Slovak is very different to any other language I speak. I don’t usually face difficulties in learning new languages, but I do have a major problem with making grammar mistakes in front of native speakers. I know, native speakers, especially those of not very popular languages, are very happy to hear that you’re trying anyway. Still, whenever I’m aware of the fact that I’m about to severely butcher some grammar rules, I stop. And yes, I know, I should get over it, otherwise I will never learn.
With English and Spanish was fairly easy. Native speakers are used to people trying to learn their language and they can feel it in the accent whether you are a foreigner or not. With Slovak, things are a bit different.
I have a very rich vocabulary in Slovak (for a beginner), yet I can barely put a sentence together. And this is because of too many grammar rules I have to get used to. Moreover, as Romanian phonetics are very similar to any Slavic language phonetics, my pronunciation of Slovak words is almost perfect. In many cases, when I give short answers, people believe I am Slovak. Therefore, if I carry on with perfect pronunciation and poor grammar, chances are great that I will sound like an illiterate Slovak. I’ve done it before and I’ve received back too many perplexed looks.
I tried learning the basics with Livemocha. The website is great, but all the classes for all the languages available follow the same structure. Unfortunately, this confused me a lot, so I had to give it up. E.g. it was impossible for me to understand why the plural changes after number four using only Livemocha. For those who don’t know what I mean: for numbers 2, 3, 4 you must use the nominative case plural, and for more than 4 you must use the genitive case plural; something like jeden pes – one dog / dva psy – two dogs / tri psy – three dogs / štyri psy – four dogs / päť psov – five of dogs, and so on…
So I decided to buy a book to help me learn Slovak. As I was told the Krížom Krážom books were the best, I bought the one for level A1 😀 It’s pretty big and it comes with two CDs. Found it in Panta Rhei for €27. I’m still looking for the A1-A2 workbook though!