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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

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Audio: Student connects with family through learning and speaking Bulgarian

Since+he+was+2%2C+Ian+Benert+has+been+learning+Bulgarian+to+speak+to+his+family.+While+his+parents+both+speak+English%2C+he+speaks+Bulgarian+with+his+mother+and+grandmother.+Speaking+his+ethnic+language+has+helped+Ian+strengthen+his+bond+with+his+family+and+his+culture.%0A
Photo provided by Ian Benert
Since he was 2, Ian Benert has been learning Bulgarian to speak to his family. While his parents both speak English, he speaks Bulgarian with his mother and grandmother. Speaking his ethnic language has helped Ian strengthen his bond with his family and his culture.

Since he was 2, Ian Benert has been learning Bulgarian to speak to his family. While his parents both speak English, he speaks Bulgarian with his mother and grandmother. Speaking his ethnic language has helped Ian strengthen his bond with his family and his culture.

Ian lives with his parents and his grandmother, Zlatka Ilieva. Since she speaks very little English, she values that Ian can speak Bulgarian.

Clip: Zlatka explaining how Ian can be with both sides of the family – Ian: “Her side of the family is all Bulgarians, and my dad’s side of the family is…can only speak English” 

Ian has mainly learned Bulgarian by listening and speaking to his family. He’s also used alphabet books and children’s books to learn the fundamentals of the language.

Ian: “I mean, I’ve been learning ever since I was born. I’ve been listening to my mom and my grandma speak together” “At first, I could only say a few words that I picked up from listening, and then eventually my mom decided to really sit me down and teach me.”

Ian’s father, who speaks German and English, has also been learning Bulgarian, but he can only speak a little bit. It’s often Ian’s job to translate between his grandma and his dad.

Ian: “If my mom’s not at home, then yeah, that sort of falls onto me to be able to translate between them a tiny bit.”

However, a mixture of English and Bulgarian can make speaking at home more difficult for Ian. His grandmother has noticed this too.

Ian: “Most of the time if I’ve been speaking English all day and then I try and talk to her, it’s harder than if I’ve been speaking to her all day, maybe on the weekend, and in the evening it’s easier then.” “It’s harder to switch over.”

Outside of his family, Ian rarely gets to speak Bulgarian. However, he remembers visiting his mom’s family in Bulgaria. 

Ian: “Me and my family would travel about every other year before the pandemic to Bulgaria, and there I could hear not just from my mom and my grandma, but from everyone who’s there, could read all the signs on the store, and things like that”

Many larger Bulgarian American communities are in the Chicago suburbs. Nonetheless, Ian’s family values the relationships they’ve made with Bulgarian speakers in the city.

Ian: “that community isn’t really just there, it’s sort of been formed for me by my mom’s family and friends, and friends of family, and things like that.”

However, the most important thing for Ian’s family is that everyone can communicate with him, in either English or Bulgarian.

Ian: “when we’re together, I can understand both and I can be with both sides of the family…” “that just makes it feel more family-like, I guess.”

I’m David Li reporting for the U-High Midway.

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About the Contributor
David Li
David Li, Reporter
David Li is a member of the Class of 2027 and serves as a reporter. His favorite part of journalism is meeting and working with new people. Outside of journalism, David enjoys playing tennis, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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