat, then it's about the girl) These two should help you to get what it is about and hopefully - to understand it easier even when listening to the language.

That was the short "lesson" (not sure how to call it, I'm not too good at explaining, I just have my own ways of spotting patterns), hope you found it helpful.

Shihemi së shpejti!

Saturday, 21 January 2017


The numbers...

I've been really busy today, so I had no time to post the "yesterday's" post... however, here it is, better late than never!

The topic today is the numbers, which in fact are really easy regarding their formation, when you learn to count to 10. An interesting fact - no matter how many languages you know and how fluent you are in them, you'll always count subconsciously in your native language. It's faster and well, easier, I believe. But I've read that in Albanian knowing the numbers is important, especially the 1000s, as some people still quote the money in the old lek, which has one extra zero.

I also pay special attention to the numbers, as they confuse me in many languages (ugh, French = maths), and sometimes when people talk about something, it takes me too long to get the number. So I just practice.

So here are the numbers...
0 is "zero", pretty straightforward to remember (stress on O). 1 - një. 2 - dy. 3 - tre/tri (as far as I've seen, tri is user rather rarely; tre is the one used more, unless you count feminine nouns, or you say 30). 4 - katër. 5 - pesë. 6 - gjashtë. 7 - shtatë. 8 - tetë. 9 - nëntë. 10 - dhjetë. Try listening to their pronunciation around, to get used to it. Knowing them by heart is important for all the other numbers!

I, personally, still always confuse gjashtë with shtatë, as in my native language six sounds closer to the Albanian seven. I guess I do it subconsciously, the thing is that Memrise always gets me when I don't pay enough attention.

11 to 19 are formed by adding "-mbëdhjetë" (mbi dhjetë - literally, on ten) to the numbers from 1 to 9 - for example 11 is njëmbëdhjetë. That's a really interesting (I believe Balkan) feature, as there are a few languages forming these in such a "on ten" way - I know about the Balkan Slavic for sure. Also, note that the numbers are written with their respective end-of-the-word ë's, which get pronounced when in the middle of the word!

20 is njëzet and 40 is dyzet - both of them use an old measurement for 20 units, "zet". Other than that, the numbers from 21 to 99 are easy to form too. The "tens" (30, 50 and so on) are formed by adding "dhjetë" (ten) to the number - again something I've seen in other Balkan languages. 30 is tridhjetë though, using the feminine form of 3 - the only exception, all other numbers based on 3 form it with the masculine "tre". If you want to add a number after the tens, say 65, then you use "e" (and) to link them - gjashtëdhjetë e pesë. Pay attention that everything that "links" with the "e" is written separately, as opposed to some languages, which make them a whole word.

The word for a 100 is "njëqind", and all 100s follow the "-qind" pattern. What was hard for me was that while "one hundred" in English are two words, the Albanian ones are just one. The "linking" of any numbers following the hundred is the same, using the "e".

A thousand - një mijë. The first time these get "separate" from each other. I found it easy to remember as it reminds me of the word "mile" - and while a British mile equals around 1.6 kms, you get the idea, depends on which side you look at it. Then you also have million - një milion, billion - një miliardë, and so on. Actually the last two seem to share many similarities with the Balkan Slavic languages too.

As for the ordinals (first, second, third), they are pretty straightforward too. They always have linking article; the first 5 should be learned, the others form in the same way - just add a linking article in front of the number, and you have it!

First - i parë; second - i dytë; third - i tretë; forth - i katërt; fifth - i pestë.
Also, if the number doesn't end in të, you should add it - i dyzetë, i njëqindtë, i njëmijtë, i njëmiliontë, i njëmiliardtë. What's specific is that it actually now becomes a whole word. The ë is also dropped in from the -dhjetë or -qindtë or -mijtë ones, if it's a composed number, like 151th - i njëqindtepesëdhjetenjë. Good luck with pronouncing that (I personally can't and hope it won't be necessary to do so either!); I know it may look overwhelming, but practice makes perfect! If you like maths, try writing simple plus/minus equations to practice these. Like:
Sa bëjnë njëzet e një plus katër? Njëzet e një plus katër bëjnë njëzet e pesë.
Sa bëjnë dyqind e gjashtëdhjetë e shtatë minus njëqind e dyzet e tetë? Dyqind e gjashtëdhjetë e shtatë minus njëqind e dyzet e tetë bëjnë njëqind e nëntëmbëdhjetë.

You get my idea. Try reading them out loud and also writing them with letters, instead of writing the numbers. It's fun, you test yourself (you're always free to use a calculator too, the trick is to pronounce/write/get used to the numbers themselves, the answer doesn't matter), and you learn that the third person plural of bëj is bëjnë.

