17 November 2005

It's all Greek to me

Because I was having some trouble getting motivated to do my Russian lessons, I decided to do a few Greek lessons from Pimsleur. I figured that it would be a nice break, then I could get back to the serious business of learning Russian.
I have done the Modern Greek lessons for about 2 weeks now. So on Monday evening, I decided to go have a look at a Greek phrasebook to see if I could read it.
What I discovered, when I started looking through the Greek phrase book, was that I was totally illiterate in Greek. And that realization has given me the new insight that I am no longer totally illiterate in Russian. The Russian phrasebook is definitely less intimidating and lots more familiar than the Greek one.

So I have made some progress in Russian, even though it doesn't usually feel like it!


15 October 2005


I noticed today on Librarything.org that LibraryHat has noted the book that he used to learn Russian... and I owe this same book! I had found it a bit old-fashioned, but I will take another look at it since it comes with LanguageHat's "recommendation."


12 October 2005

Dead Souls

Ian at Steppe by Steppe has posted today, so I thought that I would say a few words as well.

I still haven't found the secret to motivation, although I have decided that I will just have to MAKE myself do it.

I have bought a used paperback: Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. I am hoping that a little (translated) Russian lit will get me in the mood for MAKING myself do my Golosa lessons.


22 September 2005

Hints or tricks?

Does anyone have any tips on getting motivated for doing these lessons?



01 September 2005

Golosa, Chapter1

I bought the Russian textbook, workbook and audio CDs from my local university bookstore a month ago. Tonight I finally got around to using them for the first time. I worked on the first chapter.
I have discovered that all of the audio parts are available on the web! So I can return the CDs and get my $36.85 back. The audio lesson for chapter one basically reads the lesson out loud to you. Then I followed the audio parts of the workbook activities. Lastly, I listened to the reading (and listening) exercise. This was an interesting reading in a mixture of English and Russian. It is very strange sounding, you might want to check it out here.
This first lesson was very easy for me, but I enjoyed listening to these new speakers. I had become accustomed to my same old Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone speakers, so these new folks are a nice change.


31 August 2005

"Cyrillic flash cards"

I found a site with a free database for creating your own Russian-French or Russian-English flash cards. You have to have a database software like Microsoft Access to use the file.


Boy, I'm slow

I realized the other day that I had a bunch of unposted comments! For some reason your comments were being moderated and I had no idea. I hope I've fixed that problem now.

I guess I took a 2-month break from my Russian lessons. I had no motivation during August for book work. Now that the weather is a little less humid and cruel, I am feeling more energetic and ready to hit the books.


Postcards from Minsk: The symbolic city gates in the railway station square

Сiмвалiчныя вароты горада на Прывакзальнай плошчы

There's a clock tower on the left; the coat of arms is on the right.


05 August 2005

It's that time of the year...

It's hot. Really hot and muggy out. And you know what that means:
It's time to buy school supplies.

I am no longer a student, but the really hot and muggy weather makes me yearn to visit Office Depot and buy a 5-subject notebook and some new pens.

So today I decided that I should sign up for the Russian 101 class at my local university. I briefly doubted my decision because then I would no longer be self-acquiring this language, but...


I went to the University bookstore first and checked out the textbooks for the class. It's a text called Голоса that is a (used) hardback, a workbook, and some CDs. Cool.

Next I went to look at the Fall class schedule. They have a class offered on Mon/Wed from 11:30 - 12:30. Really cool! I can go during my lunch break.

Lastly, I went to the money office to find out how much undergraduate tuition costs.

OK, I'll stick to self-acquired.

I bought the textbooks anyway. I can use them on my own!


04 August 2005

Frequency word lists, are they helpful?

I spied a book on Amazon today, Russian Learner's Dictionary: 10,000 Words in Frequency Order. In fact, Amazon is recommending it to me (surprise!). And it does, indeed, look like a great book for me.

Do frequency word lists really help beginning learners? I definitely need some help on acquiring new Russian vocabulary, but I have been working under the assumption that it is best to learn vocabulary in context.

From John Dingley in the Canadian Modern Language Review:

There is much in RLD which is to be applauded and which, I am certain, will ensure that the work is widely used. This is not just a list of words. It contains much useful and necessary grammatical information, such as noun stress patterns. There is good cross-referencing, especially with respect to verbal aspectual pairs. The English glosses are succinct but adequate. Contextual examples are given for the first 600 words, which is helpful; I would have liked to see this exemplification for all entries. At the end of the book (pp. 309-429) there is an index giving the words in alphabetical order, which, again, is a most useful feature of the book.
Perhaps frequency word lists are helpful when learning a language with the assistance of a teacher. Would a vocabulary list be helpful to me as I learn on my own?

Recently my lack of vocabulary was made very evident to me. A colleague, who had learned of my Russian hobby, came by my office to ask me to translate an airplane flight manual that he had acquired (along with the airplane). I, of course, knew NONE of the words in the manual except "Section 1." My colleague seemed disappointed in my lack of Russian language abilities. He even seemed downright downtrodden. I spent some time looking up words in the dictionary in order to decipher the text, but this was not what he had intended by asking for my assistance.



03 August 2005

Funny English

Lynnora gives some funny English sentences from Belarussians who speak English as a second language. I'm certainly not laughing at the speakers... I know EXACTLY what it feels like to say something totally ridiculous in a foreign language because I have no alternative way to express my thoughts.
I particularly enjoyed Lynnora's second sentence.


Postcards from Minsk: The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Sts. Simon and Helen (The Red Church)

Касцёл Св. Сiмяона i Алены

It was built in the early 20th century under the sponsorship of the Vainilovich family who wanted to immortalize their children Simon and Helen who died unexpectedly of an unknown disease. At one point, the Cathedral was set for demolition, but it was saved by being renovated into a movie theater. Today it has been given back to the Roman Catholic Church; masses are said in Belarussian.


02 July 2005

Happy July!

I'm going on holiday. See you in August!

30 June 2005

Postcards from Minsk: Ploscha Peramogi (Victory roundabout)

Плошча Перамогi

This monument commemerates the Belarussians who gave their lives in WWII. There's also an eternal flame here.

29 June 2005

That's bunk!

One of my blogging colleagues directed me to a news story about the fact that President Putin had taken the New England Patriots owner's SuperBowl ring, put it in his pocket, and never gave it back.

As I check the story again this evening, MSNBC has "corrected" it to state that the football team owner decided to give Putin the ring after Putin has admired it. Oh really?


Dave's Gallery: Belarus

David Goodwin has a nice photo album of his trip to Belarus.


27 June 2005

Perhaps I'm not worthy of being a true Language Learner

For several days since reading blogchik's post, I have been wondering if I am a bad language learner. Or a bad Russian language learner, more specifically.

Last October, when I had a close encounter with a native Russian speaker, we came across this sound

I had been pronouncing it as a "short" American English i, knowing full well that it was an incorrect pronunciation, but not knowing how to fix it. The native Russian speaker corrected me, pronounced several example words containing the sound, and tried to describe its place of articulation TO NO AVAIL. I never could get it right, so we moved on. AND THAT WAS OKAY TO ME. Honestly, I may never have to use this language, so I just want a basic understanding. If I don't master this particularly Russian sound, it is alright with me... or so I thought, until I came across this note from blogchik. She takes pride in being able to pronounce it correctly, it sounds as if she has worked for ages to master the sound. It gives me the impression of being a sort of coming of age for Russian learners. Is it like mastering the French /ʀ/? (Only to discover that they don't pronounce a uvular R in Provence anyway?)

At this point, I will not be able to master the ы because I don't have regular access to native speakers. However, I cannot stop wondering if perhaps I should give more consideration to my strong American accent.


Another Russian-learning blogger

She's just getting started, so be sure to stop by her blog and give her some support!

