As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve been on an interviewing binge. These interviews are conducted in Lithuanian. I speak Lithuanian pretty well and I understand a lot, especially about my research topic. I know Lithuanian history. I know Soviet history. I know Kaunas 1972. If you are talking to me in Lithuanian about these topics, I am going to understand most of what you are saying to me.
So, after this week of intense interviewing, I was feeling pretty darn good about my Lithuanian language skills. Especially since my interviewees always complement me on how beautifully I speak Lithuanian. Now I know that my Lithuanian is far from beautiful. Really they are just impressed that an American who isn’t of Lithuanian heritage actually speaks the Lithuanian language. But the complements are encouraging. Then two other Lithuanians whom I know mentioned that my language skills are improving. I have to admit that the flattery went to my head.
I really concentrate during the interviews to make sure that I am following the person’s narrative. Often I am so focused on the subject of the interview, that I get thrown off by tangents. And you guessed, I was brought back to reality at the end of recent interview. One of the people with whom I was talking said to me in Lithuanian, “What do you think about egiptas?” I drew a complete blank. So I responded in Lithuanian, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what an egiptas is.” “Egiptas,” he said, “the country where the demonstrations are happening.”
Oh, Egypt. Maybe my conversational Lithuanian isn’t quite as advanced as I thought.