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Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Russian Club - Русский клуб

Last week was interesting.

I discovered recently there exists this 'Russian club' in my workplace (I already mentioned I work in this big international organisation). Everyone of our organisation who speaks Russian - or tries to speak it, ahem - is welcome to join the Russian club to have lunch together, every Thursday in our canteen. So I decided to go for it and have my first real conversation in Russian. Without exaggerating: I was empty and exhausted afterwards. But it was a good exercise. Just what I needed.

Another good thing about this Russian club is that they forward you information on activities in Russian or related to Russia. For instance, they organise a trip to the Hermitage Amsterdam soon (one of my favourite musea).

And on that same Thursday, in the evening, we had this visit of one of the last surviving relatives of Pushkin and his wife in our school. Everyone interested was welcome. Again an encounter with kindred spirits...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To memorise or not to memorise

There is this issue of whether memorising is an effective way of studying a language or not.

Our teacher tends to ask us sometimes to memorise parts of texts. Leading to us students mumbling Russian phrases in the car, the metro, the living room, the garden - eyes focused on a blank spot in the distance, a bit out of breath, saying 'nananaaaa' when the words escape us, glancing at our paper and then raising our voices again for the next pair of sentences...

It feels a bit childish at least; back to the days where you had to learn your new year's letter, ready for this little pat on the back and the 'bravo!' of parents and grandparents. (Which is what we do: we applaud for each other when we make it to the last sentence of the text in class, with a little irony in our claps maybe but still we do it!)

It's discouraging as well, especially when the texts are long. There is this other childish feeling: I will never be able to remember this whole text! OK, there we found a solution: a paragraph a day... Some of our class even make drawings to remember the order of the events.

And is it also useful? I think it is. Depending on the texts of course. It should be common phrases, used daily. Phrases that are supposed to stay in your memory like annoying tunes. How wonderful then that I still remember the sentences: "Скоро я дошёл до места. Я подошёл к дому, постучал в двер и услышал знакомый голос: "Войдите!" Я вошёл в дом. "Как хорошо, что ты пришёл", - сказал мой друг."
(...verbs of movement indeed...)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saint Petersburg: the countdown

Wow, long time not been here. There's more excuses than another language apparently. Such as (very valid) having two kids who expect birthday parties and need summer clothes, (also valid) a job with deadlines and a boss with quality expectations.

Anyway, I kept up with my Russian - managed to do the interimary tests and we are heading towards the end of the schoolyear, already. Wasn't it the goal of this blog? To see how I should make it through this schoolyear? It's too early to say that I made it to the end (one more final exam to do) but it looks like I'll get there.

I am proud to see what level of texts we can already read. The times of rehearsing our first sentences such as 'меня зовут Сабин' and 'это карандаш' are long behind us. We read texts about Saint Petersburg and Moscow, about Siberia, culturally, economically, ecologically. If I buy a newspaper or a magazine, I am able to decipher more than the date now; I can grab the topic and the main ideas of the articles. Proud proud proud :-)

Less proud I am of the fact that I am still not able to really speak it. But hey, soon we will have the opportunity to practise. Because yes, it finally materialised - we are going to Saint Petersburg! The teacher managed to make a group of 20 students (out of different Russian classes) and it is booked now. Mid June, we will be in Saint Petersburg, enjoying the White Nights. The programme of the trip looks promising: a city tour and a visit to the Hermitage (of course), but also Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. The countdown can start!