Still muddling through the Russian alphabet. If I don't get a handle on it, I'll never get into the fun part: grammar.
Grammar? What's that?


26 June 2005

My first Russian movie

I finally made it to the public library on Saturday to borrow some International films. I found Solaris on DVD, as recommended by skarr (on my 31 May comments). The library also had The Thief and Stalker, but these two are on VHS, so I borrowed only the DVD film.

I watched this very long movie this afternoon. The weather was hot and muggy, so it was a good day to lay around and watch movies.

I would estimate that less than half of the movie has dialog. The rest of the time is filled with cinematic scenes. After about 30 minutes, I realized that I could switch to the English commentary during the dialog-less scenes. This was a great help to me because I needed help trying to figure out what I was supposed to be understanding from the film. Even if the film had been in English, it would have been over my head. Nevertheless, this was not an exerise in cinema appreciation for me; it was an exercise in listening to real Russian language.

I think that I understood about every 30th word. Each time that I heard something I recognized, was QUITE excited. It has been a surprise to me that I can pick out individual words so easily. While I was learning French, it was terribly difficult to differentiate individual words because I was not accustomed to a vowel dominant language. Russian, as far as my beginner's ear can tell, is a consonant dominant language. I think for this reason, I was able to pick out one or two familiar words from an entire dialog.

I will note this exercise as a mild success.


25 June 2005

Postcards from Minsk: The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

Святадухаўскi Кафедральны Сабор


23 June 2005

Blog survey! Be a participant

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

20 June 2005

Suspended from eBay he is!

Yesterday I received an email from the Canadian guy from whom I accidentally bought the previous-edition Pimsleur mp3 files.
In his email he asked if I was happy with my purchase. Also, he informed me that he was now suspended from eBay, but then he tried to sell me Rosetta Stone levels 1 & 2 for $50.

Since he had asked, I replied that I was not happy with the purchase because it was the previous edition of Pimsleur. I also informed him that I already own Rosetta Stone that I have bought from a very reputable online store, TwinSuns Online.

He hasn't responded to my email.


17 June 2005

Pimsleur guilt (again??)

So I bought these used Pimsleur CDs from a guy in Canada via eBay. He was pretty quick about shipping, but when the envelope arrived, it was way too light for a bunch of CDs.

Well, it turns out that they're not exactly "used" but more like "pirated." It's a bunch of mp3 files, not uniformly named (!!), shoved on 3 disks named: My_Disk, My_Disk, and My_Disk.

Now I feel very guilty. This self-instructed foreign language acquisition is nothing if not guilt-bearing distress and shame.

What could I do but take a listen to my next lesson, Unit 19 of Level 1?


So, I wasted a bunch of money, gave it to a pirater, and I am still stuck listening to the cassette version from my public library. Foiled again!


16 June 2005

UniLang Wiki

I just discovered this wiki with lots of cool bits and pieces of beginning Russian. It looks like a very well established site with lots of information.


Not knowing is such bliss

I was startled when reading this sentence on blogchik:

At me there is not of the money.

because I realized that it is a sentence I have learned from Pimsleur.
У меня нет денег.

The reason that this English sentence caught my eye is that I didn't immediately recognize it by its "exact grammatical" translation from Russian, as blogchik provided. In fact, I don't know the grammar of the Russian sentence at all. The only thing I know is that
I don't have any money = У меня нет денег.

Thanks to Pimsleur I don't have to keep up with genitive, dative, blah blah blah.


15 June 2005

More news on Belarus

Straight from the mouths of blokes:

Belarus, has just introduced a new bill which it would seem is going to be accepted
And that reminds me, we need another Postcard from Minsk on the blog.


14 June 2005

I have been taking a summer vacation

I have been taking a vacation from my Russian lessons. I know, I know, 30 minutes a day, blah, blah.
I intend to load my new Pimsleur lessons on my computer tomorrow so that I can start my lessons again....

08 June 2005

Various ramblings

Last night I was on the phone with my Minsky friend when I had to admit that I haven't worked on my Russian lessons in quite a while.
I did, however, receive my Pimsleur level 3 lessons in the mail yesterday. I had to pay a Canadian guy a fair amount of USD to obtain these bootleg copies. I'm not happy about it. I was trying to decide whether or not to send them back and ask for a refund.
As you may know, I got the levels 1 and 2 from the library. The nice lady at the library told me that they didn't have level 3 and they wouldn't be getting it because it is so expensive.

31 May 2005

Movie recommendations?

Does anyone have any recommendations for Russian movies? I'd like to watch a Russian movie that I may be able to understand a little bit of the dialog. Plus, if it's not too terribly boring, that would be an extra bonus.


25 May 2005

The inevitable has occurred

My Rosetta Stone software has gotten a scratch on the CD! You can't use the software without having the CD in the CD-ROM drive, so this is a problem. When I initially started using this software, I realized that I could scratch the CD and then be totally out of business. Therefore, I made a backup CD. Thank goodness!
So I pulled out my trusty backup CD this evening. I was back on track with lesson 1-5-6 when suddenly the audio and video started acting up. The audio kept repeating "vent" for each photo. The photos were solid blue squares.
I took a look at the next lesson and it seems to be fine. Maybe there is a little problem with lesson 1-5-6, but the rest will be OK.

But, about the content of this lesson... it was all about fire, burning things and hot weather. It was a very strange collection of sentences. Perhaps my computer didn't like it, so it sabotaged my lesson.


24 May 2005

Taxi driver, please take me to Red Square

Evidently, I don't really need to yearn for knowing how to say,"Taxi driver, please take me to Red Square," because monkeymittens says that's where you'll get robbed by hookers. Perhaps I should stick to inviting my colleagues to my hotel room for wine.


23 May 2005

Pimsleur is PG-13

In the last Pimsleur lesson, I learned how to wine and dine my colleague's spouse. In this lesson I have learned how to invite my colleague into MY HOTEL ROOM. Is it normal in Russia to invite your colleague to your hotel room? If so, I do not really want to go there.

Here is a typical Pimsleur conversation these days:
Pimsleur: Hello. Would you like to eat at a restaurant?
Me: No, thank you. I would like something to drink.
Pimsleur: Would you like some beer?
Me: No, thank you, but I would like some wine.
Pimsleur: Very well. Where is your husband?
Me: He is not here.
Pimsleur: What time would you like to go to the restaurant?
Me: I would not like to go to the restaurant.
Pimsleur: Are you going to the Hotel Intourist?
Me: Certainly.
Pimsleur: I would like to go to the Hotel Intourist on Tverskaya Street.
(scene change)

A knock at the door is heard.

Me: Please come in.
Pimsleur: Where is your husband?
Me: My husband is not here. Where is your wife?
Pimsleur: My wife is not here. Would you like some wine?
What is up with that? We haven't learned how to say, "Taxi driver, please take me to Red Square," but we have learned how to hit on people at the Intourist hotel. GRRRRRRREAT.


18 May 2005

Vocabulary building

Today's Rosetta Stone lesson, 1-5-5, was a vocabulary building lesson. I learned lots of new verbs today:
поднимается по ступенькам
Also, there were a few new nouns:
my favourite new noun of the day:
and a noun that is new to Rosetta Stone, but I already learned in Pimsleur:
two verbs for review:

It was a good lesson, despite my attention deficit. I am working through my current slump and I can sense that I am on the cusp of feeling truly motivated again.


16 May 2005

Lessons on cassette

Despite my recent, small achievement, I have not been doing my Pimsleur lesson. Why? Because the remainder of the lessons for Level 1 are on cassette. I do not have easy access to a cassette player. I have "12 days" worth of cassette lessons before I can return to the luxury of CD lessons, but I can't get into the cassette groove.


11 May 2005

I did it!! I DID IT!!

