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Photo ofEmin Zec

I have always wanted to speak Bosnian to be able to communicate with my family. It has always been a struggle to talk with my grandma and grandpa and family in Europe. My dad’s side of the family does not  speak English that well and I do not speak Bosnian that well. When I traveled to Europe to visit my family, I could barely communicate with them. I had to use Google translate and point things out so I could understand them.  Growing up, my parents would always drop me off at my grandparents’ house while they went to work. My grandparents would attempt to speak to me in Bosnian so I could learn it at a young age, but their plan backfired. They eventually stopped speaking to me in Bosnian and started to speak to me in English because they thought I was not understanding them. I wish they didn’t do that because now, as a young adult, I know we would communicate more.  When my parents decided that I needed to speak Bosnian, my grandparents started teaching me. They started with the little things like numbers, the alphabet, and simple sayings like “hello” and “thank you.” I remember thinking that being able to say “hello” made me a master of the language. I started to learn slowly from first grade to fifth grade, but I was still only learning the simple things and going at a slower pace than I had hoped. When I would try to have conversations with my grandparents, it was difficult because we couldn’t understand each other well. It was hard for me because I always wanted to be able to fully understand.  The problem only grew when my family took a trip to Europe to visit our relatives. When we went to Europe, we traveled to Croatia and Bosnia. The countries were beautiful, but no one really spoke English so I had trouble understanding the people there or having a conversation with them. The hardest was when it was just me and my siblings in the house with our cousins. My sister, brother, and I could not speak Bosnian so it was dreadful silence where time stood still. Throughout the trip, my dad and my uncle would be our translator and help us communicate with my family.  The trip to Europe was really fun in terms of sightseeing and enjoying the various places, but it was difficult not being able to understand my cousins and grandparents. I have always wanted to speak with my Grandma and Grandpa fully, but I have not been able to. With enough practice and dedication now that I am growing up, hopefully one day I will. 

© Emin Zec. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.