Fun with Translations; Beauty & Horror with Strava & Serbian

Monday, August 24th 2020

Last year I made a conscious effort to continue my incremental improvements in learning Serbo-Croatian. It's not a super common language to find lessons and materials for, but I discovered the lessons on the Mango language app are really quite good! I still try speaking to Google translate in Serbian to see if it understands my accent, but the Mango app does a good job of adding cultural contexts to some of the phrases as well. Combined with the space repetition approach, I found cramming to be surprising helpful running up to the few weeks I'd ultimately spend in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Back to cultural contexts and funny translations: I learned through the app that the word "strava" means horror. It made me a laugh, and I wondered if this might have an adverse affect on the the Strava the running service's popularity in the Balkans.

In the lesson they explained how it's common with younger people to say to someone "Ti si strava" (You are a horror) as a compliment, particularly when you think someone is beautiful.

Language is funny.

Another thing I've learned in my visits with relatives there is that younger people engage in this wordplay where they'll reverse parts of the words, kind of like Pig Latin. For example, the word "brate" (brother) becomes "tebra." I wonder if "ti si vastra" works?