Oh, and by the way, the noun "numër" is masculine. These always confuse me, so I try to pay attention which is their right gender, as there are many -ër/-ërr that you have no way of recognising unless learning by heart.

Do të fle tani, natën e mirë dhe faleminderit për vëmendjen!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Çfarë ka në televizor sonte?

What is on the TV tonight?

One thing about me - I watch TV next to none, as I usually have no time for that and I read the news that interest me instead. But I try to be consistent with the Albanian one, as I think it greatly improved my listening so far. Actually, I believe it's a really good way for your ear to get used to the language, as well as to learn new words. The biggest challenge for me is to understand what something is about without concentrating on each and every word out there. I sometimes even play it while I do something else, just to listen to it, and I believe it helps a lot.

There is Albanian TV online, make sure you Google it! I personally love the news (on some channels only though, the popular ones like Top Channel, as it drives me crazy when people skip the correct writing, namely ë, in their news titles... I mean, you can't expect a learner to pronounce an unknown word right if you don't write it right, can you? Plus, you're pretending to be literate... guess not.) and the ads. Yes, you heard me right, I sometimes skip around the channels just to watch the advertisements - something that would annoy me in any other language I'm more familiar with. But they tend to talk a lot slower and less, compared to anything else, so it's interesting for me. Usually the news in any language are helpful to get used to the pronunciation. Sometimes, as I always have inspiration and usually also time during the night (as I work more day shifts compared to evening ones now), I get some really awkward discussion shows (we have the same in Bulgaria!), as they usually discuss interesting topics. I say awkward, as at one point the guests just try to talk at once and you lose track of who is saying what haha. I watched one about the flu a week ago, until that I-cannot-get-a-thing point.

The other really cool thing is to watch English movies with Albanian subtitles - there are so many movie channels, so you'll catch something. Of course, you have to be really proficient in English listening to benefit fully from it, as sometimes they talk quite fast, but it's always interesting for me to see how they translate some sentences (or skip words or even sentences, haha!)

And of course, music. But the singers who don't sing in any Gheg variation are really few (will review some of them in another post), so usually the ballads are better for understanding what they sing. However, I'd recommend improving your listening via songs only if you have the basic knowledge of the language already, as the online lyrics tend to be written wrongly, with so many mistakes, like q instead of ç, c instead of ç, unnecessarily skipped/written as "e" ë's and so on (ok, I'm becoming a bit of a perfectionist here, but I do correct Albanian lyrics, and sometimes it takes me ages to get what they're trying to sing, based on their accent and the wrong version I have in front of me - let alone understanding it to translate it later... But I love the ë, although it's a strange letter that doesn't get pronounced in so many cases - but I think it's really important to learn, write and pronounce it correctly! It changes the whole meaning of the words sometimes - like mjeke - female doctor(s) and mjekë - male doctors. Or me - with and më - to me. It also took me AGES to get that "ktu" actually means "këtu". Fun times!). It helps if you have an idea what the correct "version" of the songs are, and if you're not listening to some singers that no dictionary can understand. I actually love Albanian music, I just believe it's not a good learning tool, as opposed to some other languages with more "official and unified" use that use any dialects/slang in specific cases only.

As you can see, I'm working really hard on my pronunciation at the moment (because l, ll, r and rr drive me crazy! It's so hard to do a soft R when you have a rather "hard" native language regarding the pronunciation. Not to mention ç, q, xh and gj, these take extra effort too, as we don't have the q and the gj sound, but I'm getting there... slowly. At least I'm lucky enough to be familiar with c, ë, zh, sh and x as sounds already!). So the TV helps a lot, I also watch YouTube videos and repeat until I collapse after the Memrise's Discovering Albanian course, I've done 1/3 of it, so getting there slowly. I have a really specific accent that makes any other language sound awful, I needed around year and a half or two to change my English one, so I now try to learn the stuff as naturally as possible, as I see no point in wasting time to correct it later. Maybe sometime when I'm having less work I'll even upload some short Albanian audio, haha. It always reminds me of these polyglot videos on YouTube when people speak 10 languages, I wish I was brave enough to do that too. I really want to understand and speak Albanian to at least full B2 level, so I do everything possible to engage myself, even for 5-10 minutes everyday, and I think my effort pays me out finally.

Kjo është gjithçka për sonte, shpresoj që t'ju pëlqen. :)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


The colours...

Mirëdita, and welcome to the most colourful discussion. What has always surprised me is that in Albanian, the colours either have some irregular forms, or have 2-3 words for it, or some are with and some without linking articles. So I've decided to sum up at least the most popular ones and what I've found about them.

