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July 12, 2007

Learning Russian

I fear that Robert Crampton is doing this the hard way:

I have spent half an hour each day for the past two weeks trying to learn Russian. I’m finding it extraordinarily painful, particularly the alphabet, in which our P letter is their R sound, their R is backwards and means ya, ya is one of five different letters denoting a Y noise, N is P, B is V, C is SS and the letter H is actually N, while the sound H doesn’t exist as such but is replaced by a wide variety of very finely delineated hissing and spitting. Friends keep saying to me, that looks impossible, why are you doing it? Here’s what I reply.

Forget, for a start, the alphabet. Makes it all far too complicated, concentrate only on the sounds. Then, you only need a few words. Remember that Muscovites are the cultured ones, so that moloko (milk) is correctly pronounced malako, whereas only rubes from the Volga say moloka. A little bit is "choot, choot", making sure to "t" the t. Finally, get the word for ice cream correct. Morozhenue (moro-jen-you-eh).

At this point everyone will assume that you are indeed a cultured Muscovite and go back to speaking English.

For bonus points you can learn a few numbers: adin, dva, tree, cheteree and then adinatsat, dvatsit, threenatsit, cheterinatsit and then devsti etc but forty becomes sorok.

Note, not the same root as four or fourteen. Nor four hundred, nor four thousand, it reappears again at forty thousand. This is because in olden times counting went 37, 38, 39, many. Knowing that will mark you out as being on a par with Professors of Languages.

You don't actually need any more and you certainly don't want to learn enough of the language to discuss Gogol or Dostoevsky in the original: it's impolite to even think of doing that in English, let alone any other language.

July 12, 2007 in Language | Permalink

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Comments

You've got the numbers completely wrong. Adinadsat' (soft t) is eleven, so the next one must be twelve - dvenadsat'. Dvadsat' is twenty. You then go on to thirteen and fourteen after which you should have pyatnadsat' for fifteen. I assume devsti is dvesti, which means two hundred. Where did sorok come from? If you are counting in tens, you have to have desyat'(10), dvadsat' (20), tridsat' (30) and then sorok (40). Then you go back to pyatdesyat' (50), which means five tens. And so on. Should you wish, I can write them all out to your from one to one hundred.

Tim adds: long time since I've had to use it. Knew I'd get it wrong going public.

Posted by: Helen | Jul 12, 2007 1:26:54 PM

My dismal attempt at learning Russian many years back was not daunted by the alphabet, but by the three genders, six cases, seemingly infinite number of tenses and separate plurals for two and three IIRC.

Posted by: IanCroydon | Jul 12, 2007 2:00:40 PM

How do you feel about perfective and imperfective aspects (not tenses), particularly in verbs of motion? Heh!

Posted by: Helen | Jul 12, 2007 4:53:32 PM

I’m finding it extraordinarily painful, particularly the alphabet.

What the fucking fuckety fuck?!! The alphabet is easy, you can learn it in a couple of hours! When people come here and ask what they should learn first, I always say the alphabet (which puts most people off). Being able to read signs in Russian is a huge advantage, even if you can speak nothing.

You then go on to thirteen and fourteen after which you should have pyatnadsat' for fifteen.

But is pronounced pit'nadsat'.

How do you feel about perfective and imperfective aspects (not tenses), particularly in verbs of motion? Heh!

Oh yes! Now those I do struggle with. Ya edu, ya poedu, ti poidyosh, ti idyosh...

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jul 13, 2007 7:37:04 AM

I have spent half an hour each day for the past two weeks trying to learn Russian.

He's also going about it the wrong way. What he wants to do is get himself to an oil town, find the nearest club populated with CIS girls, hang around there for a month or two and engage in cultural activities, get himself invited to a complete shithole where nobody speaks English and is accessible only by a three day train ride, and take it from there.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Jul 13, 2007 7:39:09 AM

A word of advise from a native Russian speaker: don't bother with the grammar (most Russians don't know it) and try and read short stories by Turgenev or Tolstoy in simplified Russian (that's how I learned English - and now read Chaucer and Shakespeare for pleasure - without ever reading a page of a textbook).
PS: ice-cream is 'moro-jen-oh-eh', four is 'chetyree' and 200 is 'dvesti'

Posted by: szeni | Jul 13, 2007 11:32:42 AM