After my business dinner this evening, the driver picked up me and my colleague to take us back to the hotel.
While we were riding back, talking about our "action items," I heard the driver speaking on his cellphone. His words sounded Russian, although I couldn't understand them. Then, I heard him say the word, "слушаете ." I know this word from my Pimsleur lessons! It was the only word that I understood, but it was enough to alert me to the fact that

I have found one: a native speaker! The holy grail!

So, thank goodness, I had had a little bit to drink. Therefore, I had the courage to say,"Вы говорите по-русски?" I can't tell you how nervous I was. I sat there, hoping that, oh god, don't let me have just insulted this man... what if I incorrectly heard Russian coming from his mouth? What if it was Belarussian or something?

He turned around and looked at me... and smiled. He responded something like, yes I do.

We had reached the end of our destination at that point. He told me the fare was $30, so I clumsily took $40 out of my handbag and gave it to him, saying "Сорок долоров." He gave me a receipt and returned $5 to me. I told him no, but he pushed the $5 bill at me and asked me to keep it. I didn't know what to do, so I just took it back. Honestly, it is late and I feel a bit guilty that he had to pick us up so late.

Then he asked me, in English, if I spoke Russian. So I said, "немного" just as Pimsleur taught me. He smiled again.

I am so excited! I got to speak Russian in a real live situation and the other person understood me, at least a little! It's my first time! He was so much more friendly and forgiving than I had expected. I feel like I have made a big accomplishment; albeit a small conversation, I have officially spoken my Pimsleur phrases and been understood.

We'll need a driver again on Thursday to get to the airport. It will be early in the morning on Thursday, so I will have to start drinking quite early in order to have the courage to try another Russian conversation.


08 May 2005


Hello, my dear 300,000 regular readers. My postings will be sparse this week because I am in Seattle on business.
I arrived this evening and had previously arranged for Town Car Service (it's what people seem to do in Seattle instead of taxis). I had requested to have my "regular" driver, the Eastern European gentleman who usually drives me around when I am in Seattle; I call him Vladimir. I have been learning all sorts of taxi vocabulary so that I could talk to him in Russian, in case that he speaks Russian. He sounds like he has a Russian accent when he is speaking English, but of course, it could be Ukrainian or any number of other Eastern European language.... I was hoping that he spoke Russian so that I could practice my Russian with a real person for the first time. I haven't had the courage to use my Russian skills before and I have been building up to this, my Town Car driver conversation.

It turns out that he wasn't driving tonight. DOH! It was some guy from a Middle Eastern country. Oh well.

I need a driver tomorrow evening, so maybe Vladimir will pick me up then....


Postcards from Minsk: View of the city and of the Traetskaye Pradmescie

Від на горад і Траецкае прадмесце


03 May 2005

My new favorite Russian word...

I like the way it rolls off my tongue.

Funny discovery

In my Pimsleur lesson today, I learned that the Russian word for husband sounds like the French word for housefly. I like it!


02 May 2005

Trends in Pimsleur

I am trying to decide whether or not I am seeing a trend with my Pimsleur lessons. It seems like the lessons get progressively harder until I reach a lesson that I have to repeat several times because it is so difficult. Then, the next lesson is really simple. Initially I thought that maybe I was having good days and bad days, but now I am not so sure because it seems to be a trend.

Today's lesson was very simple. I think that I learned 3 new vocabulary words. It seemed like most of the lesson was a review. But yesterday's lesson had a lot of new vocabulary and much less review.

I think it's a trend. Regardless of what it is, this Pimsleur method really works.


29 April 2005

Postcards from Minsk: Office of the "President" of the Republic of Belarus

Рээідэнцыя Прээідэнта Рэспублікі Беларусь


Russian for Everybody

Looks like some good basic information on basic Russian grammar and phonetics.
It's free and doesn't require registration.
Russian for Everybody


28 April 2005

In French we say « il pleut des cordes »

I'm sitting outside on our cozy balcony, full of flowers, and it is raining cats and dogs. I wonder how you say this idiomatic expression in Russian.



I tried out the Grammatushka tutorial for learning the Russian alphabet.

In my humble opinion, it's wretched.

If you are learning the Russian alphabet, using a working knowledge of English as a base, then why are they asking you trivia questions in Russian? If you don't know the alphabet, then you can't read the Russian questions!


It is as if they are saying, "Here is the letter г. Now that you see and hear this letter, you should be able to read and comprehend Russian."

Other secondary reasons why I didn't like the Alphabet unit of Grammatushka:
The "Next" button is poorly placed (requiring you to scroll down on each page- you can't even see it in the screen shot above).
There are pop-ups when you answer the trivia questions.
Also, I can't get it to work in FireFox.

Two thumbs down on this lesson.

I will go ahead and try some of the other Grammatushka units to see if they are better for me.


Guilt, once again

Anyse has successfully guilted me into posting. Actually, I'm glad it happened because I have been thinking about russkiblog for over a week, but I can't think of anything to post. So Anyse's comment has sturred me to try harder of thinking of something to post.

About Anyse's comment... I was surprised to find that someone noticed my lack of posting and even more surprised that someone took the time to comment on it. I didn't realise that anyone was regularly reading, so this was quite a shock!

Another blogging topic, not quite related to learning Russian: is it just me or are there significantly more men than women in this blogging-about-learning-Russian-language-and-culture area? It is sometimes hard to tell whether writers (and readers) are men or women, but I feel a little out-numbered on occassion. I'm not complaining, mind you, just curious....


18 April 2005

Disappointing news

I called my Belarussian friend in Boston this past weekend. As you may know, she is supposed to come and visit me in May. I visited her for the first time this past October and I have been waiting for her trip down south to visit me.

(We have been corresponding since 1989, so our first real-life visit in October was exciting and a big success.)

When I called her this past weekend, she was on the bus to NYC because it's a three-day weekend for her. (I'm not sure why.) She told me her great news - she got an internship at a prestigious place for the summer (a place that ALL OF US have heard of). The bad news is that she won't be able to visit me.

I am happy that she has gotten such a great internship. She is very modest about it; she says that maybe no one else applied (yea, right). But I had been so looking forward to showing her my home, my family, all the things that I have been writing her about.

She says that maybe she will be able to come at Thanksgiving. I hope so. Until then, I will keep practicing my Russian lessons so that I can surprise her when she finally arrives with my new-found language skills.

13 April 2005

Roots, roots, roots!

Last night and today during lunch, I have been devoring this book, Roots of the Russian Language: An Elementary Guide to Wordbuilding. It is a great resource. It reminds me of my elementary school class in Latin roots, but now I find the topic of roots much more interesting than I did when I was 11.

Today Ian posted his trials and tribulations with learning Russian vocabulary. I am experiencing some of the same vocabulary-deciphering issues... (does flying saucer mean UFO or Frisbee?), so I hope that this book will help me.

Here is an example of its content from page 72:

Page 72

I think that I will begin making flashcards of these roots to help me along. We all know how my dedication to flash cards is extremely limited, but it seems worth a try.


12 April 2005

My newest book has arrived

Today in the mail I received Roots of the RUSSIAN Language. I am hoping that I can memorize the meanings of these roots and then be able to read more advanced texts.


RS 1-5-3 времена глагола

In today's Rosetta Stone lesson, I have made an unidentified flying discovery.

Today's lesson is verb tenses! I have been looking forward to this lesson for several reasons.

Reason 1: I couldn't imagine how they would teach all those verb tenses by just using photos.
Reason 2: All I recognize is present tense. Well, I have learned the "I am going to eat" type construction (can't remember what this is called) but it doesn't count as a different tense.
Reason 3: I bought the Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs a while back and I really want to use it.