To be honest, the first song that comes into my mind when I think about the colours in Albanian is this one:

That's a beautiful lady that loves the red and it fits her... well, it's a love song, what's interesting is that it's actually an Adrian Gaxha and Floriani's song that I can understand (these two are Macedonians, and their Albanian in some songs are even more awkward sounding to me than some Kosovar singers).

Also, Albanians love the colours! Or at least they love singing about them - if you hear any version of "kuq e zi", that's a patriotic song to do something with their flag. Actually, I know and I've lived with so many people from different nationalities for more than 3 years, and the Albanians are the only people that are so patriotic - if you see someone posting pictures of their country flag in Facebook, that's 95% of the cases an Albanian. I don't say it's a bad thing, I actually find it cool, as we don't do that, and actually try to avoid mentioning being from Eastern Europe, if possible (don't get me wrong, I love the Balkans, they're a part of me and I grew up there, just there are far too many prejudices in the Western Europe regarding us. It even happened to me once a client to tell me that I don't look like Eastern European, which somehow should have been a compliment, but sounded extremely awkward. The media here sometimes writes so many things that are not true, but some people believe it). Being patriotic seems like it's a really good way of teaching your children to respect and love their country, so hands up! It happens rarely these days.

Back to the colours. I've tried to make the colours represent the words, but Blogger has rather limited colour usage (and some, like white, are grayish for the reason of actually allowing you to read it, and not blending it with my background). Anyway, I believe you'll get my idea, although the orange is no really orange, huh.

White - i/e bardhë, that's an easy one - normal class 2 (with a linking article) adjective, just like any other of that group.

Green - i/e gjelbër, jeshil/e - this one is an interesting one. It has two forms, and jeshil is a Turkish word as far as I know. They are used interchangeably, but it's a lot more popular to hear jeshil in all green vegetables and food-related stuff (like spec jeshil, sallatë jeshile etc) than it is to hear i/e gjelbër. On one side jeshil it's actually easier to use than i/e gjelbër, as it doesn't have a linking article to think about!

Red - i kuq/e kuqe - this one has two forms, one for masculine and one for the feminine. I've met crimson as i kuq i thellë (literally, deep red), so I think that's how they describe the different shades of it. I don't know/haven't met yet the lighter version of it though. What's interesting is that they have so many words for one colour, yet a combination of words is used for the shades.

Blue - blu, i/e kaltër. I believe "i/e kaltër" is used for the colour light/sky blue, whereas blu is for any other darker version. There is also a verb, kaltëroj, I make blue. I wonder who needs to use that, if not when you're colouring something? I, personally, haven't stumbled upon it, except in the dictionary. Blu seems familiar, doesn't it? I think it's one of these "international" words you can find in many languages. I've also met gurkali as a word, which is turquoise. (even the dictionary describes it as blue-green).

Yellow - i/e verdhë - a colour that personally has given me so much hard time remembering it (just as shtatë for seven, not six, but I'll write about that some other time), as in the Romance languages, verde/vert is actually green. And that one sounds so close that hmm... well, I felt really awkward thinking about it as yellow, not green.

Purple - lejla, i/e purpurte, i/e vjollcë - that one is the favourite for the award of "so many words for the same thing". I believe that these three could actually represent some different shades of the purple (like violet etc), but hmm, every book gives a different example of this colour. But, on the other hand, the more, the better!

Pink - rozë - I've actually seen the world "pebma" too (but never heard it anywhere). Seems like the pink in many languages comes from the word for "rose", although in Albanian, rose is actually trëndafil.

Grey - gri, i/e hirtë - gri is rather international word (met in a few other languages), whereas i/e hirtë seems to be its Albanian version. I've actually heard gri used more, for different things.

Brown - kafe - that one is pretty straightforward, all you have to remember is how to say coffee in Albanian. Please note that whereas the coffee can have 2 different stresses (kafe and kafe), the colour seems to have it only on the a. The word "bezhë" also exists, to describe the "beige" colour (seems like it's an international word, just made to sound Albanian).

Orange - portokalli - oh, that cool feature about orange (the fruit) and orange (the colour) having the same word! The only difference though is that in portokalli (the colour), the stress is on the I, whether in portokall (the fruit) it's on a. As the word for the fruit is the same in my native language, and a few others as well, so I've read that it came from Portugal, where that fruit was first imported in Europe from. Interesting!

Black - i zi/e zezë - again irregular one with different forms for feminine/masculine. But luckily has only one word for it, so learning the both forms shouldn't be a problem.

