Monday, February 02, 2009

Tossed into the deep end

Postings on Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg

If you know me at all you know I love languages and learning them. It is play and delight (though also work). I study Russian for fun, if you will, though it is daunting.

Since Russian 2 did not have sufficient enrollment it was suggested we take conversational Russian. This was a bureaucratic, not a pedagogical, suggestion - in other words, please let us keep your registration fee, we don't want to refund it. Fine.

Tonight I went to conversational Russian Half the class are old hands who have been taking this class for at least a couple of years. Two of us had studied only one semester (2 hours a week class), two others knew no Russian and have wisely redirected themselves to Russian 1.

Do you recall when you were learning to swim and not too good at it? You tried always to be able to touch bottom with your toes, just in case. If you drifted too far down the pool you found yourself without that concrete assurance beneath you, just water. You had not yet learned to trust the water, your body, your own buoyancy. You managed to get back to the shallows but not without a frisson of terror.

I think I have just wandered into the deep end of the Russian pool.

There were numerous moments when I had the deer-in-the-headlights look. "You know this," the prof would say while I was thinking, "De ningún manera, Señora, no me recuerdo de eso. What are all these people saying? What was that word? I can't write fast enough! Say what?"

The professor is very good, very patient, and also a good taskmistress. It is evident that I will need to use the resources I have been acquiring over the past year and teach myself grammar. She will explain what I don't understand and drill us, but I must deal with the concepts and the formation of word endings myself.

Thank Godde I know how to do this (as it ain't my first time around the linguistic block).

I did not know a good half of the vocabulary used tonight. There were case endings I have not yet studied. We touched on perfective and imperfective verbs (and I am so glad I had read about those on my own before tonight). My head is swimming. My brain is flailing.

I know I will be OK. I will probably know grammar as well or better than most in the class (because it's what I do, I can't help myself). But it is a challenge.


[We all know that "pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction." I was feeling really proud of all the studying I've done since my last class at the end of April. Tonight took me down a peg or six. Serves me right.]
--the BB


Sara said...

I can really relate. I've been studying Chinese, not real diligently, for most of 5 months. I just returned from the market where I even felt number challenged and I know my numbers. It's a pronunciation problem partly, and I think a dialect problem. I came home happy that I can at least tread water and accomplish everything I needed. Then tomorrow, it's back into the pool!

Also, thanks for the accounting in the above post. I and I'm guessing a good portion of the US need to see things like that in black and white, or bright red as the case may be.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

On the other hand, Slave languages ressemble each other... So, when you master one, you will understand the others too.

(But don't try to speak Russian to any one else; they all have had it as a compulsory subject and hate it!)

Malcolm+ said...

So, as an old Canada Post hand, what does the poster in the picture say?

Paul said...

Malcolm+, free something or other. I can tell you that it is Pushkin's statue in the background in Arts Square but the advertisement for something related to communications has lots of words that I can look up in the dictionary but don't know how to put together. I really am a beginner.

Lindy said...

Good luck Paul. I know you'll get the hang of it and be great. Let your passion sustain you during the hard parts.

Paul said...

Большое спасибо, Линдичка!

(Thanks very much, Lindichka!)

FranIAm said...

I so admire that you pursue this, I truly do.