Friday, November 12, 2010

The Russian ABC's

                                 The first Russian language textbook

While crashing around preparing for our big move, I’ve spent some time working on my “survival Russian”. A girl can’t move to Moscow without the critical: “where’s the ladies room?”, “which way to the mall?”, and the ever popular “more root vegetables and potatoes, please”.  Learning to speak and read all over again has taken me back to my kindergarten days...a new alphabet, sounding out the words, flashcards - the whole bit!
We’re learning why Russian is one of the hardest languages to learn - it has 6 cases, (basically changes that occur to nouns and their endings).  For example, the word for “book” is one word if we’re talking about “my” book, a different word if we’re talking about “your” book and yet a completely different word if we’re talking about the book “over there”.  
Russian is written using the Cyrillic (кириллица) alphabet consisting of 33 letters.  We share thirteen of the letters in the English alphabet but more than half of these are pronounced differently.  For example, “C” is pronounced as “S” and “P” is pronounced as “R” get the picture - throw out everything we learned as youngsters, we’re not in Kansas any more.  
Here is the alphabet...note the number “3” is pronounced “z”...?


Russians are big into sayings and proverbs:
Когда рак (на горе) свистнет. (Kogdá rak (na goré) svístnet.)
"When a crayfish whistles (on the mountain)", English translation:
"when pigs fly", meaning "never."
Делать из мухи слона. (Délat' iz múkhi sloná.)
"To make an elephant out of a fly.",  English translation:
"to make a mountain out of a mole-hill."
Палить из пушки по воробьям. (Palít' iz púshki po vorob'yám.)
"To shoot sparrows with a cannon", 
English translation: "crack a nut with a sledgehammer."
Ernst & Young will provide 50 hours of Russian lessons when we arrive. I recently read intermediate fluency takes about 780 hours of immersion, Steve and I are planning to adopt what is officially called “Runglish” - a mixture of Russian and English.  Apparently this became popular aboard the NASA International Space Station in 2000 among the Russian and English cosmonauts.  Heck, we’ll throw in what little Spanish and French we know as well.  Gracias, Merci beau coup, das va dan ya...