Also, there are some colours deriving from the colours of some things, like golden (i/e artë, from ar - gold), silver (argjend), brick, also the red of the bricks (tullë) and so on. Kafe also comes from the colour of the coffee, which is usually brown.

So that's it from me today, hope you enjoyed my post. I believe there may be many more colours, or words for colours I haven't mentioned, so I don't believe these are all - they are just some examples I've found interesting.

Ditën e mirë, shkruajmë më vonë!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Një këngë e bukur

A beautiful song... for you, tonight.

I'm really sorry, but I'll skip the long post today, as I was really busy and now I'm just too tired for that. Thanks for visiting! Still, as I mentioned, I try to write everyday, so I'm keeping that "promise" I did to myself :)

I love both Ermal and Gena, but probably will review some of their songs some other time. Enjoy your evening!

Natën e mirë :)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Ndihmë për studentit - rasa emërore

Help for the student - the nominative case

(Please note that I'm neither a native nor a grammar book; thus I do not believe or pretend I'm covering all aspects of the Albanian grammar - I just decided to share some tips that helped me learn and distinguish some features of the language I've found hard. Still, checking out a grammar book will help you out probably more about learning more examples and cases than the ones presented here. Also, I'm a pattern spotter kind of learner, so such things help me a lot, hope you find it helpful too!)

Përshëndetje, sot do të shkruaj për disa shembuj prej gramatikës shqiptare - rasa emërore. But before I jump into the nominative, let's see what are the cases and why we have to use them (in case you want to speak and write correctly in Albanian, of course). If your native language has cases and you know what they are - lucky you, you can feel like you're one step ahead. For others that are not so lucky (like myself), keep reading, hopefully you'll understand it too.

So, if you've ever come across syntax, it studies the parts of the sentence. Another perky feature of it is that it also categorises different words with different functions - for example some words are categorised as subjects, others as verbs, yet others as objects and so on. Of course, it's a lot harder than I present it (people study linguistics to gasp all aspects of it), and I have a little, but crucial experience with that (I should thank my Italian teacher for all the long hours she made us distinguish who is doing what, plus the timeline of the sentences - a practical skill that is crucial if you start learning any language, other than English! Although we hated it and didn't see the point in it back then). Put in simpler words, in Albanian all nouns are marked with a case to show their function in the sentence. To make it clearer what it has to do with the nominative case - well, usually the nouns in the nominative case are subjects, i.e. they do the action presented by the verb. It's really important to understand the cases, in order to use them correctly (AND to use the adjectives' linking articles correctly, something that is extremely hard!)

It sounds a lot easier said than done, as Albanian as a language doesn't have a fixed structure of the sentence (like the standard subject-verb-object, like I eat a pizza) - instead the "doer" of the action can be pretty much everywhere, that's why it's important to understand who does the action of the verb. Another perky feature is that usually the action doer is just one (of course, there are examples of composed sentences where more than one thing is done by different doers, but let's start with the basics first), so it may help you to read the sentence and ask yourself who does the action, expressed by the verb - usually whoever is not doing it should be in a different case. The doer will be a noun/pronoun (even if it's skipped if it's understood by the verb - like the doer in "je këtu" is ti, namely you), and it will be in a nominative case (regardless of whether has adjectives linked to it, like vajza e bukur luan. It's still the subject!)

Now, as you've probably seen, each case in Albanian has two forms - definite and indefinite. The nominative is pretty easy, as usually the nouns are definite in the sentence (think about it, if you say something like The boy is playing with me, "the boy" is definite in English too. And usually whoever is doing something is definite in any language). The usual exception from the rule, when an indefinite nominative case is used, is when there is either a marker of quantity (like një, disa, dy, tre etc.) or a demonstrative pronoun (ky, kjo, këta, këto, ai, ajo, ata, ato for the nominative - i.e. any form of "this" or "that").

In case you use a possessive pronoun (im, yt, e saj etc.) the noun is always definite, regardless of its case.

Now, there is another perky feature that can give you two or more (!) nominative definite nouns in the same sentence (like vajza shkon tek mjeku) - these are introduced by some prepositions. Usually, the prepositions in Albanian are followed by either an accusative or an ablative case, but there are two that introduce nominative definite (at least in all cases I can think of, there may be some indefinite cases too) - these are nga (from) and te(k) (to, at). Nga is usually used to say you're from some place or you're coming from some place (like Argimi është nga Shqipëria, or mësuesi është nga Parisi, or djali vjen nga shtëpia etc). Te(k) is usually used to say you go to/towards some place (djali shkon tek shtëpia (e tij) or vajza shkon te dera, shkoj tek mjeku etc). So the best advice I can give you is to learn the prepositions not per se, but with which verbs they are used, and which case follows them!

