Q: When you arrived in Switzerland from Croatia, what was it like to suddenly be surrounded by a language you did not understand?
A: Actually, during the first couple of months we were placed in homes for asylum seekers. Sometimes former barracks, sometimes former retirement homes. We changed accommodations after a few days, a few weeks or months. There were many families from former Yugoslavia but also others from war zone countries in Africa with kids there too. As we were kids and didn't really think about language we found a way to play together. I did't get much of what was going on around me but then again, I didn't need to. At some point my mum found a job and we moved into a normal apartment and my sister and I were allowed to go to a normal Swiss school. I was told later that I spent a lot
time looking out of the window during classes. I don't remember that, but I guess I did not understand what was being said and I was bored. A retired former German teacher volunteered to give me private German lessons after school and after some time I started to understand what was going on around me. But to the best of my knowledge, it wasn't a big issue for me not to understand the language of others. I was a kid.
Q: You lived in Croatia, Switzerland, the Slovak Republic and Germany. At home, your family spoke Croatian. Could you briefly describe your emotional relationship with Croatian, German and Slovak respectively?
A: Croatian has always been the language of my family, the first books I was read to and the ones I read myself were in Croatian. At the age of about 23 I did a traineeship in Germany that involved working in Croatian and being surrounded by Croatians the whole day. It felt strangely familiar and close. Now I have a lot of Croatian colleagues and my partner tells me, when he sees me with them speaking Croatian my facial expressions change form professional to natural. Still, sometimes I wonder if my Croatian is good enough. You see, I work as an interpreter into German. Croatian might be my mother tongue, literally speaking, and I have no accent when I speak Croatian but German is the language I'm most fluent and most comfortable with. And again, sometimes I feel something emotional is missing in my German. Slovak is the language I started learning when I was 10. I speak it as a native speaker, just like the other two, but there is no emotional connection to the Slovak language whatsoever.
Q: What is your strongest language?
A: As I said before, German is the language with the richest vocabulary, the strongest language academically speaking and my working language, but Croatian wins on the emotional side.
Q: When you think about which language you will be speaking with your children, do you have a clear idea or are you considering different options?
A: My partner and I spoke about this and decided that he will be speaking French 😊
Honestly, I believe German would be more useful for my kid, but I can't imagine speaking German to my kid just because it's more useful. I will borrow and buy as many Croatian books as it takes to compensate for my subjective feeling of a lack of vocabulary. But then again, I won't be speaking about climate change or income inequalities to my kid that soon either. So maybe, I'm just overthinking it.