Many people ask me how long it took me to learn the language - and I always say "well, I am still learning!". Although I am fluent and able to do a lot in the language, there are so many nuances that I still find myself making a lot of mistakes. But the worst part is when I make a mistake repeatedly (unknowingly!) and no one corrects me:
Ljilja's sister is staying with us at the moment, while their aunt is here in Banja Luka in the hospital for some tests on her thyroid. Here they go into the hospital and do all the tests over a week to 10 days. I was telling people that she was here to do some "istrage". I told at least 3 people this. The FOURTH person was the only one brave enough to say that it isn't "istrage" (which is like a police investigation), but "pretraga"! Oh so close...
Over the weekend we "kidnapped" the aunt (who is younger than Ljilja as her uncle is only 3 years older than her) from the hospital during the day so she wouldn't be bored, and I told her about the "istage/pretrage" mistake. This prompted Ljilja to recall all of my other confusions of words, many I had forgotten. They say laughter is the best medicine, and Ljilja and her sister and aunt definitely got enough medicine at my expense!
I confused "preliv" (topping or sauce for icecream) and "proljev" (diarrhea)...I never wanted to ask for icecream sauce because of this... I couldn't remember the difference between "baksis" (tip for the waiter) and "baksuz" (unlucky person/bad luck), so I would leave the waiter "bad luck" and sometimes think that I was a "tip". And just yesterday I tried to say "patishpan" and it came out "pashtipan" (it is a kind of cake)... causing great hilarity!
Anyone who has learnt a new language in adulthood will know the joy and pain that comes along with getting something right, or getting something horribly wrong! I look at it this way: I get more right than I get wrong and in order to get it right sometimes I need to get it wrong... I will never forget "pretrage" for instance... but I wish that one of those first 3 people would have told me, so I could have learnt sooner!