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Bos/Hrv/Srp 31 Mar 17

Sarcastic Blog: You are Not Taking the Bread Out of My Mouth!

Dusica L. Stilic

I hope this is just a bad dream and that I will, eventually, wake up to the beautiful yesterday, as it was. What are they thinking, these… (what are they?) … intellectuals? Seriously?

Experts unveil the declaration that says that the people of Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia share a common language in Sarajevo on Thursday. Photo: Beta

You may not know this but besides my regular job, I have another one: I am a translator and interpreter. It is a good job and I like it a lot - obviously not as much as I like the regular job (my boss may be reading this).

A good thing about the second job is that all of us, interpreters and translators, have been internationally understood as linguistically talented and polyglots. Each of us speaks at least five languages, usually English, German, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish or something, and then you can proudly add Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Yugoslavian, and, lately, Bosniak as well. The number of fluently spoken languages depends on the openness of the client.

Actually, some call this openness ignorance but that is only because they have no clue!

You see, it took us a war and then 20 years of fierce brainwashing to reach the point where we are convinced of our linguistic superiority compared to any other nation in the world.

You see, the British, Americans, Australians, the New Zealanders and all those others – they just don’t get it. I am not sure whether it comes from some historic fact or whatever, but for some reason they think they speak the same language just because they can understand each other. Ridiculous!

A group of NGOs and linguists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia are to present their Declaration on the Common Language in Sarajevo on Thursday.

They argue that people in the four ex-Yugoslav republics actually speak a polycentric language - a language which has several different standardised versions in different countries.

Let me tell you, this is violation of the basic rights of interpreters and translators. This entire thing is a plot against the interpreters and translators in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now, we are the ones that really speak three languages and the constitution guarantees us the trilingual nature of our existence. You cannot take this away from us! We will not allow it!

Do you actually want someone with a diploma in Serbian to go and have it recognized by the responsible body in Bosnia and Herzegovina, just by bringing the diploma and submitting it?

And you want this request to be written in any language? Seriously? In Serbian … Cyrillic? That is just bizarre (except, of course, if the state-level body is in Banja Luka, when you just switch Serbia for Croatia and Cyrillic for the Latin alphabet)!

The correct procedure in the given case should be to have the diploma translated into English by a sworn-to-court interpreter in Serbia, and then you take this diploma with the translation to the sworn-to-court interpreter in Bosnia and Herzegovina to translate it from English into Bosnian.

Only then can you take it to a recognition body in BiH. Actually, if the person working in the recognition body is a Croat, then you should probably write the request in Croatian, so they can understand it, because you must state in the request that it is a true translation.

Croats will, sort of, accept the Bosnian language, but you don’t want to bring a document in Serbian or Bosniak. You need to find someone to help you with that (again, unless the whole situation is happening in Banja Luka, when you switch the affiliated names around a bit).

By the way, mentioning Croats, the majority in BiH are from Herzegovina and I have always wondered why no Herzegovinian language? I think that is not fair! It is also a kind of a plot!

Why do they have to speak Croatian, when they clearly have their own language – Herzegovinian, because they are from Herzegovina? Obviously, it was the constitution that created all this mess and the (oh, so) wise people who wrote it had something against Herzegovina, because they deliberately left it out.

I think it must have been Franjo Tudjman; well, he did like Partizan FC (from Belgrade) and it is well known that Purgers (people with a long family history of several generations of being born in Zagreb) don’t really like the people from Herzegovina, so, perhaps he was deliberately negating the existence of the Herzegovinian language; hmmm?

Anyhow, it should not be three but at least four languages! Oh, what a mess we live in!

Also, talking about the plot against us, the poor translators in Bosnia and Herzegovina, how do we proceed with all those orientation manuals for various trainings for capacity building in the country? Do you really think that any manual should be translated into only one language? Which one would that be?

