The Amerikanskiat Zet

Here’s the translation of my interview on Bulgarian Public Radio. (start at 36:59)

Veneta: You’re listening to Za Dumite (about words), I’m Veneta Gavrielova. Now I would like to introduce you to a young American, a Bulgarian zet (son-in-law or brother-in-law from the perspective of the wife’s family).

Hear how Daniel Bensen deals with the Bulgarian language, and with Bulgarian family relationships, and what we can find in common between the Bulgarian and Japanese languages.

(music) My Bulgarian Language (music)

Dan: Hello, I am Daniel Bensen. I’m from the US, and I’ve been here for 4 years and a half. My wife is Bulgarian. We met in America in university (i.e. “at school”), and after we finished university, we worked in Boston. But after a year, she lost her visa. And before the Crisis, there isn’t (whoops) a way to get a visa. So we moved here, exactly when the Crisis started. Fortunately, we’re here, where there are jobs. And we’re happy here.

V: So it isn’t your choice, to come live in Bulgaria?

D: It wasn’t hard. First because of work. So my wife could work. Also, for her family. They are here. We can live together. And that’s more convenient than…than not.

V: How did it happen that you came to live together with your wife’s family? That’s extremely unusual for a young American.

D: It isn’t. There are bad points. There isn’t, how do you say…privacy.

V: Personal space.

D: Personal space, yes. But, after all, we have a new baby, and they help a lot with that, with taking care of the baby. If we lived in America, we didn’t…we wouldn’t have care…that kind of I help.

V: Help.

D: Help. Thank you.

V: What’s your child’s name?

D: Magdalena. Magdalena Danielova Bensen.

V: What do you study, what is your specialty, with what do you occupy yourself?

D: Now, I’m an English teacher.  I did that in Boston, too. But in college I studied Japanese Philology (actually Asian studies with a Japanese concentration, but I don’t know how to say that and nobody would understand it anyway). So no…

V: Connection.

D: Connection with my job now.

V: So you know Japanese.

D: Yes.

V: So what on do you think of Bulgarian (literally how does Bulgarian happen to you) from a background of Japanese, in comparison to your mother language?

D: Bulgarian is much closer to English.

V: Of course.

D: But then again there are things in common with Japanese, which English doesn’t have. Because I studied Japanese as my first foreign language, I have a way of thinking which helps me to think about Bulgarian. The grammatical different things between Bulgarian and English (I meant to say the different grammatical things). So it still helps me.

V: Do you have any tricks (lit. clevernesses) for learning languages?

D: Clevernesses?

V: Clever ways, personal to you, which help you to enter a foreign language in a short (i.e. easy) way.

D: Yes. I think that to learn a foreign language. It’s a habit. Not only information, but a habit. Because of that, I listen to Bulgarian music and children’s movies, which I listen to many time (I mean timeS) and after a lot of time, I have phrases, which are particular for different times. (I could have been more coherent here, if I’d understood that she wanted me to give examples of how Japanese helps me think about Bulgarian. Anyway.)

V: That’s very interesting about the children’s movies. They give you phrases you use to communicate with your students.

D: (I didn’t understand “communicate,” so I said) Yes. For me, Bulgarian children’s movies. For my students, English. If they are adults, I have to be clever, and I get something that will be interesting for the students from the internet.

V:  Is Bulgarian difficult?

D: I know I don’t speak Bulgarian perfectly. It’s hard for me to remember Bulgarian words. For example, what the difference is between nakopaya (something Pavlina’s grandpa says, which has something to do with digging), zakopaya (dig something completely), and razkopaya (dig around or bury). And that, with practice becomes better. It improves.

V: With the family, how do you communicate with the tyshta (mother-in-law, from the perspective of the husband) for example. By name, or do you call her “mom”?

D: By name, but my wife also calls her mother Madlen, her name. That’s something between them, I don’t know, but for my tusht.

V: Tyst (father-in-law, from the perspective of the husband).

D: Tyst. I call him Petyr, his name, not like “father.”

V: Do you know what vuicho is, for example?

D: Yes. Um. A brother of my mother, and the other one is the brother of my father.

V: Chicho is the brother of my father.

D: And vuicho is the brother of my mother, right?

V: Do you know what a strinka (the wife of your father’s brother) is?

D:  Strinka. That’s …no. No. What is it?


D: Or in the family of your wife, the brother of my wife is my badjanak, right (I was wrong. Badjanak is my wife’s sister’s husband. My wife’s brother is my shurei)? But I’m not his badjanak, I’m something different. (the word I was looking for is zet).

V: You can get very confused about this.

D: I think it’s interesting that I call my baby tate (daddy). I mean, I’m tate, but I call my baby by my name. And the mother of the baby calls it maichentse (little mother). In English, (we) don’t do that and also in Japanese (they) don’t do that. And that may be unique for Bulgaria.

V: You want to say that we Bulgarians in communication with their children, for example I as a mother, call my baby mamentse (little mommy). “Come here mamentse!” And a father will say “come here tatentse (little daddy)” or “come here tatko (dad).” And that you seems strange to you.

D: Yes. Maybe not strange, but it’s interesting.

V: Do you have curiosity to learn our language because there’s something you want to understand or books you want to read or you want to know how to get around. I mean, some kind of stimulus for you to learn Bulgarian faster?

D: The most important thing is to get something you enjoy, and which you can’t do in English, or the other language. Something you can only do in Bulgarian.

V: For example?

D: Well, it depends on people (the person), but for me, Bulgarian children’s movies, or friends who don’t speak English, or huro (Bulgarian folkdance) for example. If you want to learn how to dance huro, you have to speak Bulgarian.

V: Do you dance huro?

D: No. Sorry. Actually in Boston, I danced huro, but since we’ve moved here, no. (except at weddings, I forgot to mention).

V: What do you do with Japanese, now that you’re in Bulgaria and learning a new language?

D: I’m studying Japanese here in Sofia. I have a teacher at the Japanese embassy (actually someone I met through the Japanese embassy, but I didn’t know how to say that). So I don’t lose the language.

V: And how do you switch between Japanese and Bulgarian?

D: It isn’t such a big problem now, but before, while I was studying Japanese and Bulgarian at the same time, I used Bulgarian words in a Japanese sentence or Bulgarian words with Japanese grammar. And I didn’t know that. In a conversation with a Japanese woman, I said something like, “Nihongo razbirimas ka?” Which is razbiram (to understand) from Bulgarian, but in a Japanese sentence.

V: Say that again?

D: Nihongo razbirimas ka? Or Az nihongo wo razibirmas kedo…

V: What does that mean?

D: I understand Japanese but…something. Because the sound (soundS) of Bulgarian and Japanese are very close. The grammar…they have nothing to do with each other, but in the sounds, there are many similar things.

V: Now in honor of our listeners, we have a sentence of this Bulgaro-Japanese.

D: Okay, with Bulgarian words in Japanese grammar, taka govoritoki nikoi mo razbiremasen. That’s it.

V: What does that mean?

D: When I talk like this, nobody understands (actually it should be “nobody CAN understand.” J)

V: Very well, that was your greeting from Daniel to our listeners in Bulgaro-Japanese. Daniel Bensen from the United States.

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