5 Slovak Resources That I Use Every Day

Resources in Slovakia

June 17, 2011

By Allan Stevo

I’ve been in Slovakia about 8 years now and have come across some useful tools that make life easier for me here and keep me more connected to what’s happening around Slovakia.

1. Slovak – World – I know Google is the cool email program to use, but Google has nothing as good as Slovak – World.  It’s a Yahoo group, but it’s membership is open to all, regardless of what company you have your email with.

Ask a question to the community and they will not let you down.  The questions are often quite varied, but someone always seems to find an interesting answer to contribute.

To sign up, just follow this link to Slovakia World and click  the blue button marked “Join Group.”  You can set your Slovak World membership to email you at the end of each day so that it’s easier to follow the discussion, as opposed to getting numerous distended posts throughout the day littering your email account.  I look forward to my Slovak World email each day.

2. Google Alerts – Honestly, you don’t need to seek out any news source about Slovakia anymore, because the news can just be delivered to you.  It’s easy to get complacent and stop searching for new news sources when the news is this targeted and easy to come by.  Google Alerts is a free service that sends you the latest information on a topic that has been posted to a large list of websites.  It takes about 90 seconds to setup a Google Alert about Slovakia.  Below are the 6 steps for making that happen.

  • 1. Visit Google Alerts
  • 2. Add the keyword “Slovakia”
  • 3. Enter your email address
  • 4. Set the drop down menus to:

–  Once a Day

–  Everything

–  All Results

  • 5. Press the “Create Alert” button
  • 6. Go directly to your email account and activate the alert by opening the email from Google Alerts and clicking on the link to confirm the alert.

I have alerts set for “Bratislava” and for other interesting themes and topics dealing with Slovak culture.  While you’re at it, I also suggest you set a Google Alert for your name in quotes, i.e. “Allan Stevo.”  The Internet is a vast space and having a Google Alert for your name can help you keep an eye on when your name is mentioned.

Even though such targeted news is easy to come by, I think it’s important to constantly be on the lookout for new and interesting news about Slovakia and to be on the lookout for new ideas out there.  Google Alerts is best used not as a primary source of information, but as a way to supplement with information that you otherwise might have missed.

3. Google Translate – The translation is quick and dirty, crude and simple, but gets the job done when you are in a hurry.  After the 15th Slovak language email of the day, sometimes I get tired of wading through emails and I’ll turn to Google Translate.  It’s not by any means perfect, but with a little imagination, it allows you to quickly make sense of emails.

Additionally, Google Chrome (a web-browser made by Google) offers an option that allows you to translate entire Slovak websites at the touch of a button by identifying Slovak language (or any other non-English language) websites and asking you if you would like to translate them.  For international web surfing, I strongly recommend Google Chrome.  The language barriers in many ways have fallen on the Internet because of Google Chrome’s translation feature.

A caveat about Google Translate is that it should not be used to translate into a language for formal needs.  Translating into a language with Google Translate can make you sound pretty foolish and might make it hard to be understood.  At the time of this writing, Google Translate has a very difficult time understanding which homonym should be used when translating into Slovak.  On top of that, it just has some funny bugs that pop up from time to time, like this one that confuses Bratislava and Prague. Basically, it a very useful tool for translating into your native language. If you have no Slovak language ability, I recommend against using it to translate into Slovak, because it will be very difficult to check that the translation is accurate.  Despite this difficulty, I find myself using it every day.

4. Aunt Irma – Every day I cook and since I live in Slovakia instead of Chicago where the rest of my family is, that means I generally don’t call home to my family in Chicago for cooking advice.  I need to turn instead to the advice of elderly ladies shopping at the grocery store – “How do you like to thicken your gulas?”  “What’s the best way to season this cut of pork?”  “My roast cabbage isn’t coming out right, what do you think I’m doing wrong.?”

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, Slovakia feels like an older place, a place that changes slowly in some respects, a place that is more traditional.  Even though the groceries shelves are packed with all kinds of processed garbage, lots of Slovak cooking is done from scratch.  When I’m in a bind, and don’t have a capable cook on speed dial, hands down, my best resource for cooking has been Irma Rombauer.  She is so often referenced among some of my friends that she goes by the name “Aunt Irma.”

