Break on through to the other side

24 09 2010

Today I felt like I had a nice breakthrough in my Russian classes.

Yesterday, I got about two thirds of the way through my grammar class, and my brain had just had it.  With about 20 minutes to go, my teacher looked at me and said, “There’s some more new information we could go over, but I think you’ve had enough? Yes?”  Reading class wasn’t too bad yesterday, and I had to skip my conversation class to attend my security briefing at the US Embassy.  I struggled through my homework and went to bed feeling a bit bummed out about my progress in Russian altogether.

And then today happened.  There was a particular grammar point yesterday that I just didn’t get.  So, before we started anything new, I asked if we could review that.  I got out of my seat and started writing sentences on the board to analyze, and eventually I got it.  And then we moved on to “который”, a Russian conjuction that basically functions as “what” or “that” (i.e., That is the person that stole my laptop.  Это человек, который украл мой ноутбук.)  It’s a grammatical function that I’m pretty familiar with, which made the rest of the lesson much easier.

Next came reading class.  My assignment from the previous class had been to make a list of the characteristics of two of the characters from the story.  I was a little lazy and a little sloppy and just used an online dictionary to translate some relatively obscure adjectives.  Which would have been fine if I’d cross-checked the definitions to make sure that I was on the right track.  Or if I’d bothered to write down the definitions of the words, so that I could at least explain to my teacher what I meant to say.  But I didn’t do that either.

So when I walked into class today with a list of adjectives that were clearly far beyond my vocabulary level, and then couldn’t even remember what any of them meant, I just started laughing.  And then I said that it was the dictionary’s fault.  Fortunately, my teacher had a great sense of humor about it and started laughing as well.  Particularly when the adjective for obtuse that I chose was the one that describes an obtuse angle.  Which didn’t make sense in Russian at all.  The best part was afterwards, after we’d both had a good laugh, I took my pen to the top of the page and gave myself a check-plus.  Which sent us both into giggle fits again.  Our later discussion about the differences between women and men– as prompted by the short story we read today, was quite the laugh fest as well.  I threw out just about every obnoxious stereotype I could come out with and started defending them, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.  And the teacher got my humor, and we laughed the whole way through the rest of the lesson.

Conversation class was more serious, as we discussed Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming elections and the general states of democracy and various political systems.  Then we discussed globalization a bit.  So, there weren’t any major laughs to be had, but we had a good, pretty well-thought out discussion about all of our topics.

And throughout all three of today’s lessons, I felt more comfortable making sentences.  I was utilizing vocabulary and sentence structures that I certainly didn’t know two weeks ago.  The big pauses between sentences got shorter and shorter.  And overall I just felt much more at ease with the language than I did when I first got here.  That being said, I still have a really terrible vocabulary, and I still have miles to go on both learning new grammar and solidifying even some of the basic case endings, but the whole process seems significantly less daunting than it did three weeks ago when I got here.


vocabulary: словарь (slah-VAR) (also the word for dictionary)

election: выборы (VUY-bah-ruy)

democracy: демократия (deh-mah-KRAH-tee-yah)

joke: шутка (SHOOT-kah)

sarcasm: сарказм (sar-KAH-zum)

stereotype: стереотип (steh-reh-ah-TEEP)




2 responses

24 09 2010
Ryan H

I continue to be amazed at how many Russian words seem to be loanwords from English, even ones that aren’t technology-related.

Also, your vocabulary listings remind me of one of the things that drove me crazy about Russian – it’s really hard to figure out where the stress vowel is, yet knowing it is critical because it alters the entire pronunciation of the rest of the word (e.g. “o” sounds like “o” when stressed and “a” when unstressed).

25 09 2010

You’re super right. I have major trouble with stress, although once i know where the stress should be, I’m generally okay with pronouncing the rest of the word correctly. But I’m not at the level where I can intuit where the stress falls on a word I haven’t come across before. (Although I’m getting better at getting verbs right on the first go)

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