Inside Lane

Я не знаю

I’ve made it through the first three Pimsleur lessons, and my self imposed structure of daily alphabet writings and number recitations. Given my general lack of motivation, I think that’s pretty swell.

Listen, those Pimsleur lessons are no joke. 30 minutes each, and at the end of every one, I’ve said, “Oh, thank god! It’s over!” In three lessons, you come away with about 25 words, 10 different phrases, two verbs, and two forms of masculine/feminine noun endings. That’s a chunk to learn in 1.5 hours, and feel solid with the understanding.

The phrases the Pimsleur starts with all have to do with whether or not the speaker can understand English or Russian. “Excuse me? Do you understand Russian? I understand a little Russian. Do you understand English? No. I do not understand English.” Over and over again, until you are crying out, “да! да! Я понимаю! за любовь бога, двигаться дальше!” Or something similar. I probably misspoke myself there.

But, I keep messing up because I’m trying to use phrases I learned 25 years ago. Three lessons in, I was thrilled to have Pimsleur catch up with what my brain was doing with four things in particular. It’s a lot of re-training. I’m having the same problem with my handwriting.


See that? That’s how I learned to make a little T. I can’t remember why that’s what I learned–I think it’s cursive. Who knows? All I can tell you is that when I am writing, I automatically make that crossed m for a little T. I make my Ds funny, and my Ls funny, and there’s just no hope for my Zh or my Yoo. One looks like a spider trying to creep away sideways, the other looks like I’m playing Hangman and losing. It’s going to take a while before I can write again.


I was able to write “Russian Alphabet” and then, “What?” “Little T?” “What is that?” “I don’t know.”

I find it funny that of everything I used to know, the phrases I remember well enough to write without having to look them up for correctness are, “What’s that?” and “I don’t know.”


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