For those of you who have been waiting, I have finished uploading the rest of the episodes of the 2003 production of  “Idiot” and all are episodes available to watch on one page.

This really was an amazing adaptation.  Check it out and see if you don’t get hooked!

Hey, here’s a question for you newbies!  See if you can figure out why the title of the movie is spelled like it is.   First describe what’s unexpected about the spelling and then why it is spelled thusly.


I wanted to pass along my enthusiastic regard for Don Livington’s Russian Word of the Day blog. It is such a delight to read, one almost forgets that it’s educational! His examples are clear, cogent and often very funny (humor goes a LONG way with me…) I find myself perusing over previous posts again and again. His writing style is that enjoyable.   His most recent post on examining the word Понедельник is just amazing, and his illustration using days of the week in various cases is something I have never seen in any Russian textbook.

I find myself in the unlikely position of quoting Sarah Palin if I try to answer the question, “What are your favorite posts in Don’s blog?” The only answer I can come up with is, “All of ’em”.

Читайте!   Russian Word of the Day, вот  http://shininghappypeople.net/rwotd/

Now I’m curious…  Would Russians say, “Русское слово в день”?

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.

Short film tutorial

This is a short clip from YouTube that has some vocab included, then Russian and English subtitles simultaneously on the screen.  Pretty cool, I may have to think about making some of these.

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?   Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

I’ve written about this before, but with the «Мастер и Маргарита» summer reading project, it seems appropriate to discuss it again — or at least to remind myself of these techniques. 

  1. Have fun!
  2. Be comfortable
  3. Don’t worry about every single word, or (gasp) every sentence
  4. To word list or not to word list
  5. Don’t be afraid to re-read a sentence, paragraph or chapter
  6. Read out loud
  7. Talk about (or write about) what you’ve read

Continue Reading »