Lesson #223: Russian

I have a not-so-secret obsession with the Russian language and with Russians in general.*

A bunch of years ago, when I was living in the Midwest**, I decided for lack of something better to do that I was going to teach myself Russian. I figured it couldn’t be that hard. I already had two fluent languages and another one at the intermediate level. What I didn’t count on was that unlike the Romance languages, where I already have a very good base and which all operate under the same basic grammatical structure, Slavic languages are hard. Russian, it turns out, is not a language you teach yourself, so my very basic Russian got left very basic. I can sound out words if you give me enough time. I can sometimes figure out what they mean based on my rudimentary knowledge of a different Slavic language. I can get myself by in Russian if I have to. And if the answer isn’t anything more complicated than “go two blocks and turn left.”

I found this website today and I’m pretty excited about it. Because unlike my efforts to teach myself the language, I can actually hear it spoken, which in a language like Russian is hugely helpful since they have a whole bunch of sounds we don’t have in English — although some of them actually exist in the Romance languages I speak. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be fluent and it’s not all that likely that I’ll have much of an opportunity to use it, but I like knowing things and why shouldn’t some of those things be in Russian?

It’s sort of a cheat for today, I know, but it’s pretty awesome. And at no point have I made a statement that I had to learn something mind blowing every day. So today’s lesson is just where to find a good online Russian lesson!

*My very favourite Russian in the world can attest to this. When we’ve been drinking, I beg him to speak in Russian — because I quickly discovered that that’s the only time he’ll acquiesce — to see how much of it I can understand. If he speaks slowly and uses words that are similar to those I know in the Slavic language belonging to the Eastern European country in which I used to live, I do well enough based on my understanding of those words (usually food, days of the week/months of the year, sports terms, transportation, basic business like bank and market and basic verbs), his hand motions and where his eyes go in a room. In reality, I actually got to know a lot of the words in the other Eastern European Slavic language from words I already knew in Russian.

**Don’t move to the Midwest. Seriously, don’t do it.

Lesson #160: Russian Words for Rain

There are, apparently, a dozen words for rain in Russian. Not all of them just mean rain* — there are words for drizzle, what the Weather Channel calls a “wintry mix”, downpour, and apparently a word for the rain that comes during or after the hay harvest that can rot said hay.

And you wonder why I have a weird fascination with Russia/n.

The article, from Friday’s Moscow Times is here…and very, very interesting. Oh, and in English. My reading of Cyrillic is slow (but somewhat workable.)

*A bit obviously, I feel.