Inside Lane

Do You Understand Russian?

I started my first day back in Школа русского языка (Russian school) today. I wrote my alphabet five times, and repeated numbers one through ten until my child thought the Matrix had glitched. Four is my favorite Russian number, btw. It just sounds happy. Four is a happy, little bluebird of a word. Five sounds like you are rejecting something with great disgust.

Once I was alone in the car, I switched on my Pimsleur cd (Do you understand Russian?), and started ecoutant et en répétant the Russian lesson. Why did I écouter et répéter? Because for two years, I studied French and Russian at the same time, and I have a tendency to confuse the two. Totally different languages, alphabets, and pronunciations, but I still gargle my Russian Rs like a merry Frenchwoman. The struggle is ulreal. Or uvular. You decide.

So, I got started and listened and repeated, realizing that as I was speaking a word, I was seeing the spelling of it in my brain. Pimsleur suggests (strongly) that you not try to take written notes, or read the words as you engage the language centers of your brain. But as I was saying, “Извините,” I was seeing my own handwriting in my brain.


I can barely read my handwriting in English. Trying to read my imaginary Russian handwriting? Whew. I had a brain cramp by the time the lesson was over. I was also appalled at how rude the instructor was, because he never once said “Excuse me, please?” It was always just, “Excuse me.” Dr. McDowell would not have approved.

But, that’s interesting to me. Interesting to me that when I am trying to say a word, I need to know how it is spelled. Maybe as I go on, that will wear off. Once you’ve learned the alphabet, like Spanish, Russian spelling is very straightforward, so it is helpful for pronunciation. I feel like the grammar is fairly straightforward, too.


I’m going to have to get some kind of plug-in for Cyrillic on my keyboard because Google Translate won’t give me the words I want to use, so I can’t just copy/paste. Boo!

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