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!