Also, bear in mind that the subject can have both nominative and genitive case linked to it, but we'll go there at some point. For now just try that "distinguishing" with simple sentences, and see whether you can understand it.

So that's the short (not really short, but probably shorter and easier to get than a grammar book) "lesson" on the nominative case. Please remember that these are most probably only some of the uses, so don't overrely on them, check out a grammar book to see even more aspects of it. I mentioned the ones I've stumbled upon the most, so I think it's worth learning these examples.

Faleminderit për vëmendjen, mirupafshim!
(oh, do you know that "mirupafshim" literally means "may we well see each other again"? Anyway, that's a topic for another discussion).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Fjalorë - shokët më e mirë të studentit

Dictionaries - the best friends of the student

So, today's topic is focused on the best dictionary resources I've found, plus I few I own. As every good student, I've always tried to help myself with the learning of new words, so I believe it may be helpful to share some tips.

The easiest resource to use is... actually Google Translate. Of course, it's definitely not really comprehensive and it's good only for separate words (although you should use it with care, because it happened to me to use falem instead of falënderoj to say "thank", and the result was a laugh from my Albanian friend - falem is pray, but Google gives it as "thank" too... maybe it can be, in some unknown to me cases). Also, it's good to use it to reverse Albanian to English to see whether what you wrote makes sense, but since it can't give you grammar tips, it's always good to check a grammar, in case you're not sure. Because yes, djali, djalit and djalin are both translated as "the boy", but that doesn't mean that you should use a particular one only because Google tells you to. Also, other really negative feature (to any language) is that it mixes the formal and informal "you" forms, so it becomes senseless sometimes.

Another type of translator is the Lexicool one. It just combines a few resources at the same place, so it is helpful. The best thing about on of the tools, Glosbe, it is that not only does it give you the meaning, but it searches the internet and puts it in context too. I, personally, use it the most, as it gives you that context, if I use that website.

A good one (based on the Oxford's Albanian-English one, if I'm not mistaken) is the Online Albanian Dictionary. The downside is that there is no English-Albanian version, just the other way around, so it can be used only if you want to understand what a word means in English. And the search/interface is not the friendliest around either... A good thing is that it has some Gheg words too, and it gives you words that derivate from some words (like adjectives etc, it's actually showing you a word up and a word down from that word in the list). It gives you stresses, but the downside is that it doesn't give you any definite/plural forms (you can find them if you know them, it will tell you some other forms of the verbs too, but still, not helpful enough with the listing... you'll be surprised how many nouns change gender in plural!), so it's helpful only to some extent.

If you can understand some Albanian already, then Fjalori i gjuhës së sotme shqipe is the best dictionary out there. Two downsides - it's only in Albanian (as it's a definitions dictionary), and it doesn't "know" Gheg, just whatever is considered "official". But, on the other side, it gives you lots of examples how to use that word, so it's worth a shot - especially given the fact that sometimes the examples contain the definite/plural forms too.

To "overcome" the problem of the English-Albanian one, I personally have this one:

(Shtëpia Botuese DITURIA, Prof. Dr. Gëzim Hadaj & Dr. Shk. Mariana Ymeri)
It's only English-Albanian though, and it's a relatively small one, with just 7k words. It was a gift to me from Albania such a long time ago, and it becomes used sometimes (there is always something new to learn, right?). I'm still searching for a bigger one, but it seems like unless I go to Albania myself, the chances are I'll have to stick to what I currently have.

A really good "starter pack" is the Berlitz's Eastern Europe phrase book and dictionary:

It's pretty much a "survive guide" for everyone who travels to Eastern Europe, and it contains some really basic phrases like the numbers, how to find your way around, how to ask for help, how to get a car, a room in a hotel, asking for food/drinks, touristic attractions and a small dictionary. And actually contains 12 languages, so it's worth having it if you plan to travel around (although most people know at least English, but it's never a bad thing to know more!) The only thing that personally confuses me is the pronunciation, as it's not transcribed, but written in a way probably native English speaker will read it (as I'm not one, I find it confusing with all the extra h letters you usually don't pronounce)

And don't forget the dictionaries in the books you've learned - they are good in the sense of giving you the plural/definite forms, and also usually follow a dialogue/reading, so you know how to put that one in a context. What I personally do is to go through the text first, noting all the new words and their stresses, and then play the audio to follow the reader, after I understood the context. 

Shpresoj që këtë informacion ju ndihmon! Shkruajmë së shpejti :)

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Si jeni?

