Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Oaf

I feel like an oaf here in Russia. This really is a country where knowledge of the language is necessary. This isn't like Korea or any other Asian country where the bare minimum will get me by; in Russia one is expected to know the language.

Korean has very little grammar. There are no past-tenses or future-tenses and everything depends on the context. I can say "Yesterday I car drive" and it will mean the same as "I was driving a car yesterday", which is great if you're learning a new language. Russian, however, is much more complicated.

Russian has six cases that change the ending of the words, as well as gender-specific nouns (like Latin languages: there are masculine and feminine words). The number 1, for instance, in Russian is "adin" but if it comes before a feminine noun it is "adna", however, that all depends on the case, which will help determine the gender of the noun. Simply learning some verbs and nouns in Russia won't do anything for you. I have enough vocabulary to say "I car drive yesterday" but it will sound as barbaric in Russian as it does in English. Add to that the need for correct pronunciation and I'm pretty much a retard in this country.

Most of the expats I've met here have studied Russian and speak Russian to a certain extent (Mr. Irish is 100% fluent), while I can order cigarettes from a store and that's about it. I have tried to learn the numbers but what I've learned and what I hear are two different things.

Surrounded by a classical language and expats who speak it, I feel like a dumb, uncultured oaf. I like beef and barbecues and hockey and bonfires and trucks and girls and rock music. I can pitch a tent in the dark and light a fire out of nothing and survive in the woods and clean and load a rifle and pack a snowball and navigate a canoe like nobody's business and drink myself stupid, yet I can't speak Russian and therefore I'm uncivilized.

Okay, maybe I am uncivilized but I can speak French and read and write in Korean and I'm not an idiot. I will learn enough Russian, eventually, to get by. However, as I'm surrounded by cultured people, both Russian and expat, and I'm the only one who can't speak the language, I feel like an oaf.

1 comment:

  1. I started to study Russian while I was at Carleton. The problem was, the class was mostly full of students who were from the eastern bloc and wanted an easy credit. Class kinda went like this: Day one - the alphabet. Day two - okay, now that we all know the alphabet... I dropped it after two weeks. I can only say "Hi my name is Anna. Goodbye."

    The likely won't get me too far.

    My Spanish class went much the same way, but I was beginning to pick it up a lot quicker than Russian, go figure. I can say, quite fluently "The boy looked at his dog in astonishment. Give me a beer please."

    Then I landed an ESL job in Istanbul. Neither my Spanish nor my Russian came in handy at all...

    Your Russian will come along. No worries. In the meantime, your cell phone will be a lifesaver...