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Sunday, July 24, 2011

My life well planned

Back from a kids vacation with lots of swimming, pony riding, boat driving, playground hanging. I took some Russian stuff with me but ended reading a Santa Montefiori novel, the perfect holiday read. It was also time for some reflection on life: imagine an evening of staring at the lake when the kids are finally asleep and you have no cleaning to do because that's included in the price of the little house you rented and you have no laundry to do because there is no washing machine so the only thing you can do is - finally - relax, an 'activity' you are not used to at all.

It is about a year ago that I started with this blog. How did it start? During a lunch break one of my colleagues said: 'Do you know that you can create a blog in 5 minutes?' That same day this blog 'The pleasure and pain of studying Russian' was born. If all my decisions were made so quickly... But it turned out to be 'my thing'; one year later I can say that I have found my rhythm and my style with this blog. Although I admit that I often stretch the topic of studying Russian to learning about the Russian culture.

And how did I start with the studying of Russian?
I was pregnant of my second daughter. After our first daughter was born, my husband and me decided to take each a 'kids free' evening per week. So I used that evening to go to the gym, as you are supposed to do when your body has been stretched in all directions by a pregnancy. And of course, I didn't like it because I have never been into sports.
So when I was pregnant the second time, I decided to do something I liked during my precious me-time. I don't remember the whole thinking process that led to studying Russian. I remember that I went back to my time as a student (I chose languages and literature) and once I had decided to study a language again, I did some reading about languages in general and narrowed the choice down to one of the official languages of the United Nations (don't ask me why). Knowing already English and French, it had to be Spanish, Arabic, Russian or Chinese. Some further reading and I made my choice: I would go for Russian, which seemed a good compromise between a little exotic and not awfully difficult.

I never questioned the method I would use. It was clear to me I would follow lessons in a school. It suits my personality: it is structured, measureable, and it has a social aspect. It is a mystery to me how people can learn a language in self-study: especially for a difficult language such as Russian, I need the peer pressure and the set time schedule to keep going.
I also would never learn a language without learning to write it, especially not a language that uses another alphabet. Although you seem to come to quick results with these learning systems that transliterate into the Latin alphabet, the day you go to Russia you will be able to chat with the natives but you won't be able to read the menu in a restaurant, the directions in the metro, the bills they present you. And to me a decent study of a language also includes the analysis of the grammar; otherwise your level will never be lifted above the 'learn Russian in x weeks' level.
But hey, this is only my view. And of course, I admire people who pick up a language just by hearing it. Actually, I get more and more convinced that you should do both in parallel. The perfect recipe: a stay in Russia - you get courses in the morning, discover the country in the afternoon and stay with a Russian family in the evening. One day, when my lovely daughters are older...

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