How are you? (formal/plural)

No, it's not what you're thinking, in fact that was the first expression in Albanian I learned (actually the native who taught me pronounced it as jenI, with the stress on the I, and it took me ages to start pronouncing it right! Blame the dialects or blame my unaccustomed ear? Who knows...) Other two that I can distinguish as my "first" ones were "Si është moti" and "Gëzuar" - definitely the survive guide in the UK, as everyone is obsessed with the weather, and saying Cheers always has its charm (I know that in a few more languages I don't speak too haha). Then I actually learned that gëzuar can be used in some expressions like "Gëzuar Vitin e Ri", "Gëzuar Ditëlindjen" and so on, so definitely a practical word to know.

Today's music is dedicated to two beautiful Kosovar ladies:

Amore, amore mio // Love, my love
Xhan më ke e xhan të kam // you love me and I love you
Amore, ti më the mua // Love, you said to me
Që më ty sonte nuk jam // that I'm not with you tonight
(The whole translation of this beautiful and catchy song is here, and it's actually done by me... I admit I'm not too good with Gheg, and I'm making myself a dictionary, which maybe I'll share someday here, but I think I started getting some things, like some changed/omitted letters)

So today I wanted to write about something really interesting I've found out from my Albanian learning - the construction "Të kam" and a noun. The Albanians actually translate it as "you are", although literally is "I have your". So as the example above it, të kam xhan is translated as "you are my soul", instead of "I have your soul". Actually "të kam xhan" is a way to say "I love you", but in a friendly/non romantic way (something like ti voglio bene in Italian), which I find really sweet, as in my native language we don't have any other expression for a non romantic love.

Actually, you'll come across that construction quite a lot in songs, such as "të kam shpirt", "të kam zemër", "të kam dashuri" and so on, all of them linked to love songs. But hey, aren't most of the songs around about it anyway, no matter what language it is?

So that's it for today, a short one, but better than nothing, as I'm trying to be consistent and write here everyday. Hope you enjoy your evening!

Natën e mirë :)

Friday, 13 January 2017

Hapat e parë - fjalë

The first steps - words (or, vocabulary in English)

Ç'kemi, today I want to focus my post specifically on one of the best vocabulary builders out there, especially for Albanian - Memrise. I doubt you never heard of it, but in case you haven't - it's a website for vocabulary building, along with a mobile app for iPhone/Android/Tablets/whatever system you have, which makes it really mobile and gives you the opportunity to access it from everywhere. If you create a profile, you can access your progress in from any device you use, and it also allows you to keep track of your words. It tracks your progress and you can even challenge yourself with the "Speed review" option, which gives you just seconds to give the right answer! It also ranges from simple words to whole sentences, depending on the people who have contributed to it.

Just a note - I would recommend you to use it along with other resources, as most of the courses don't have audio, so you learn how you can write the words, but not how to pronounce them. While it's good if you want to pick up more words, it's not really good on its own.

My first ever lesson pack was called "Basic Albanian", and it gives you 183 really common words to learn (like all the basic greetings, learning the pronouns, asking simple questions, the days of the week, markers for time, the seasons, the months, some common verbs/adjectives/nouns). It is a great "starter pack" (a lot better than the websites that teach you these, as it's made a lot more interactive), if you feel like you want to gasp the very basics first, before moving on to the grammar stuff. The only con is that it has no audio, so going around YouTube to learn how to pronounce these could be a plus.

After that, I stumbled upon the most comprehensive course, called "Most common Albanian words", with 763 (!) common words available. As you can guess it, it will take you through everything basic you can think of - verbs, nouns, adjectives, possessives, pronouns, prepositions, definite forms of the nouns, subjunctive, past tense... I can't even think about everything I learned with that one, as it's a lot. I even had a notebook to write down all new words I stumbled upon after one point.
The biggest PRO is that it has audio at least for the very basic and common part. I hope they may make it available for all soon, but until then, you can really try pronouncing these with that course. Also, they give new verbs in 4 forms (present, past simple, imperfect and the past participle), which pretty much consist most of the Albanian verb grammar (most of the tenses are combination of these), so it's worth noting down and learning them, especially if they have irregular stems. The other really distinguishing and helpful part is that it also teaches you the definite form of some nouns, giving you the nominative, dative/ablative/(genitive) form and the accusative form - great for logical patterns learners like me. (the genitive form should have an linking article before it, that's why I've put it in brackets, but the form of the noun itself is the same)

Next, if you're into learning some phrases, not just words, you can try "Albanian phrases and expressions", which gives you some more useful phrases (like asking for directions, introducing yourself, apologising etc), not just the basic greetings, as it has 298 of them. It's a good base, although there are some inaccuracies (I left a comment about these to the publisher a long time ago, but seems like they're gone, as nothing has changed). It is a helpful starting point, especially if you know some of the words already.

