Pimsleur: enough bang for my (many) bucks?

I recently started Pimsleur’s conversational course. So far, what I can say is that:

  1. You do learn how to correctly pronounce useful phrases very well, but…
  2. It is a complement to my Russian classes and textbook, not a substitute, as it does not really teach why are you saying things the was you are saying them. For ins
    tance, you can notice you are conjugating verbs differently for different pronouns, but the rules are not explicitly there (or at least I haven’t reach them yet).

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It is an expensive set, but if getting it is within your means, I would definitely recommend it. Even from YouTube videos, sometimes it is hard to nail how to pronounce some words, but here they break them apart from you, and repeat them several times. I think this is a fool-proof way to both grasp all the details of the pronunciation and memorize words better and faster.

Will write more about this later on, as I progress in my study.

🙂

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Being Bombarded by Russians

Okay, not with actual bombs, but it was a nice attention-grabbing title. Lately, I have been around more Russians than ever before. The problem? Even among polite and educated people, they really love their language…and well, I might know how to point things and call them by their name, but I’m nowhere near understanding conversations (yet!), so if you don’t remind them to switch back to English, you can get isolated pretty fast. In particular, if they start drinking, I’ve seen they are much MUCH more likely to switch back to Russian. Also, if there is some slightly complex task, like learning how to play a board game, brace yourself to be bombarded by Russians speaking Russian.

It makes me want to understand their language even more…and I start wondering about babies and how just by listening to a language every day, they start understanding it…wish something like that could happen to me (c’mon dear brain, you can do this!), but unfortunately I’m pretty sure my learning will be a lot harder and troublesome.

At least I get happy every time I’m in the middle of two people speaking in Russian, or watching a soccer game of Spartak vs (basically anyone), and I’m able to catch some keywords to broadly know what they are talking about. It is motivating. Nevertheless, at the same time, this double-bladed sword also makes me sad sometimes, because it is very hard not to feel isolated.

I also have a group of friends where most of us are Spanish native speakers. I have heard American friends from the same group complaining because they say we (specially Argentinians tbh hehe) switch to Spanish out of the blue, and they feel excluded. I completely understand how they feel now, and it is horrible and uncomfortable.

Lesson of the day: If you happen to have friends who speak different languages, please try to stick to the one all of you have in common. It might be tempting to go back to the language you are more comfortable with sometimes, but it will mean a LOT to those around you.

 

Anna Karenina

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I started reading this book a couple of days ago. So far, I’ve read a bit more than 10% of it. I think anyone who enjoys reading Jane Austen would appreciate Tolstoy’s style in this book, it is easy to read, and gives enough details to get to know the characters and understand their emotions, but without going too deep, allowing the story to advance relatively fast(disclaimer: I am reading it in Spanish, so I cannot really generalize this to other translations of the book).

Whenever I read a book, I try to match every character with either an actor or an acquaintance of mine. It is like choosing a face so that imagining the events is easier (and more fun). I’ve chosen mines so far. Most of them are actors (for instance, Anna is Katherine Z. Jones hehe), but a couple – like Kostya and Nicolas Levin, or Vronsky – are friends of mine that coincide either with the physical description of the character or with his personality.

Something I like about the book in the context of learning Russian, is that it includes many unknown and untranslated words that I have to Google. For instance, poddiovka. I had seen those poddiovkas before – one of my bf’s friends wore one for Easter – but I didn’t know how they were called.

tradicional-vestimenta-rusia
A typical poddiovka (this one has a squared beading, so it is actually Ukrainian. A Russian one would have a non-squared shape).

I also find odd and interesting how the characters refer to each other by, not only their first name, but their patronymic (their “second name”, which is derived from their father’s name) very naturally. For my culture, calling someone by both their first and second name would be too formal, even ridiculous, even if this person was not close to you.

Google has also helped me finding the location of every city or town mentioned in the book. It helps me follow the story better and imagine things more vividly. I also liked how they described train rides and winter. Being from a tropical climate, winter is not familiar to me at all, and being from an underdeveloped small country, trains are also not a normal way of transportation (even less when we talk about train rides that last for more than a day, and where people spend the night on board…c’mon my home-country is not even big enough for a train ride to last a whole day!)…again, very interesting 🙂

I am looking forward to continuing devouring this novel, and after I do that I want to start Master and Margarita (why? well…(1) there is a song by a singer called Basta named Master and Margarita that I really like, and (2) I want to read another Russian classic ^^ …solid logic :).

Cool Russian Movies

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is watching Russian movies. I don’t really do it to learn Russian, as I’m still a newbie and I can’t understand 99% (hey! I understand ‘privet’ and ‘spacibo’) of the words when actors talk, but to motivate myself and get immerse in Russian culture. So far, my favorite movies have been Russian classics. In particular, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1980)and The Irony of Fate (1976) (I also watchedThe Brothers Karamazov (1969), but didn’t enjoy it so much as these two). I really liked how they show many aspects of Russian traditions that are still relevant. For instance, MDNBiT showed me how a true Russian shashlik (BBQ) looks like, and IoF how banyas (bath houses) look like and how friends would go there to relax and share (something that for me sounded weird at first, to be honest).

And the music…oh the music! Those movies have amazing soundtracks (even if, as me, you don’t understand what the lyrics are saying and you have to Google them), which are a delight to listen to. It makes me even more eager to learn and, someday, be able to watch them without subtitles (of course that could happen just because after seeing them many times I end up memorizing the dialogue hehe, but you know what I mean). My bf tells me he has seen this movies dozens of times (especially before New Year), and they just have a place in his heart. I think I understand this; some classic Christmas movies just seem to never get old for me.

Finally, I am starting to read Anna Karenina. Not in Russian (because, again, newbie), but I have wanted to read something by Tolstoy – btw, I recently realized I have been mispronouncing his last name all my life – and some days ago I read in another post how good Anna Karenina is, and that it is located in Russia. This was the drop that spilled the glass for me, and I have just started reading it. Will update about my progress and impressions on it later.

До свидания! 🙂