Obies Using Languages: Monika Cecilia Franaszczuk ’18{0}

Monika Cecilia Franaszczuk is a second-year majoring in Eastern European Studies as well as Musical Studies. She grew up in a Polish/Mexican household, and as such was immersed in languages from a young age. Since then, she has been adding more languages to her repertoire.

Learning languages is simultaneously the greatest, and most frustrating endeavor that you can take on. There are moments when you’re struggling over some horridly overcomplicated grammatical structure, and there’s just this nagging thought in the back of your head that’s telling you that you’ll never be fluent and that you might as well just stick to your native language. But then there’s other times when something just clicks, and you can ‘feel’ what’s right and what’s not. And those moments, when you don’t have to pause to remember how to conjugate a certain verb or how to decline a certain noun, and can just come up with the right word because you know that it sounds right, are what I live for.

I’m in second year Russian at the moment. And let me tell you, it is by far the hardest language that I have ever had the pleasure of studying. Every time I speak or write I have to spend copious amounts of time overthinking which case the nouns take and how that case works exactly, and even worse, what aspect the verb should be in. And even taking all these pauses to think, something still inevitably comes out wrong. There are certain words that I’ve got down and can just use in normal speech, but for the most part there’s just this huge list of grammar rules in my mind that I have to be constantly referring to. And these rules don’t even account for the many, many, many exceptions. It’s incredibly frustrating to say the least.

See, languages have always come easily for me. My mother loves to attribute this to my musician’s ear and to my exposure to many languages in my early life. I’m a first generation American, with a Polish father and a Mexican mother, and as such, by the time I was three I was trilingual in English, Spanish, and Polish. I ended up losing my Polish however, after a change in living situation when my father began to work full-time and didn’t speak nearly as much Polish to me at home. (Which is a fact that I’ve almost begun to resent, given that I’m going into Eastern European studies and it would have been so nice to already know a Slavic language, since, like I’ve said, these languages are incredibly complicated to pick up grammatically . . .  but that’s beside the point for now.)

In middle school, I began to learn German. The lessons began to really click with me after just about over one semester, and from then on, I didn’t really have to study for the class. Just listening in class was enough to ingrain the lessons in my mind. Then, after four years, my school cut its German program . . . Having few options I decided to pick up French pretty much on a whim. Given that French is a romance language just like Spanish, I got to the point where the language started to feel natural after just about two months.

And now here I am. In my third semester of Russian. And I still can’t quite grasp the essence of verb aspect or case declination. It’s the first time that I’ve had to properly study for a language class. Imagine that. I’m fully aware of how whiny that must sound, but that’s what frustrates me the most. I definitely have me better language days, and my worse, but it remains that Russian is hard. (Which is not to dissuade anyone from taking it up. It’s a lot of fun despite the horror of verbs of motion.) But you know, this frustration will just leave me all the more satisfied when I do finally begin to understand and feel the language.

And in the meantime, I’m starting to relearn my Polish in my free time. It’s got the same verb aspect as Russian, as well as seven whole cases in comparison to Russian’s six. Wish me luck . . .