One of the best pronunciation-wise courses I just found is based on the book "Discovering Albanian" by Linda Meniku and Hector Campos, and it's called "Discovering Albanian" in Memrise too. The book itself has a recording for all the words in the dictionaries provided after the dialogues/readings, so, since the Memrise one has the biggest part of it recorded, I think it's a great tool not only if you want to learn all the 1850 words in the book, but also for pronunciation! So that one is my personal favourite, along with the 763 Most common Albanian words. You can learn it without the book, but probably checking it out will help you put that knowledge in context. The only con it has is that some words have similar meanings, so you have to "learn" them exactly the way it gives them to you, otherwise you risk "making a mistake" even for things that are right.

Another I liked is called again "Basic Albanian" and it teaches you simple phrases with the nominative definite/indefinite nouns (so you can learn the forms), along with the present tense of jam/kam. It's a good tool to refresh your memory, if you already know these, as well as learning how to use the demonstrative pronouns. There are also basic words, colours etc. to be learned. It has 174 words, so it's not as huge as some of the others.

If you feel like you're more advanced, then try "Albanian Verbs"! I personally haven't finished that one, as I find it a bit hard sometimes (especially with too many new verbs sometimes), but it has 461 verbs (even some in past tenses) to be learned.

And the last one I've tried is the one accompanying the book "Colloquial Albanian" by Isa Zymberi, called... yes, you guessed it right, "Colloquial Albanian". I haven't finished that one either, as I haven't check out the book yet, but it gives you basic words again. Probably it would be a lot more helpful if you actually have the book and don't rely only on it though... which gives me the idea to try it myself.

That's everything I've tried, there are many more out there, but I haven't checked them out. Also, I try to check the ones with more than 100 words, as I know the very basics already. You can learn many things, like the months, the parts of the body, the colours, the numbers, there are numerous others out there, which I haven't had time to check myself. I will keep my eyes open, in case something interesting comes up.

Hope you found my first review helpful, please let me know in the comments if you've tried another great course in Memrise, so I can review it myself when I check it out.

Kjo është gjithçka për tani, flasim më vonë :) Faleminderit!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Mirëdita, i dashur lexues

Good afternoon, dear reader

Today, I have decided to share some tips about my leaning... I've been asked a few times what made me learn the language and how I found it out, so I've decided to write about this too.

But first, let me share a really good song I just found...

Po t'pres më m'thirr // I'm waiting for you to call me
Ti e din ma mirë, ti e din ma mirë // you know it better, you know it better
(Make sure to check out the whole translation of it by ceta here! Beautiful song)

So NRG Band is a Kosovar band that I really love, the only problem is that their songs are in that awkward Gheg Kosovar dialect that I need to use my research skills to find out what they mean. (unless someone is good to provide a translation, thanks to all the good people out there!) Which is fun... sometimes, depending on the Gheg/Tosk proportion in their songs. But anyway, great group, if you love good music and haven't done yet, check them out!

So back to my tips. It's been just two years since my first "meeting" with the language. Actually, before that I never knew that Albanian was a language, let alone learning and understanding it. It's shame that we personally study almost nothing at school about the modern day Balkans (except the Balkan Wars and the World Wars), so we don't really know much about our Balkan "neighbours" (literal or figurative) historically, unless they're as Ancient as Greece. And I used to hate History at school, as the books were awful and full of words that required you to have a PhD in History in order to understand (they frustrated me so much, and I've always been a person who reads a lot!). As I mentioned already, I live in the UK and I tend to stumble upon quite a lot Albanians where I live, and I was close to a few during that time. Actually, one of the really good friends I have is Albanian too, so I have someone to practice with.

My first music "crush" were Blero (with the song Sexy Moves, which I've put into the Romanian folder in my music, for unknown reasons), and Flori (with I have no idea which song anymore, it was in Albanian, but it wasn't in the right place either!). Actually Flori had a few collaborations with Bulgarian singers at one point, the songs were great hits, so I knew him back then, but never bothered to check his songs out.

So at one point I just started researching more, listening to more and more songs, and falling in love with the language. It actually took me great amount of time to start learning it seriously, partly because I was still at university and had to concentrate on other things, partly because the resources out there were limited and confusing. I'm learning foreign languages since I was 6, but this was the first time when I came into a "dead end" trying to figure out what was good and what wasn't.

