Do you have in-laws? One of the things that they do not tell you when you start dating is that you are going to have to take in the whole family of your spouse after you finally tie the knot. All the miserable times when your grandma tells you that you are fatter than anyone she knew growing up are multiplied by two, as you get stuck with a second family. It can be even harder when your spouse and their family are not from the same culture as you. When I started falling for a Bulgarian woman, I decided to search right away for Bulgarian tutors near me.
The first time that I met my future grandmother-in-law, she looked like she was about to put a curse on me. She barely spoke a word of English and kept saying things that I did not understand to my future mother-in-law, who chuckled along. I kept nudging my girlfriend asking for a translation, but she would tell me that it was better off that I did not know. This would happen every time I met her family, to no end. I was getting so sick of it that I finally decided to do something.
Behind my girlfriend’s back, I started working with private Bulgarian tutoring. I made sure that I never blew my cover, to the point that she was worried I was cheating on her. Lucky for me, I am convincing enough that she realized that I was not stepping out on her for something nefarious. When I finally decided to reveal the results of my hard work, I shocked everyone.
It creates a great moment when you finally reveal that you have been working with a language tutor. I waited until her grandma said something mean about me to finally make my move. She had a habit of calling me kifla, which I figured out is Bulgarian slang for a girl who is too into her looks. It turns out that the practice of making fun of someone’s masculinity is internationally respected. I shot back a quick phrase in Bulgarian and she was left in shock. If not for the fact that she started faking a medical issue, I would have left victorious. But she is smarter than I gave her credit for and managed to turn my prank back on me. Touche, grandma. Touche.
One way that I learned, which was incredibly helpful to me, was reading books in English along with a Bulgarian audio version. It was something that I could not start until I was already fairly good at the language, but it allowed me to hear how the words were said and helped me transition my brain from thinking in English to thinking in Bulgarian. This was a technique introduced to me by my tutor and one that I highly suggest. You can get a lot of major books in other languages, so this can coincide with reading a book you have been interested, although it might take a lot longer to finish. I noticed that Michelle Obama’s book Becoming has a Bulgarian audiobook and I almost considered buying that one instead of the English version because I like to stay in practice. The only reason I did not was that she narrates the English version herself and I doubt that Michelle Obama’s Bulgarian pronunciation is good enough that she could do it herself.
One of the things lost when you learn a language on your own is the pronunciations and nuance of hearing a voice, so getting a Bulgarian tutor that can teach you to interpret accents is really helpful. Even though I knew most of the words, it took me an extra couple of visits to grandma before I was finally able to understand her thick accent.