Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


Adventures in Bulgarian: Beginnings

I am embarrassed to admit it, but the last time I posted about my attempts to learn Bulgarian was in August of 2010.

It was my first month of blogging and I was hell bent on getting serious with my self-study of the language.

That gung-ho attitude lasted all of about 5 seconds.

(Typical Whitney, unfortunately)

Well, I don’t think I can put it off any longer.

In just 3 short months I’ll be back on a plane bound for Bulgaria. No more sitting on my butt hanging out with the hubs in our living room. This time around, we’ll be living in Sofia, working (him for sure, me hopefully), and doing a lot more socializing with friends.

I don’t want to be “that American girl” who doesn’t speak a lick of the language. Not anymore!

In August of 2010 I was simply dating a Bulgarian. Now, nearly two years later, I am married to a Bulgarian and living in Bulgaria. If that’s not enough reason to buckle down and learn the language, I don’t know what is!

I have to say, it’s more than a little shameful to admit to those who ask that I speak little to no Bulgarian. Even after three months living in the country (and with my Bulgarian-speaking in-laws, no less), I only know a few words and phrases. Granted, I understand a lot more than I give myself credit for, but I am nowhere near where I should be after being in a relationship with a Bulgarian for 4 years.

One of my “textbooks”… An activity book for 1st graders!

So, here I am. Starting over. Starting small.

My goal for July is to simply master the Cyrillic alphabet.

(Baby steps to learning Bulgarian…)

Learning my letters

It’s a daunting prospect in and of itself. I have memorized it many times in the past few years, but when it comes to recognizing the letters and their sounds, pssh…I stink!

I think a month is more than enough time to nail it down.If I’m feeling extra studious, I think I’ll throw in some small phrases and greetings. I have most of the colors down as well as the basic formal greetings. Now it’s just recalling them that I need to focus on!

I am surrounded by Bulgarians and hear the language spoken daily. It really shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to practice with. Ventsi and I also talk multiple times a day, so some over-the-phone coaching might be in order as well.

A section in my activity book. Reminded me of the wildlife up here in Alaska!

I’ll be posting on my progress regularly, so stay tuned.

Do any of you bilinguals/multilinguals out there have some advice or tips on how to approach learning a second language? Steps to effective self-study? Please share! 🙂



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Learning a new language

I am back on the Bulgarian language bandwagon.

My move to Bulgaria is fast approaching and I have finally realized that it’s crunch time when it comes to learning Bulgarian. My future in-laws speak zero English, so I had better speak at least some basic Bulgarian. On top of just getting through normal day-to-day interactions, I would love to be able to learn from my Mother-in-Law. She is an amazing cook and gardener and I am dying to pick her brain.

I am committed to learning as much as I can before I move. So, it’s back to the textbooks, CDs, MP3s, and podcasts for me. My goal is to set aside at least 2 hours twice per week to study. Sadly, I don’t know any Bulgarians here in Utah and the closest university Bulgarian language courses are in California. I’m going to have to do this on my own (with a little help from V., of course).

I have “liked” a few Bulgaria related groups on Facebook, and the other day one of them posted a link to this blog post, “6 ways to stop being shy and learn a foreign language.”

The author, Dan Benson, lists 6 steps to help learning a new language.

  1. Give up control
  2. Talk to strangers
  3. Be confident
  4. Write it down first
  5. Decrease the size of your ego
  6. Get drunk!

I think I’ll remember these in my quest to learn Bulgarian, especially #6! 😉




Malka Moma

I came across this video on YouTube a few years ago.

I watch/listen to it often, and it never fails to give me the chills and bring tears to my eyes. 

The translations I can find online vary, but for the most part they agree that the lyrics are:

A young girl prays to god:

Give me please the eyes of a dove

Give me please the eyes of a dove

Give me please the wings of a falcon

Give me please the wings of a falcon

So I can fly over the River Duna

So I can fly over the River Duna

And I can find a love for me


god gave her wings of a falcon.

And she found a boy that she loves.

And she found a boy that she loves.

Nellie Andreeva has such an amazing voice. There are a few more of her songs on YouTube if you want to see more.

The more I hear traditional Bulgarian folk music, the more I realize just how beautiful the language truly is.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!



Bulgaria 2009: First Impressions

I’ve only been to Bulgaria once, so far. I arrived in Sofia at the end of December 2008 excited to be visiting with V. for a month.

We hadn’t seen each other since he left Alaska in mid-September. For a new relationship like ours that 3 months apart was hard!

After a LONG flight with a layover in Paris, I finally arrived in Sofia’s gleaming new-ish Terminal 2. Before exiting the terminal to meet V. I stopped to reapply my makeup, international flights are not great for a girl’s appearance!

I pushed open the exit doors and there he was, huge smile on his face, holding a bouquet of flowers. Needless to say we shared a long and well deserved hug and kiss.

W. & V.

Our Bulgarian adventure started from there, after he introduced me to his beloved Volkswagen Polo, of course! We didn’t spend any time in Sofia, V. was eager to get home. The drive to his hometown of Smolyan, located in southern BG,  took about 4 hours and I stared out the windows the entire time just soaking it all in. I have been to Europe before, but not Eastern Europe. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe large bronze statues dedicated to long dead Communist-era figures (they do exist, but not in the numbers I imagined), horse-drawn buggies, and the Communist hammer and sickle emblazoned on every street corner. What I expected and what I actually encountered were completely different. While it did feel like BG was in a bit of a time warp of old vs. new, globalization vs. traditions, it was much more “Western” than I would have thought, which depending on how you look at it may or may not be a good thing. Continue reading


The Art of Learning the Bulgarian Language

Step 1: Scour the internet in search of learning aids-such as text books, DVD courses, and audio CDs

Step 2: Order some of the above. Wait in anticipation for them to ship so that you can begin mastering a new language (How hard can it really be? You took 7 years of Spanish after all. Oh, but you don’t speak any Spanish after said 7 years of lessons? Well, this time it will be different, you HAVE to learn Bulgarian. You are marrying a Bulgarian!)

Step 3: Open the packages, rush out to the office store to purchase needed organizational supplies (binder, dividers, index cards, index card holder,  fancy pens, post-its, glue stick, lamination, etc. )

Step 4: Create and laminate an elaborate set of Bulgarian alphabet flashcards, with sounds and examples included

Step 5: Admire great craftsmanship and creativity

Step 6: Study flashcards for about an hour before retiring them to the depths of your backpack

Step 7: Download audio files from CD you purchased onto your iPod, or other MP3 device

Step 8: Listen to the first few files before becoming annoyed with the British accents and inane subject manner

Step 9: Peruse the text-book a few times before throwing it next to the flashcards in the aforementioned backpack

Step 10: Flash forward about a year. Write a snarky blog post. In English. Try to assuage nagging boyfriend, convince him that you will be fine conversing in charades with his parents when you move to Bulgaria.

(Maybe I’ll just blame Rosetta Stone. I bet I’d be rather fluent by now if they offered Bulgarian!)