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?"