I clearly understand the subject and verbs of these sentences. The last part of the predicate летающую тарелку I don't know, but it has to be talking about the frisbee. I know the word тарелка is plate. It looks similar to the second word there. I know the word летит means "flies" and it has a similar beginning as the first word of the unknown phrase, so maybe it literally means "flying plate." I can see that frisbee = flying plate. Anyway Frisbee is a registered trademark, so in English we are probably SUPPOSED to call it a Frisbee brand flying disc or something.

So I looked up these two unknown Russian words in freetranslation.com.

If you don't know what this phrase means, go ahead and try this yourself.... copy this phrase

летающую тарелку

and paste it into freetranslation to get a gisted English translation.

Did you see that translation?

OK, so maybe I'm right that it literally means flying plate, but I'm not so sure that it means Frisbee brand flying disc.


11 April 2005

Language Learning and Multi-tasking

My sister emailed me today to ask for my advice on choosing a language learning audio class. Of course, I suggested Pimsleur. Of the three brands I have tried, Pimsleur has worked the best for me. I also told her not to try to multi-task while doing her 30 minutes of Pimsleur a day because it won't work very well. It's difficult to concentrate on a new language while cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, ironing, shaving you legs... well, you get the picture. Then she informed me that she was thinking of learning another language during her drive to and from work in order to pass the time more effectively. THEN she asks me who has an extra 30 minutes a day?

She is my sister and I love her dearly, but if she doesn't have 30 minutes of free time in her day, then I am worried about her health and well-being. This brings me to my regular rant about Americans not relaxing enough, working too hard, and not taking enough holidays, but I digress.

Maybe she meant that she doesn't have 30 minutes to devote to giving herself the gift of foreign language. I can understand this. Some people would prefer to spend their 30 extra minutes on woodcarving or sewing or baking or gardening or biking.

The fact that she considers her drive to and from work to be wasted unless she is multi-tasking is a bit worrying. Shouldn't she be concentrating on driving?

Anyway, I told her to get the Pimsleur CDs from her local public library and let me know how it goes. She said that she would try to do it on the drive and if that didn't work, then she would see if she could fit the 30 minutes into her day.
I suggested that we do an experiment. She should do the Pimsleur while driving and I would do the Pimsleur at home with peace and quiet. Then at the end of the first level, we would test to see who had made the most progress. She said it wouldn't be fair because I have already studied the language she wants to learn (that's true, but it was a long time ago) and I have more foreign language studying success.

So I wonder if there are any studies out there that would provide these results.

And one last thing. I doubt that you can learn a language effectively in only 30 minutes a day. You'll eventually need some sort of immersion in order to progress towards fluency. But 30 minutes of Pimsleur is a good start, especially if you want to do it while driving.


Plateau *sigh*

I think I've officially hit a plateau. I've had to repeat the same Pimsleur lesson 3 times and I'm not been motivated to study my grammar lessons or get on with my Rosetta Stone. What's wrong with me, I wonder?

I will do my best to do another Rosetta Stone lesson tonight before bed.

My Belarussian friend will be here next month and I have hardly made any progress in several weeks.


09 April 2005

My inner European

I took that silly quiz on blogthings that tells you your inner European. I came up as French, not Russian. So I took it again, and I came up as French a second time. So I took it a third time and answered the questions totally dishonestly. That third time I was diagnosed as Swedish. No Russian for me. Bof, c'est la vie.

08 April 2005


What on Earth is wrong with Blogger? I wish I knew some appropriate swear words in Russian.

05 April 2005

Another postcard from Minsk: Вiд на вулiцу Камунiстычную

I haven't posted for several days because I'm in a funk. I haven't studied my Russian lessons since Friday (gasp!). The Daylight Savings time change has really messed me up for some reason (perhaps I'm also feeling the effects of my HORRENDOUS seasonal allergies symptoms), so I am taking it easy on myself. Perhaps tomorrow I will have the energy to continue on my Russian language journey!

31 March 2005

what a coincidence!

Yesterday my Pimsleur lesson and my Rosetta Stone lesson overlapped! They both did some basic arithmetic in Russian. How very weird.

Today I progressed into Unit 5 of Rosetta Stone. It looks like there will be less concentration on acquiring new vocabulary and more concentration on grammar. That's good since I haven't been doing my grammar book lessons as I had planned to.


28 March 2005

Changes in my learning

Today, while doing my Rosetta Stone lesson, I noticed a change in the type of information I am learning. Instead of learning just plain ole vocabulary segments, I have started learning some grammatical information. Today I learned the the noun ending is different depending on whether it comes after "with" or "without." I am on Unit 4 lesson 9 of the first level of Rosetta Stone (approximately). It is so interesting to start recognizing grammatical shifts rather than simply trying to learn new word "roots."

I also pulled out my First Reader in Russian book. I really like it! Last time I looked at it, it was too complicated for me. Today I can actually understand some of it. I actually like it. It is cute and funny in a childish way. But it is nice to read some Russian that is not about political conflicts, revolutions and terrorism.

I need to do my grammar lesson and my Pimsleur, but I am too interested in Letterman and Queen Latifah....


humor on cyrillic alphabet

Here's a funny post about the Cyrillic alphabet by an English speaker.


26 March 2005

Rosetta Stone customer service part 3

Today at 12:03 in the afternoon, there was a brief knock at my front door. When I answered, I found a padded manilla envelope with my name on it. A Saturday delivery from UPS!

It was the new Rosetta Stone application. I uninstalled my last version and installed this new one right away. It was quick and painless. The first thing that I noticed when using the upgraded application is that the Tutorial button now says Guided Exercises.

I have opened the app and will leave it open this afternoon so that I can see if the Windows-goes-to-sleep-while-Rosetta-is-running bug has been fixed.


24 March 2005

Update on Pimsleur

I am still working on the Level 1 Comprehensive of Pimsleur. Although Pimsleur says that you should do one lesson a day, I average about 3 lessons a week. With 3 lessons a week, I get enough content to keep my lessons progressing, but Pimsleur doesn't work as well if you are not doing it everyday. For example, when I started my lesson today, I felt that I had already forgotten (temporarily) some of the things I had learned in my last lesson two days ago.

Honestly, I can't imagine doing one lesson a day in order to get the entire level completed in a month. I don't understand how an adult brain could accumulate so much information in such a short period of time.

I have gotten to the point that I have a hard time remembering all the vocabulary, so I have started to "take notes" during the lessons. I know that they are supposed to be all oral, but I can't help myself. I always end up with a pencil in my hand and I'm scratching down random thoughts and pictures to help me with the lesson.

I still haven't done my grammar book lessons this week. I selected which book I was going to work with: teach yourself Beginner's Russian Grammar. (I can't believe this book current costs $50 on amazon! I bought it at the local bookstore for $13.) I like it because the grammar lessons are modular and short. There is a one page lesson and then one page of exercises. Unfortunately I cannot get through the 3rd lesson because it is so boring. I think that I will skip around and do the lessons that I am most interested in rather than work through the book in a linear fashion.


Happy Birthday

A short post for those of you who have come to my blog looking for how to say happy birthday in Russian

Happy Birthday! Поздравляем Вас с Днем Рождения!
Congratulations! Поздравляю!
Best wishes for your birthday! От всей души поздравляю тебя с днем рождения!

I have been looking for a sound clip on the web so that you can hear what these phrases sound like, but I have not yet found one. I will continue to look and keep you posted.

You can find Russian birthday ecards at http://cards.mail.ru/

23 March 2005

Rosetta Stone customer service, part 2

I received a reply from the Rosetta Stone customer service guy today. That's prompt! He told me that the Russian language discs were still the latest, but the application itself had been upgraded. He has offered to send me the upgrade to the application. What great service!

