Sunday, March 18, 2012

Small victories

Russian is a difficult language to master. The more I learn the more I realize I don't know. I'm pained when I hear an FSO with a 3/3 or 4/4 tell me that they don't feel comfortable with the language or don't know how to say something simple (of course, at FSI there is a very different focus on what vocabulary is taught, but still ... a "high school graduate level speaker" should be able to buy curtains!)

Terry and I were lucky to get into the 8 week language program before heading to Russia, we learned useful basics such as how to ask directions or buy 2 kilos of apples at the market. As importantly, we learned what likely responses would be to such questions. Once hitting the ground we got into the 2h/week language class and practiced reading billboards and signs. All in all, not much instruction. I probably only got to class half the time between the whole newborn-who-doesn't-sleep thing and later the job-gets-in-the-way-of-personal-activities thing.

Then I passed the FSOA. I need those language points now! Upon my return to Russia last summer I became more diligent in class attendance, asked my teacher to give me supplemental homework, and basically kicked it into high gear. Of course, the rest of life still marched on and I still didn't get much more than 1h/day of Russian study.

I've been studying Russian with varying intensity for 3 years now.

Two weeks ago, I made a restaurant reservation without once slipping into English. This week, I reserved tickets to a performance over the phone ("Sleeping Beauty" Ballet on Ice, I hope Alex enjoys it and gets motivated to go back to skating!) also entirely in Russian. This one was more complex as I was asking for specific seats and also needed to figure out where to obtain the physical tickets. I picked up the tickets yesterday and they are exactly the seats I thought I ordered and cost the exact price I thought they should!

If I put as much effort into learning Spanish as I have in learning Russian, I'd be pretty darn fluent by now. But my small victories are sustaining me in my quest for basic literacy.

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