Michael Manske’s The Glory of Carniola has a remarkable post called “The Diabolicalness of Dialects” about the diversity of Slovenian dialects in general and a northwestern dialect called Resian in particular. Val Resia is a mountainous region in northeastern Italy near the Slovenian border, and the isolation of its inhabitants has produced a dialect that is apparently incomprehensible to most speakers of the standard language (though, judging from the comments on Michael’s post, not to Slovenes from the western part of the country). Michael links to an audio clip and says “If you’re a fool, like me, who is learning the language, it’s enough to make you want to slit your wrists and let eternal sleep take you to a better place. I mean, imagine learning an insanely difficult language and then going 50 kilometers away and discovering it doesn’t work anymore.” He also links to a great map of Slovenian dialects (with a legend that, fortunately, expands when you click on it). If you’re interested in the dialect, there’s a website devoted to it, with texts, a dictionary, and other goodies.
Incidentally, Michael’s a New Yorker who moved to Slovenia after marrying a Slovenian gal, and his blog FAQ has a hilarious riff on the language:
6. Speaking of which: How is your Slovene?
Catastrophic. Learning Slovene is a long, hard road into Hell. And it’s made worse by the fact that Slovenes rarely appreciate how difficult it is. They’ll tell you things like: “Yeah, it’s hard, huh? Pronouncing the ž and č and everything. That’s tough.”
No, no, my friend, saying “ch” is the least of my problems. I’ll tell you what’s tough: six cases, endless gender declensions, formal and informal divisions, the dual grammatical form—all of it spoken in 32 dialects that are further divided into 76 sub-groups. That’s my definition of tough.
He gives an example, citing ten different ways to say ‘Did you eat anything?’ depending on gender and number of addressees.
Thanks for the tip, Jonathan!