I hope that the developers have fixed the bug that I encounter on a regular basis. If I do not close the application before leaving my computer, and my computer goes to sleep, then later, when the computer is up and running again, the Rosetta Stone application doesn't work properly. There is no sound and it doesn't respond well to my mouse clicks. Unfortunately, you can't save your place when you are in the middle of a lesson, so you must shut the application down and then restart the lesson from scratch (despite the fact that I was usually almost at the end of the tutorial).

After I receive the latest version (2.0.7), I will let you know if I see any changes.


22 March 2005

Rosetta Stone customer service

Today I called the customer support guys at Rosetta Stone. I recently noticed that my version of the Personal Edition Levels 1 and 2 looks different from the ones that are now being sold. I am not sure if it is just a packaging difference or if the software has been upgraded. I spoke to a very courteous man. He indicated that he didn't think the software had been upgraded, but he told me to email to him my software's version numbers (when I get home to the CDs). Although the queue to talk to someone was very long (about 20 minutes despite the operator claiming it was "less than an 8-minute wait"), the person who I spoke to was very courteous and non-scripted. That's a rare find in a telephone support environment!

I will keep you posted on whether or not the software has been upgraded recently.

Postcards from Minsk: The new building of the central railway station

This postcard shows the new Minsk railway station. It has shopping inside and the trains go to Warsaw, St. Petersburg and Kiev.

21 March 2005

Evaluating my progress and planning new methods

How do I know more Russian than I give myself credit for? I've been thinking about the fact that I was so pleasantly surprised at my Russian test results recently. I only expected to get one or two questions correct, but I correctly answered many more than I had expected. The question that I have been asking myself is why did I score much better than I had expected.

Today I read a blog post by Steve Kaufmann on The Linguist on Language blog. In this post he discusses the merits of not learning grammar of an L2. He gives many of the same "arguments" that are also given in support of the Rosetta Stone software. I undertook my Russian language learning on this assumption that we don't need to study grammar in order to learn language. So far, it seems to be working! Although I did buy a couple of Russian grammar books, I have not used them and I am not really interested in reading them. I do feel a tinge of guilt about avoiding these books.

I learned French by the typical classroom method and I am fluent today, so I know the old-fashioned method can work. When I compare the progress I have made by studying Russian on my own and compare it to the progress that I made during the first year of studying French in the classroom, I think that I feel more comfortable with my conversation fluency in Russian, but I am not as comfortable with my reading level.

I understand my CDs and software, I have learned a lot from them, but I have not gained confidence in my skills because I have not yet had the opportunity to speak to a native speaker. The test that I took the other day has given me one notch more of confidence. Honestly, I am still nervous about speaking to a native speaker. I know that I will make mistakes, but it am nervous about it nonetheless.

At this time, the only two tools that I am really using on a regular basis are Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. Also, I check my Russian email daily (and I have learned quite a bit of vocabulary by clicking on the wrong links!).

I think that in order to feel more confident with my Russian reading, I should do more workbook exercises. To test this theory, I will continue doing my regular studies and I will add in 15 minutes of workbook exercises 4 times a week. Next month, I'll report my findings.

Research on how babies acquire language

I am amazed at the versatility of the human mind. This is a short article about research on how babies acquire human language.

20 March 2005

Lack of motivation

I have not been very motivated to do my lessons during this past week. I finally got around to doing the next lesson of Pimsleur (11) and found that I have not remembered some of the vocabulary as well as I should be. I think that I will do a little homework on the web tonight in order to catch up and then repeat the lesson before moving on.

Now that I know N. will be arriving in two months, I should be more motivated than ever to do my lessons, but for some reason I am not. I think that I will work more steadily if I concentrate on my original goal: learning Russian for my own benefit and as a hobby. If I concentrate of having to learn X many lessons by a certain date, then it no longer seems like a hobby; it seems more like real work. Honestly, that is not what I want my language learning to be like and obviously, I do not learn well under that condition.

18 March 2005

Marmot's hole pros and cons of Russian

This is an interesting little post that debates whether to learn Mongolian or Russian.

17 March 2005

My friend N is coming to visit in May

She promises that we will speak Russian during our visit and she will teach me some important phrases for being a tourist. But this just makes me nervous about my lack of skill in the area and I am going crazy about cramming.

Also, it makes me want to binge on Ukrainian chocolates.

16 March 2005

Linden & Denz Language Center

Liden & Denz Language Centre St.Petersburg

52 excruciatingly tedious questions for me. It was far too uncannily reminiscent of my Freshman French placement exam. By the 7th question, I was way past freaked out partly because it was déjà vu and partly because I actually understood some of the questions. Have I actually learned some Russian? On my own? It seems impossible... although I have been working steadily at it, I don't feel that I know any Russian. This test proved that I do know a very little. A nimnoga very little, but a little nonetheless.

On the vast majority of questions, I just made my best guess. By the 45th question, I was exhausted!

And believe it or not, I actually recognized some of my Pimsleur phrases, although I had never seen them in writing. One of the phrases/words that we are constantly repeating on the Pimsleur tapes is the difference between: в ресторане and ресторан. Sure enough, it was on this test and I got this question correct.

Here's my score:
Total points: 15.0 out of 52.0
Your approximate level - Pre-Intermediate:
You are familiar with common structures of Russian grammar,
and your level, which we would describe as pre-intermediate,
allows you to understand Russian in personal and social
contexts, to react accordingly in everyday situations and
to express your opinion on topics of personal and common
interest. Accuracy and knowledge of peculiarities of Russian
are subject to further improvement. More work ahead!

Pre-intermediate? Can this be true? After a self-instructed, self-planned, self-motivated 6 months of study, I still feel like an early beginner.

Go take the quiz and see how you do!

15 March 2005

Interactive Russian Language Program

Grammatushka, an interesting site for beginning Russian thanks to Jodi.

14 March 2005

МонтеКристо Коньяк

You know what that means? Yes, that's right: Ukrainian chocolates for my birthday. woo-hoo! These are very deep, dark chocolate that are so tasty and so strong. Monte Cristo chocolates with Cognac. I once ate too much Belarussian chocolate and made myself very sick. So, moderation will have to be my guide with these delicious birthday chocolates.

12 March 2005

Russian ecard

Guess what! I received my first Russian e-card today! It was a birthday greeting sent through mail.ru. I was very excited to receive it. I now know how to say Happy Birthday in Russian thanks to the card.

So when I went to the cards section of the mail.ru site, I noticed that my birthday, 13 March, had a special icon! When I followed the link, it took me to a page of cards that had illustrations of people crying. What is that? I tried to understand the heading at the top of the page and as best I can figure, it says Forgiveness Sunday. What is that? Is it a religious holiday? I assume so since it is Lent, but why would you send a card to someone that had an illustration of someone crying?
Look at this card!!

10 March 2005


Today I registered with Russnet.com, a site that proclaims to have learning modules for students and teachers. The registration was simple, quick and free. The site requires that you use their special cyrillic fonts. They were easy to install, but I find them a bit confusing to use because the letters are not placed as if it were a Russian keyboard. For example, on an American keyboard the key for the letter "F" corresponds to the key for the letter "F" on a Russian keyboard. However, with these special fonts, the "F" key on the American keyboard corresponds to "ф". Yes, it seems logical, but I have already begun to get used to a Russian keyboard for typing.
So, after registering, I thought that I would being the first module. However, I can figured exact where to begin... there are many choices, but no specific starting point. I guess the site is geared towards students who have direction from a teacher. So I first tried the Russian WomenToday module. Its reading level was far too advanced for me.
I'm not sure what to try next. Maybe a blog reader recommendation would help.

08 March 2005

женщины: Happy International Women's Day

According to my very official looking International Calendar, today is International Women's Day. Evidently it is celebrated in Russia and many other countries on our Earth. To be honest, I had never heard of it before, but it seems to be endorsed even by the UN.
I searched газета.Ru for information on International Women's Day and the only thing I found was a short mention of it in a recent interview with President Putin.
The three interview questions about women highlighted his seemingly poor public relationship with his wife... not that I know anything about Putin's personal business (OBVIOUSLY, since I can only read about every 20th word of the interview):
Владимир Путин признался во врожденной лени

So, Happy International Women's Day to all you women out there. Let's hope that Elisabeth Putin does, in fact, receive a pleasant surprise for the holiday.