You see, we get offered a job and it says: translation of 200 pages from English into Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. Then we send the price for Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian and do the job and collect our reward for being polyglots. Don’t you understand that this silly Declaration is going to cut our income by two-thirds? You are going to leave my child hungry!

Horrible, horrible people!

(And, now, this is the part when I stop laughing and stop trying to be sarcastic because this country and its neighbors are just so sad that no one laughs any more!)

Sadly, the two examples I joked about above are true. There was a person who came to me with a diploma in Serbian asking me how he could get it translated because a local ministry refused to recognized it based on language reasons. And yes, dozens of books and manuals have been translated into three languages because our institutions would not accept documents any differently.

Even more sadly, our government operates in three languages, with web pages and laws in three languages, too; see for yourself: http://vijeceministara.gov.ba/Language.aspx?langTag=hr-HR.

I made a joke about Bosniak and Herzegovinian languages, but, honestly, people do think that there is a language called Bosniak and I have been asked (far too many times) what language is spoken in Herzegovina.

It is also not a joke about foreign clients asking for translations into three languages. They are only acting on the requirements of the target country and have learned to take good care of the way things are translated and for which geographical area.

A major international client of mine, a producer of hygienic products, used to use at least four options for language in their commercials and I needed to pay special attention when editing the text to be read for placement on Federation or Republika Srpska television (they stopped that several years ago after long discussions about the stupidity and huge cost of translating three to five sentences per video).

You know, I think Mostar is the most F+++ place in Bosnia and Herzegovina of all. I got that impression in 2004 or 2005 when I went with a group of students to visit the University on the western, Croatian side.

After the visit, we wanted to go and see the Old Bridge and asked a student where it was. He said he had no idea. It was a shock then, because – then – I still believed we were normal people.

And then, when I thought that nothing could surprise me any longer, I recently got an opportunity to interpret at a workshop in Mostar. It was for a programme for extracurricular activities (nothing to do with language as such), and the educators got their manuals translated into Bosnian.

Suddenly, one person gets up and says: “I am not sure we can use this book and I am certain that we cannot use the handouts for our children. This is not in Croatian; we have difficulties understanding this and our children will not be able to do so.”

When I heard this, I had a sudden urge to get out of my interpreter’s booth and give this person a few slaps so they would remember me well. I didn’t - it wasn’t worth it.

Their life is just empty and sad; sufficient punishment, if you ask me! They sit there, asking for Croatian books while they converse with Serbs and Bosniaks and Bosnians around the same table, requiring my interpretation only for English.

Ignorant people! They don’t speak one foreign language but give themselves the right to criticize the lack of translation from one to another variation of the language we all speak. And, HEY! This person teaches children! God help us.

But, who on earth is “us”?

Well, “us” refers to the people who don’t mind Ekavian and Ijekavian dialects and do not mistake them for different languages. We do not mind or even pay much attention to whether something is in Latin or Cyrillic letters. We are those who will show directions to someone even if they ask us in a different “language”, or about a part of town that belongs to “the others”.

I speak the language I learned at home and at school. My grandmother spoke the Dalmatian dialect, my parents spoke Serbo-Croatian, in school I learned also Croatian-Serbian (whatever the difference was – NONE!), and I still use the same language. And, by a definition of language, considering the similarities between them, they ARE one language, or, to be politically correct, they are variations of the same language.

I proudly call it Bosnian, for the right reasons, and you call it whatever you want.

Seriously, can’t people see what a wealth they have to know all these synonyms that we know (vlak=voz, duva=puše, kancelarija=ured…), or language variations based on iotation (mlijeko=mleko, lepo=lijepo, svijeća=sveća). Don’t they realize that we have thousands of “loan” words from Turkish, German, Latin…

Don’t they see how rich we are?

They don’t? Well, tough luck. We are signing the Declaration and are going to call it what we want, and will understand each other without any problems, just as we have, so far. The others, on the other hand… well, they/you don’t interest me very much!

Talk about it!

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