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Archive for the ‘learning Russian’ Category

Yelena has posted what looks to be an excellent recipe for пельмени [pelmeni], along with the usual wonderful sprinkling of excellent info about Russian language, expressions, culture and a peek into «загадочная русская душа» [the mysterious Russian soul]. 

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Yelena over at the Transparent Language Russian blog site has published an excellent article written by guest blogger David Roberts.  The post looks at the song «Миллион алых роз» by «Алла Пугачёва» [Alla Pugacheva] .

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Don from the Russian Word of the Day site has written an excellent post regarding some of the subtleties of the use of чтобы, and really, his explanations and examples are among the best I’ve ever read.   In the first part, he explains why sometimes you use an infinitive in the send clause after чтобы, and why sometimes you use past tense.  In the second part, Don explains the use of чтобы with the “subjunctive mood” following certain verbs.  And in the third part, Don examines how using the negative affects the use of чтобы.

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YearlyGlot has an excellent post regarding the use of flash cards.  He hates them, and I agree with him 100%.  And while I learned things and had a great time sitting in on Russian classes, most of the vocabulary and grammar that I learned there hasn’t been retained in long term memory, because I was trying to memorize 100 words a week and all of these grammar lessons at such an accelerated pace — but by rote memorization, not by use.  It’s not the way that our brains work.

Additionally, our brains don’t like to remember unhappy stuff.  It’s why “the good old days” always seem like they were.  If you want to build those happy little neural pathways to learn a new language, USE the language and do it in a context that is pleasant and hopefully fun.  If you like to write – I mean using paper and a pen – then sit down in a comfy chair in front of the fire with a glass of port, your favorite fountain pen and practice writing.  If you like reading, substitute the pen and paper with a book in a foreign language.  If, like Chauncy Gardener, you like to watch, then go to http://russianremote.com and watch some Russian films.  No subtitles?  Don’t worry about it.  If you are just starting, ok, then watch some of the movies on my site with subtitles.   If you like conversing, use a site like http://sharedtalk.com and find some folks to chat with, either with IM or voice chat.  The site provides both.  The voice chat is kind of wonky at Shared Talk, so if you find someone you’d like to chat with, suggest moving to Skype.

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Why ask why?

An acquaintance from many years ago, a fellow Beatle-maniac, was once describing life in Russia to me.  He said it was like a beer commercial popular at the time that posed the rhetorical question, “Why ask why?”.   This happened to be just days before the breakdown of the Союз Советских Социалистических Республик (USSR).  I saw him just after the news came out and he was quite worried what he would find when he returned home to Russia.  Unfortunately, we fell out of touch, and I never found out his reaction to The New Russia.   If you are reading this Fedya, please get back in touch!

Like many students of Russian, I have asked, “Are почему and зачем synonyms?”.  The answer is always no, but when you ask Russians to explain when to use one or the other,  they seem…uncomfortable. :-)

The fellow who runs the excellent “learn a new language every year (http://www.yearlyglot.com)” blog recently posted a great article on this.  He explains that почему infers by what means and  зачем infers for what.

Here’s an illuminating example from his article:

QПочему вы здесь?
Why are you here?   (With this sentence, read it with the emphasis on the word “here”.  It’s as if почему throws the focus away from itself.)

A. Ваш магазин – единственный открытый.
Yours is the only store that’s open.

QЗачем вы здесь?
Why are you here?  (Read this one with the emphasis on “why”)

A. Масло купить.
To buy some butter.

He references this article at a  Russian grammar site from which helped him to understand.   Check it out and see how much you can understand!

By the way, Josefina over at her Russian blog wrote this excellent post on this very same subject some time ago.

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In search of a copy of  “The Master of Margarita”, I went to мой русский район (my Russian neighborhood) in Los Angeles.  It is so close to me, only a couple of miles, that I’m always surprised at myself,  that I don’t go there more often.  This small bookstore on Santa Monica Blvd. is where I usually go for Russian books.

I was pleased that I was able to converse with the owner exclusively in Russian.  Shopping is great practice, of course, because there are predictable things, and you can rehearse the conversation before going in the shop.  Like many things, a good start in conversing in a foreign language goes a long way to helping your confidence.   I think it’s a good idea to script it out:

“Hello!  Do you have The Master and Margarita by Bulgokov?”

Здравствуйте!  У Вас есть «Мастер и Маргарита» Булгакова?

And that’s what I said.  He replied, “Конечно!”   After all, what kind of a Russian bookstore would it be without a copy of one of the most famous Russian novels of the 20th century?   (more…)

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Just yesterday I came across a Russian blog that I hadn’t seen before, and I recommend it highly.  While it is humbly called “Russian Word of the Day“, it really is so much more than just that.  It is run by Don Livingston who teaches Russian at Arizona State University.   He manages to work in grammar, culture, humor and a great deal of personality into his great blog.

I’ve been having fun going through all the entries, and there are so many wonderful ones that I think it would be fun to pick and choose some to link to from here.   The first one I’d like to point out is his interesting discussion of the words for potato and its history in the cuisine of Russia.

(more…)

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