04 March 2005

Russian Rap




This is a very bad combo.

What does Russian sound like?

I remember, several years ago before learning French, that this language sounded so intriguing, so fluid and so enticing. Today, I can no longer hear the "sound" of French and in some strange way, I wish that I could remember what it sounded like before I understood its meaning.
I was trying to explain this to some friends recently. That there is this one advantage of not understanding a language: to be able to hear its distinctive sounds and rhythms.
I do wonder what English sounds like. Does American English really sound like Charlie Brown's teacher? I have been told that it does, but it is difficult for me to imagine.
So I need to record a description of what Russian sounds like. Then, one day, several years from today, I can look back at the description and think back to the days when I couldn't understand it, but could appreciate its cadence.

Ok, so here is a description of what Russian sounds like to me:
vrya mnoi tye pritsa voi kya omanye bursh vastoi

What this tells to me is that Russian is very palatal and labial. I wonder if there is any research on what part of the vocal tract Russian takes the most advantage of.

Of course, I hear Russian with an English ear. So I notice the sounds that are very different from "my" sounds. Russian must sound different to a speaker of Vietnamese or Cherokee.

Evidently, I need to do some reading on Articulatory Phonetics.

03 March 2005

Helpful little site by a Canadian student

Here's a helpful little site for understanding very basic Russian grammar. I especially like the tables of declined pronouns.

02 March 2005

по снегу

Although I have not been attending my Russian lessons as well as I would like, I have been giving them a lot of thought. I have realized that the Pimsleur tapes have given me a lot more usable vocabulary than the Rosetta Stone. I think that I have gained a more expansive vocabulary from Rosetta that will benefit me in the long run; for just getting around town when first arriving in a Russian city, Pimsleur wins hands down.

I will continue to use both because they both have advantages. I would be illiterate if I only used Pimsleur. If I only use Rosetta, I wouldn't be able to ask someone, "How are you?"

24 February 2005

verb book comparison

I have 501 Russian Verbs and The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs. 501 I borrowed from the library and I bought Big Silver from amazon.
My first impression was to go with 501 because I had used 501 successfully with French, Spanish, and Italian. However, when I looked at the Russian 501, it had a lot less content than the Romance language ones. There are no examples.
I like the headings in the Big Silver book. They are big, bold and easier to read. Another big, bold thing is the TOP 50 VERBS marker on 50 of the 555 pages. I am not sure how they chose the TOP 50 VERBS, but it does get your attention. I don't really care for the serif font used for the main text.
I am glad that I bought the Big Silver book, mostly because it gives lots of examples and usage instructions.

23 February 2005

Do Russians hope to lose their language?

I read an interesting article from the Kommersant on the fact that rich Russians are having bilingual nannies raise their children with Western European culture and language. Based on the tome of the article, it seems that rich Russians are not as concerned with the benefits of educating children to be bilingual, but rather, educating them to be more Western European.
For me this brings to mind the historical exaggeration of Catherine the Great's tour of the Potemkin Villages. Do Russians see their land and cultural as something to be hidden?
At this time, Russian are having serious problems with terroism. Perhaps these terrorist attacks are causing them to reject their national heritage.

21 February 2005

moderate progress

Today a friend asked me how my Russian learning is progressing.


After thinking about her question, I decided that classroom L2 aquisition has a low progress rate for me. By comparison I think that I am progressing faster on my own.

I wonder if anyone else has opinions on whether it is faster or easier to learn on your own rather than in a classroom.

Most everyone will respond that the fastest way to learn is by immersion. I'd agree that immersion has a high progress rate. But if immersion is not an option, then what's the next best choice?

19 February 2005

another learning tool

Microsoft Word has a very easy to use translation tool. It's powered by WorldLingo and is found in Tools... Language... Translate. It gives a quick machine translation.
The good thing about typing a Russian phrase or sentence into Word is that it will spellcheck and grammar check it. This is really helpful for me because I have a tendency to mistype words that I type into a web translator.

17 February 2005

Please tell me that there is more to RSS than Russian internet-ordered brides.

So, I've recently started using RSSOwl, and I think it's great. I have
several searches from Technorati that I read daily on RSSOwl that should
keep me informed of the goings-on in Russia and all things Russian. However,
I am actually being incessantly informed of Russian women who are possibly
my soulmates and brides:

Belarussian bride dating agency with a comprehensive list of Russian women.
Russian True Love Agency - *****'s homepage (km9131, 49 yrs old 160 cm )
Date of birth: the 16th of November, 1955 Weight: 60 kg ~ 132 lb Eye
color...: German: Level 5, Fluent language ability, no translations

I simply don't understand who would be using this source of wife-picking. Is
that what normal people are doing on Russian websites? I don't need a bride,
much less a Russian one. Is that abnormal?

Honestly, I thought one of the purposes of a newsreader was to protect the
reader from pop-ups, ads, spam, and other intrusions while still receiving
up-to-date content. I feel so disillusioned.


16 February 2005

To answer my own question,

I know that many of you have been scouring the web looking for an answer to
my questions: how to learn the Russian alphabet? is there an alphabet song?
how will I ever find anything in the translation dictionary if I don't know
alphabetical order?

Well, never fear, I have found a solution to my alphabet problem: Alphabet
It's an exe file that plays the alphabet for you with audio and visual. It's
just right for me.

So thanks to all of you who have been helping me with my Russian alphabet
quest. I've luckily answered my own question.

14 February 2005


I'm taking an allergy test today. So I looked up the word for "allergy" and it turns out to be a cognate. That's a pleasant surprise. The other good thing about this allergy test is that I'm not allowed to go to the gym during the test. Therefore for this entire week, I will have more free time to work on my Russian studies.

Today I'm listening to Русское Международное Радио and the music is not too bad. I can only understand about 1 word in 50, but that's better than none.

My Rosetta Stone lesson today (1-4-7) was about families. Mother, father, daughter, son, parents. I wonder if Russian has lots of words for extended family, or if everyone is actually called a "cousin." What about a step-father-in-law? I wonder. The Russian word for brother is a very funny false cognate: брат.

Гарри Поттер и философский камень

I found this book at the public library and I couldn't resist checking it out. I have never read the book in English.
After checking it out, I realized that I wouldn't be able to understand a word without a little help. Therefore I decided to check out the original text. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it; it was probably checked out. I did, however, find the French translation, Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers which works for me... I thought. Now I'm not so sure. Since these are both translations, it will be difficult to understand what the orginial text said. For example, the translated titles literally mean in English:
Гарри Поттер и философский камень - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter à l'école des sorciers - Harry Potter at the Sorcerer's School

13 February 2005

Update to goals

After reading kangmi's post on daily goals, I've decided to update mine. In my first post, I listed several goals:

  • study about 2 hours a day:
    • One hour will be spent with the Rosetta Stone software
    • Second hour will be spent studying my grammar book, a Russian website, my audio cassettes.
  • I will be making flashcards of new vocabulary words to study at dull moments during the day.
These initially goals were well-intended, but after 3 months, I realize that I cannot meet them on a daily basis.

I like kangmi's very detailed list of goals.

Here is my revised list:
  1. Pimsleur at least once every other day.
  2. Rosetta Stone for 30 minutes/day.
  3. Review 1 flashcard per day.
  4. Listen/watch Russian media 2 times/week.
  5. Grammar book lesson 2 times/week.
  6. Blog once every other day.
This is basically the same content as my initial list, but I think the intervals and length of time are more realistic.