If you’re living in Slovakia, Aunt Irma’s Joy of Cooking is key, since you might easily find yourself:

  • 1. without an Internet connection and
  • 2. needing to know how to draw and quarter a bird.

I have an old beat up edition from the 1950’s that tells me just about anything I need when I’m not sure how to proceed with a recipe. The older the version, the better.  Irma was in her forties before the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist, so the word “Slovakia” does not seem to have a spot on her radar, nonetheless, her advice is rural, immigrant, homemade, and full of know-how.

Even though Irma, like many from that time period, is unable to differentiate between Slovak and Hungarian items and thus calls everything from Slovakia “Hungarian,” and even though she seems to have a clear bias for Hungarian cuisine, I really love her impish voice, her simple drawings, and her VAST store of knowledge contained compactly and so well-organized.  Aside from your favorite holy book, if there is one book that a foreign cook in Slovakia should not be without, it is Aunt Irma.

She’s not Slovak (that I know of), her cookbook’s not Slovak (it’s in English), but the recipes and techniques are from a different era in America and continue to be used at present in Slovakia.  Here’s an Amazon link through my affiliate account to Joy of Cooking 1931 Facsimile Edition: A Facsimile of the First Edition 1931 and another to a more recent edition Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition – 2006.  I have a version from 1964 that has served me well (you can buy that edition used, here for 6 cents).  After using numerous cookbooks and numerous Internet sources over the years to work on my cooking technique, I have finally settled on always turning to Irma first.  Sometimes I even come across old-fashioned, ingenious techniques that experienced Slovak homemakers have never encountered, which makes me feel like an equal in the kitchen.

5. The People Around Me – My favorite way to get information about Slovakia is to talk to Slovaks.  Yes, if I have a question, I call a friend or even walk up to a complete stranger and just ask it.  After 5 or 10 repetitions of this, you start to have a pretty good idea of what is going through the heads of the people around you and especially their thoughts on a given topic.

Questions like “What’s new in Slovakia?”  “How is the government doing?”  “What’s in the news?”  “Do you have any travels planned?” offer me more and often quite varied insight than any amount of newspaper reading can offer me.

Were any of these helpful?  Do you have any resources that you would like to add to this list that are a regular part of each day for you?  Please leave a comment below to tell me and other readers about it.  Thank you, in advance, for sharing.

Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com.  He is from Chicago and spends most of his time travelling Europe and writing.  You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com.  If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email.  You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.

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  • Michael Mojher

    Jun 17th, 2011

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SLOVAK-ROOTS/ is the link to Slovak-Roots Genealogy website. We are almost 1200 people with the common interest of doing genealogy searches in the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic. It is free.

  • I use Google Language Tools for higher Slovak which I wasn’t really taught. It’s best I’ve seen though now perfect. The occasional accent if I have it wrong it catches it but its very literal and if your not careful can make you sound funny…


  • You can view SK World but it did want a yahoo account to join

  • Thanks for the website, Michael !! I joined it !! Although I am not online on a daily basis, I use http://www.seznamslovnik.cz for translating Czech and English vocabulary and I use http://www.slovnik.sk for translating Slovak and English when I write emails. I bookmarked http://www.slovakcooking.com that Allan recommended, and I read the recipes, in English, and reminisce about my mother’s Moravian/Slovakian meals and dishes. I like http://www.answers.com for giving general geographical and historical info about Slavic peoples. I will check out Slovak World, but Jano says that it doesn’t like Yahoo email accts., which is what I have.

  • Cynthia,
    All four of those sound like good resources to me. Thank you for sharing. Regarding the Slovak World login that you mentioned – I think Jano was not saying that it won’t accept a Yahoo address, I think he was saying the opposite – that it accepts only Yahoo addresses.

  • Ano treba yahoo mailu

    Editor: Jano writes “Yes, a Yahoo email account is needed.”

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