Cormac and I started Serbo-Croatian language training two weeks ago, and have been working hard to master the Cyrillic alphabet for most of that time. I don’t know who I pity more, our poor instructor who has to make 50+ hours of alphabet learning engaging and somewhat entertaining, or those of us who are struggling to remember that “P” is now “rrrr”. We are in a class with two other students and have all managed to remain in good spirits thus far! We have five hours of classroom time each day, and then do three to four hours of studying on our own outside of class. We can now read just about anything written in Cyrillic, but still have no clue what the majority of the words mean. We spend our evenings making funny noises like “CHuh” and “DJuh” and “Shuh”, and repeating our favorite phrases. The dog probably thinks we’ve lost our minds.
A lot of people have asked what happens with my language classes once the baby arrives, so I figured I’d mention it on the off chance that it may be useful for other FSOs in the future. The US Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care or child birth; to care for the employee’s child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care. So despite FSI’s “no leave during long term training” rule, maternity and paternity leave must be accommodated. Depending on which language you’re learning, the leave/return from/to language class plans seem to vary greatly.
One source of anxiety for me after we found out we were expecting was how the baby’s arrival would play into our training schedule for Serbo-Croatian. We really want to go to Belgrade, but I wasn’t sure how I could meet the language requirement of the job if I was going to take six to eight weeks of leave from classes after only two to three weeks of class. I was so pleasantly surprised when the first reply I received from the instructors to my email about maternity leave during language training was “well, people have babies, so we find ways to work with them when they do!” I was offered a mix of telecommuting, self-study, one-on-one classes, and tutoring to help me catch up to the rest of the students once I am ready to go back to class. Once the baby decides to arrive, I will go on leave status from training. After a couple of weeks, I’ll get in touch with my language instructors again to set up a more concrete plan for transitioning back to work. I’ll try to remember to post an update with what the final plan works out to be.
Ћао for now!