The never ending battle agains the Russian language!
Today my Russian language teacher told my class about how when the Soviet Union first opened up to foreigners, they were put in rooms and had only one secret weapon to help them study Russian. That secret weapon was the fact that no one understood or spoke the other’s language. In two weeks these students were fluent in Russian!
I had recently seen a Youtube video on the same method. http://youtu.be/G1RRbupCxi0 It showed two american guys test this theory and got amazing results in just 3 months. Then I start thinking about how I want to do the Middlebury program with its language immersion program when I get back to the US. But why not start now! I realized it was time to stop comparing myself to others and get out there and practice the language, no speak the language. Practice happens in short burst, 20 minuets here 5 minuets there. More meaningful connections are not made that way with language learning. I mentioned comparing myself to others because it is important to reward the progress you see in yourself without making yourself feel bad about where you are now. My quote for the day is it is never too late to become what you might have been. Meaning, instead of putting yourself down about your language levels and how, it should be as good as his or hers by now, take the time now to dedicate to make the connections in your head with Russian. Build ways to remember what a word, or phrase looks like, sounds like and means. Make that connection with your mouth as well speak it out loud so you don’t fumble when you speak a word you know and have seen 20 times but are speaking aloud for the first time.
Russians have been so warm and responsive about sharing their language. I had an incident in a bookstore (Yes, they do still exist in Russia. I guess Amazon hasn’t cornered the market here yet) where a sales clerk heard me speaking English with a friend and he asked in English if we needed any help. I, however kept the conversation in Russian. He was so much more receptive. To him, this was more than just another foreigner who couldn’t speak his language or another nameless face to practice English with for 5 seconds. I remembered his name, Andrei, and he remembered mine. He cared enough to give me recommendations on which was the best Russian-English dictionary. Astonishingly enough I found that I could keep up with what he was saying! He even recommended more books on grammar for me to explore, asked me questions about why I wanted to study Russian, “Isn’t it a very hard language for English speakers?”
Andrei asked me questions about what school I studied at here in St. Petersburg and what I did in the US. Noticing how well he spoke English when I first entered the Bookstore, I had to know how long he had studied my language. I have loved having these kinds of interactions in Russia! But they are ones that you have to be intrepid enough to use the Russian language and turn what would have been a 10 second exchange in English into making a new friend because you spoke Russian. In short, I think the secret weapon is to not beat yourself up for where you are not. The secret weapon is to use the language. Just speak!