‘I’m going to throw you out the window’

I’d always thought it was strange that when I or my siblings would misbehave, my mom would jokingly say, “I’m going to throw you out the window.” I thought it was something she made up. But the origin of the phrase came up in an unexpected place this semester.

I’ve been trying to learn several languages. Instead of studying textbooks or flashcards, I tried to utilize the native speakers on campus to help me. I met with my friend Lisa on Tuesdays to speak German, with Nikol on Thursdays to learn Croatian, and I went to Table Francais on Wednesdays to speak French with a group of other students. There are also similar clubs for Spanish and Italian.

Interacting with other people in order to learn a new language taught me things I never would have encountered otherwise, and allowed me to learn how to express my passions in other languages. I talked with Lisa about the alchemical stages in literature, learning tons of new German vocabulary I wouldn’t have had the confidence to tackle on my own. I spoke in French about movies and travel plans. And Croatian helped connect me to my mom’s past…

I was walking with Nikol, trying to speak only in Croatian, when she stopped to point out a new vocabulary word.

“Prozor,” she said, pointing to a window. I nodded, and she continued to herself, “Ja ću vas baciti kroz prozor.”

“Sto je?” I asked. What is that?

“Oh,” she said, laughing and switching to English. “It’s an old Croatian saying. It means, ‘I’m going to throw you out the window.’”

Oh, so that's the phrase I grew up with...

Oh, so that’s the phrase I grew up with…

I froze. At first, the pieces didn’t fit, but then I remembered – my mom had spent some of her early childhood in Croatia and Yugoslavia, while her father wrote a history textbook about the region. She barely remembered any of the language. But apparently, some of the common phrases had sunk in.

Understanding the human aspect of language was the most important skill I learned this semester. Connecting words and phrases to people, events, and feelings made them much more memorable. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned during my travels this summer, although, hopefully, I won’t have to use “Ja ću vas baciti kroz prozor” too often.