Professor of Slavic Studies, historian of Russian architecture, expert photographer
No special methodology in those days! If not for my instructor in Russian, I’d not have entered the world of Russian Studies. Perhaps my life would have taken a more ‘normal’ course, but Russian architecture would have lost one of its most active proponents.
There was another teacher who inspired my study of Russia and its architecture. Nina Volodina, a specialist in teaching Russian to foreigners, was passionately interested in the history of Moscow and arranged tours of historic districts during our free time. This was during my first trip to Russia in the summer of 1970.
Often I was the only one, but
I had no idea that this interest would lead to dozens of books and an enormous photographic collection, yet the main thing was the spark of interest.”
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“I was totally overwhelmed by the warmth and wholesomeness of my Russian grandparents. As soon as we entered the apartment,
“Learning Russian basically opened up a completely new world to me. Some of my closest friends don’t speak English or any other foreign languages. Russian was a great gateway for me into the society of the
Another great advantage of learning Russian was the ability to read the works of Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy in the original. And then there’s the opportunity to check out the latest books published in Russia even if they aren’t translated.”
Ajay is the author of Globetrotting for Love and Other Stories from Sakhalin Island. Read our review on it.
“I fell in love with Russia and the Russian language when I took a course, ‘Introduction to Russia,’ at my high school, the International School of Brussels. It was 1985, still a tense time in the Cold War, so only the most stalwart, independent thinkers signed up for this course; (by signing up for the course you could easily be suspected as treasonously sympathetic to Russia!)
However, the Russian we learned in textbooks had nothing in common with real-life Russian. When I finally moved to Russia in June 1992, I made it my goal to learn
Also, as is well-known, you can only truly understand a nation by knowing their language; so much is lost in translation. But for
For example, take the notions of freedom and taboos. Intellectually, Russians are very
For me, this Russian intellectual integrity, this desire to search for truth and to try to understand life, had a huge impact on me as a journalist and writer. You rarely find this in America, where our powerful and omnipresent mass media tends to dictate what topics can be discussed and how they should be discussed.
Without the Russian
“It all started when my mom named me after the main heroine in Boris Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago.
My relationship with the Russian language has always been a little tortured. I fell in love with Russia through the study of Russian history, and I struggled to learn the language.
On my first two trips to Russia, I couldn't say anything at all. I'm not naturally gifted with languages, and I found it very hard. When I first moved to Moscow, even though I had studied Russian for two years at that point, I had no idea how to communicate. During my first three months in Moscow, I just listened to how people spoke, how they gave directions and ordered at the store.
Even now, after more than nine years in Russia, my language skills are limited. I can understand things pretty well, but I don't have any nuance in my speech and make many grammatical mistakes.
My proudest moment communicating in Russian was getting the manager of Sedmoi Continent [food store] to refund my money after the cashier overcharged me for a muffin. That's my level of Russian now - good enough to argue with a store clerk.
My kids, who grew up in Russia, are completely bilingual and find my speaking really embarrassing. I remember one day trying to ask a question to the principal at my daughter's school, and her saying "Katya, find out what your mother wants and tell me later. I don't have time to figure out what she's saying!” So for now learning Russian is a challenge to understand my own kids better, and to be involved in their lives and connect with friends more.
Do you want to change your life too? Here are 8 steps to learn Russian like a pro.
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