And I actually started looking at it more seriously around a year ago, when I discovered some amazing YouTube lessons (more about it in another post!), then books, and then... well, when you get the basics, the world is open to you. I've found out a few tips that I wanted to share with you...
It takes lots of patience, a lot more than if you decide to learn any other more known language. So dedication is a key, actually a few minutes everyday do miracles. While it's true for any language, it especially is for Albanian, as there are no fun/interactive/game type of websites (like Duolingo or Babbel) available for it to keep you motivated, unless you motivate yourself.
- The resources are quite limited, so being fluent and able to learn in English is prerequisite.
-  One book/resource is never enough. The Albanian authors are fairly good at explaining, but not everything. Plus, the books go up to A2 level, so after that, you're on your own in your exploring adventure.
What I do is reading grammars to gasp the aspects of it I'm not familiar with, listening to Albanian TV, reading news, reading schoolbooks, asking/talking to natives... I even got an Albanian fairytale book from a secondhand bookstore here, but I'm not having enough vocabulary knowledge yet to read it easily. If you live in America, you're blessed, as there are many books that can be ordered, the problem is that here (and outside on the US) they want twice as much money to deliver them,
-  Knowing a Balkan language is a big plus. Or a language with cases. Or if you’ve studied some syntax. Or actually knowing any language other than English, which is rather "plain" and simple grammatically, with numerous exceptions from the rules, thus it is hard to get some characteristics of Albanian, unless you've met them in another language already. As I mentioned, the Balkan ones share similar characteristics, maybe Romanian is the closest of them due to the fact that both languages are based heavily on Latin for vocabulary, plus the cases, plus some typical Balkan characteristics. Or actually some Turkish will help you a lot vocabulary-wise with any Balkan language.
-  The songs are one of the worst ways of learning Albanian. No other language has less unified use (it’s relatively new anyway), and nobody has explained the Gheg usage/grammar for foreign speakers properly, it’s just bits and pieces. Plus, bigger part of the speakers speak Gheg, the natives understand it, regardless of which their native dialect is, but the learners struggle. Given the fact that the biggest part of the music industry is Kosovar, you will struggle at some point too, not to mention how illiterate the most lyrics online appear to be. So enjoy the music wisely, grasp some expressions, but try to get familiar with what I call the "proper grammar" first, in order to learn it better.

That's everything on my mind at the moment, I hope I was helpful to you, and be sure to come back for my so famous resource reviews! (I'm still figuring out how to do them, but will get there eventually)

Ditën e mirë dhe shihemi së shpejti :)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Përshëndetje dhe mirë se vini në blogun tim!

Hello and welcome to my blog!

First, thanks for landing here - I've never been too good at writing blogs, so I decided to start one to challenge myself. As the title and everything in it suggests, it's about my adventure of learning Albanian as a fifth language, and all the struggles and rewards I had with it. I got asked how I learned the language so many times that I decided it may be easier if I just write it down, so that everyone can benefit from it. Seems like it's not a really popular choice, is it? I plan to review some of the most helpful resources I've found with my posts. But first, let me introduce myself:

I am a Bulgarian girl in my 20s, currently living in the UK for a few years. I've always been passionate about languages, especially Balkan ones (well, it is true I actually wanted to learn Romanian when I was younger, and it's just now when I started doing it, but that is another topic). I'm crazy about the Balkan music, and that's one of the reasons I started loving the language. I've always enjoyed learning - except my native Bulgarian, I'm fluent in English, good in Italian (well, not good at speaking, but good at everything else) and fairly good in French (which I had such a huge passion about, but just left aside for a bit). If I was about to grade my Albanian, I'd say it's around A2/B1 level at the moment - enough to give me confidence that I can go there and survive! (well, surviving the Balkans is always a tricky one) I also started understanding a lot from the Albanian TV or news pages, so hands up!

So the purpose of my blog is to share my knowledge and tough steps about my learning, along with reviewing some of the best apps/books/media and video channels I've stumbles upon - since the resources out there are so limited, I've lost so much time trying to sort them out. And I know there are other "crazy" people out there like me - maybe you know someone, maybe you love the music too, maybe you just like challenging yourself, maybe you have another reason - it doesn't matter. The knowledge is power. Never underestimate someone who speaks languages, especially rare ones - you have no idea how they can help you in your life! And you can learn everything, as long as you really want it!

So, dear reader, please bear with me - I promise I'll be helpful to you, and everyone who is enthusiastic about learning Albanian.

Also, if you spot a mistake in my writing in Albanian, please feel free to leave me a comment, I'm always happy to learn!

Faleminderit për kohën tuaj!