And one more further challenge to myself... if/whenever I meet a Russian-speaking person, I will make an honest attempt to speak a little Russian. This is the most difficult part for me because I am always too shy to give it a shot, fearing that I will make a hideous mistake. I need to get over it! I am a beginning student and I don't claim to be more. I should put my pride in my pocket and shout out my best Здравствуйте!


Avoir les jambes en coton: Interesting blog entry about translation of a Russian idiomatic expression into French then into English.

Learning about verbs

Yesterday I purchased The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs (Big Books) by Jack Franke. I saw that it had three good reader comments on amazon. Generally I use the Barron's Education Series 501 verb books, but based on amazon's customer reviews, I decided to go with the Big Silver Book.
Today I went to the library and borrowed the Barron's verb book so that I can compare the two. When I have formed an opinion, I'll let you know.

Also, at the suggestion of TJ, I have borrowed two Russian movies from the public library: War and Peace (1967) and Tycoon a new russian (2002). I doubt that I will be able to understand a word, but I will give it a try. The War and Peace film is in 4 parts on 3 DVDs. It will keep me busy all week.

12 February 2005

Russian limerick with English translation

Everything but the mouse thanks to languagehat.com.

10 February 2005

Take Off in Russian

Today I listen to 30 minutes of the Oxford Take Off in Russian cassette. It started with the alphabet, so I guess that I could keep listen to the first part of the tape to learn the alphabet. The thing that I noticed about this tape is that the speakers speak A LOT slower than the speakers on Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone. I was pleased to discover that I recognized most of the vocabulary used during that first 30 minutes. With this Take Off in Russian program, the narrator directs you to refer to the text or to do some exercises before continuing with the audio lessons. But of course, I didn't because I was at the gym. I did just fine without the book. I'll take a look at the book this evening and do the lessons I missed. Another interesting thing was that they conjugated verbs out loud. These tapes are a nice supplement to the other materials that I am using, but I do not think that it would be a great audio method of learning Russian.
I did Lesson 7 of Pimsleur. It didn't seem to introduce very many new vocabulary words (which was a relief).
OK, now I need to do a grammar lesson and my Take Off in Russian exercies.

09 February 2005

See how English looks in Cyrillic

This is an interesting little site that listed English pronunciations in Cyrillic.

08 February 2005

Я хотел бы

Pimsleur says that this has a masculine pronunciation and a feminine pronunciation, but I cannot really hear the difference. So, I have been searching the web for the phrase "Я хотел бы" in order to see if I can find the difference in writing. And today I found it at LearningRussian.com.

Я хотел бы подстричь волосы.
Я хотела бы подстричь волосы.

That makes a lot more sense!

07 February 2005

управляет - целует - поёт

Rosetta Stone lesson 1-4-6 is all about action verbs. It also shows several declinations besides nominative. I guess this means that I will have to start studying my grammar book.

Does anyone have any suggestions of how I can learn alphabetical order in Russian? I am having trouble using the dictionary because I don't know the exact order of the letters; I can't seem to memorize the alphabet. I have looked around on the Internet for a recording of an Russian alphabet song, but I can't find one.

I also need to learn how to type faster in Russian. I'll keep working at it.

04 February 2005

Женщина нюхает цветок

I think that Rosetta Stone works even better if you repeat after the speaker.

03 February 2005

Blast from the past

This evening I decided to have a look through the little Berlitz Russian for Travellers phrase book that I have had for a long time.
I bought this book when I was 13. I have always been interested in languages, ever since I can remember. When I was 13, I decided that I wanted to learn Russian. At the time, everything Soviet seemed very exotic to me. It was the end of the Cold War and even the Cyrillic alphabet appeared forbidding and foreboding... just what a 13 year old would be interested in.
I grew up in a small town in Alabama. We had one library and one bookstore as I recall. I couldn't find anything Russian at the community library, but I did find this small Berlitz phrase book at the bookstore. So I bought it with my allowance and I had every intention of learning Russian using this little book. I don't exactly remember if it came with a cassette- I imagine that it would have- but I don't have any recollection of it.
Needless to say, this little phrase book didn't help me learn Russian. But I never lost my interest in learning the language. I was interested in learning the language that Tchaikovsky knew. As a piano student, I became familiar with the works of great Russian composers. Later, I discovered Tolstoy and Dovstoyevski. When I was 15, my mom took me to Memphis to see the Catherine the Great exhibition. I was enthralled.
The same year that I bought this Russian phrase book, there was an article in our local newspaper about an organization called Peace Links. The article said that Peace Links was "campaigning" to connect American and Soviet penpals. So, as directed, I wrote a letter to Betty Bumpers in Washington, DC with a short description of myself and a request to receive a Soviet penpal. Less than a month later, a letter arrived from Washington. When I opened the envelope, there was a red-blue striped AirMail envelope inside that had already been opened. The AirMail envelope was addressed to Betty Bumpers in Washington, DC. Its letter was from a girl named Natasha. She had also written a short description of herself. She was 3 months older than me and lived in Minsk, Belarussia, USSR.
I was reminded of all these things by glancing through this Berlitz Russian phrase book. I am so glad that I kept it. It has all sorts of "helpful" tips for traveling in the USSR. For example,

Hairdresser's -- Barber's
In the Soviet Union, women often work as barbers. Men's hair styles vary greatly in the USSR, but shoulder-length hair is still considered a bit foreign.

from page 121, the yellow Shopping Guide section. This book is definitely a keeper.

Catherine the Great Exhibition in Memphis, 1991

Back on track

I have repeated Unit 6 of Pimsleur. I think that I have done this unit 2 or 3 times so far... it feels like a really difficult lesson. However, I feel that I will be ready to move on to Unit 7 tomorrow.

The guilt is overwhelming! ::вина::вина::вина::

I haven't posted anything in weeks. I feel terrible about it. I haven't been very good at keeping up with my lessons these past two weeks either. I did do one RS lesson last week, but no Pimsleur. I'll do it tonight, I promise. It's not that I have lost my motivation, but I can't find the energy to do it.

Yesterday an American guy asked me, "Вы говорите по-русски?" It was a turning point in my life. Until that moment, I had never heard an American speak Russian with a thick American accent. I am now very resolved to work diligently on my pronounciation and on ensuring that I articulate each syllable.

And also... I am starting to see overlapping vocabulary in Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur. It's great when I encounter a word that I already know!

18 January 2005


So I did my Pimsleur at the gym. Pro: now I have time to do my Rosetta Stone at home in the evening. Con: I feel like a big dork and I can't hear my voice very well because of all the gym noise.

I can't believe how much new vocab Pimsleur introduces in each lesson. Can anyone learn it in just one listen? It says that you can repeat the lesson during the day until you have it about 80% down pat. It takes me about two times to get it about 80%.

I am still translating my email vocab. "Spam" is a cognate!

If only I could fit in my flash card time.

I have decided that this has to be an obsession in order to get it learned in a decent amount of time. In that book, Learn Any Language, the guy talks about learning several languages at one time. I can't understand how you would have enough time and brain power to accomplish that unless it was your full-time occupation. In that link below where the guy describes his progression to French fluency, it seems that it was an all-encomposing endeavor for one year. I saw another website where the guy says that it takes two strong years of learning to reach fleuncy in Russian. I can't imagine being able to achieve a true conversational fluency in two years. Maybe I could do it if I were studying it each day and living in a Russian speaking country.

Write up on learning French as an L2

How I Learned French in One Year

17 January 2005

Total Obsession

I have become totally obsessed with my Russian lessons. I think about them all day!
I started Pimsleur lesson 6, then realized that I was way out of my league, so I repeated lesson 5. (The lesson that I had completed while folding the laundry. Hmmm.... maybe I CAN'T fold laundry and do Pimsleur at the same time.)

I have printed out my russian email Inbox and Compose new mail screens so that I can translate all the words on the pages. I thought that I had been sending new mail all this time, but it turns out that all my messages were in my Drafts folder. Oops. It makes a difference which button you click!

I am going to bring my Pimsleur cassette to the gym tomorrow with my walkman (I feel so '80s) and headphones. I will have to deal with people staring at me and thinking that I have escaped from the Looney-house because I am exercising and talking aloud to myself in Russian: "где - Красная площадь? Красная площадь - там. Не хотите ли вы что-нибудь поесть? нет. Я хотел бы что-нибудь попить."
Can I handle the embarassment?

16 January 2005

Pimsleur Lesson 5

Wow, there was a lot of new vocabulary in this lesson. I need to try to repeat it, but I don't know if I will have time in the next 24 hours to do so. I feel like I need to go on with the next lesson. It would be really convenient if I could do these lessons at the gym. My mind wanders will I am there on the eliptical machine anyway, I might as well take advantage of the brain's down time and do a lesson. Do I have the courage to talk out loud to myself in Russian at the gym? Hmmm. That's a tough one. I don't think that the lessons will work unless you say everything out loud. I will have to give it some thought. I could kill two birds with one stone, then still have time at night to do the Rosetta Stone lesson.

Why do I feel so pushed for time? I spent a lot of time this past weekend just surfing, so why can't I be more productive with my Russian lessons?

I think that I forgot to mention that I recently bought a second Russian translation dictionary. This one is for my office so that I have one at home and one at work. This one is a Pocket Oxford Russian Dictionary and my other one is a Harper-Collins. I wonder which one I will like better and what the differences are.

My Pimsleur cassettes are due back to the library on Saturday. It is stupid that it is a 30-lesson pack, but they only give you 14 days to check it out.

15 January 2005

Rosetta Stone Level 1 Unit 4 Lesson 1

Rosetta Stone, Level 1 Unit 4, Lesson 1

Well, I haven't done the Rosetta Stone in over a week, so I had expected to have forgotten a lot since that is what usually happens when I stop doing it for a day. Surprisingly, I haven't really forgotten much! It must be because I have been working on the Pimsleur each day.
And because I have been working on the Pimsleur lately, I cannot resist repeating after the Rosetta Stone speaker even though I am practicing the reading and listening lessons.

Pimsleur Lesson 4

this is an audio post - click to play
You wouldn't believe how many times I had to call in to AudioBlogger to get this recorded. I kept accidentally pressing the pound key and hanging up. My cellphone is not convenient for recording my Pimsleur lessons by phone!

14 January 2005

Pimsleur doesn't work during lunch

I can multitask at the office. I learned today, however, that I cannot multitask with Pimsleur during lunch. My phone was ringing, people were coming in my closed-door office, my email was dinging, I could hear people in the hallway talking. I had the attention span of a gnat.

I did realize that some of the vocabulary in the Pimsleur is now starting to overlap with the vocabulary that I have been learning in Rosetta Stone. To recognize some words immediately was great!

13 January 2005

So I met a guy from Moscow...

this evening named Yuri. He is someone that I will probably have to communicate with every now and again. I was not impressed. He was arrogant and tried to tell me that I should be doing things his way. He also wouldn't shake my acquaintance's hand because she's a woman. I didn't even bother trying to shake his because he conveniently held a drink in his hand the whole time I spoke to him. I told him that I had started studying Russian recently and he asked me to say something in Russian. So I jokingly told him до свидания! (bye!) and he starts in with, "Is that all you know? You aren't studying Russian! Is that it? Everybody knows до свидания!" OK, so the humor thing needs some work. I still think he's a jerk.

12 January 2005

Pimsleur Lesson 3

Today I was reminded of how much concentration the Pimsleur method takes. I was having trouble concentrating, and any time that I lost my concentration for even 5 seconds, I was lost! Today's lesson seemed mostly like a review, but we did learn some masculine/feminine adjective differences.
I still haven't made the time for Rosetta Stone. I have great intentions....

11 January 2005

Pimsleur Lesson 2

Today I completed Pimsleur lesson 2. I was relieved to discover that the first half of the lesson was a repeat of lesson 1. After reviewing lesson 1, they moved on to introduce a little bit more vocabulary that fit in with the words that I had already learned. At the end of the lesson, the speaker asks you questions and you have to answer them truthfully... and believe it or not, I did it correctly! Wow, that's instant results.
I also figured out today that the Instant Conversation version of Pimsleur is the same as the first ten lessons of the Comprehensive Level 1. The entire comprehensive level has 30 lessons and two readings.
I am going to try to do some Rosetta Stone before going to bed tonight.
I am still doing very badly about reviewing my flash cards. I can't seem to find time to do it. Am I that busy? It doesn't seem like I should be, but by the end of the day, I never seem to have time. I think that I need to make some time for myself so that I can get that task accomplished.

09 January 2005

More email vocabulary

Входящие = Inbox
удалить = Delete

I forgot to mention that I have put Cyrillic keyboard stickers on my keyboard. Now I don't have to guess about which letters are where. My Russian typing is a little quicker than when I first started. I guess that I will have to learn to spell better before I can type much faster.
Russify Your Computer

Sunday, January 9 :: Pimsleur Lesson 1

Today I have gone through the Pimsleur Lesson 1 from the Instant Conversation package. I was surprised at how much concentration it takes to go through the lesson. I was thinking that I could record the lessons on a MP3 player and do them at the gym, but after doing this first lesson, I no longer think that will be possible. It takes too much concentration. I can hardly fold the laundry and do the lesson at the same time. I am curious to see if I can remember any of what I am learning in two or three months. People do attest to this method, so we will see. I am including an audio clip of a few seconds of my lesson.

this is an audio post - click to play

08 January 2005

Saturday, January 8 :: Pimsleur CDs

I went to the public library yesterday to check out the Pimsleur Russian CDs. It turns out that someone has had the 10 disc set checked out for 7 months! Thief! Since the CDs weren't available, I checked out the cassettes for Comprehensive level 1. I only have one cassette player, so I am limited with where I can listen to it, but I suppose that's OK.

06 January 2005

Thursday, January 6 :: Russian email

One of my colleagues has recently met someone who is a native speaker of a language other than English. I know you are asking yourself, "Can this be possible? Someone who does not speak English natively?" Well, on very rare occasions, it can happen.
At any rate, my colleague is very excited about it. He plans to take advantage of this chance meeting by learning his new friend's language by communicating through email. It's a very good idea. I suggested to him that he should write in English and his friend should write in respective native language. In this way you see the foreign language as it should be. I believe that he is not taking my well-intentioned advice because he plans to try to write in his second language and accompany it with the English translation.

Translation is not the goal of second language acquisition. Fluency is the goal. Fluency means comprehension without translation.

So, if he would not take my (educated) advice, then I decided that I should take it myself. Therefore I have set up a new email account from a Russian mail server. This way, I have to learn how to navigate a web-based email account in Russian. Just to set up the account with my username, password, mother's maiden name, birthday, etc. was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be! I will use my new Russian email account for this blog. One of the first things that I have learned from this experience is what the OK and Cancel buttons look like in Russian:

And here is Current Password: Текущий пароль

I also have a friend who is a native speaker of Russian, so I will ask her to write me a few lines in Russian so that I can learn some email-speak in Russian.

Thursday, January 6 :: Unit 3 Review

Over the Christmas holiday, I have reviewed all of Unit 3 in Rosetta Stone. I did fine on the review, but I don't feel like I am really retaining all of the vocabulary as I should. While I move on to Unit 4, I know that I really need to review my flash cards, seriously.
I also plan to visit the public library this weekend and check out the Pimsleur Russian CDs. If they look like a good learning tool, then I will buy the full sets.