Monday, September 14, 2009

On Learning Russian

Bonjour! Merhaba! Buon Giorno! Hola! Hello!

If the foundation of a language is its alphabet, then the cornerstone of conversation is its greeting.

This is where I fall short.


Try saying that.


Wrong again.

The formal 'hello' in Russian has been my nemesis for years. I simply cannot get my mouth to rapidly pronounce the 'z', 'd', and 'r' in a way that allows me to follow up with an 's' and then the rest of the word.

I couldn't get it when I was assisted by actual Russians, and I can't get it now that I'm listening to a tape that breaks each and every word into tiny syllables. My only hope is to rely upon the informal greeting, Privet!

The problem with this is that every Russian I meet will think me to be nothing more than a disrespectful, pompous Amerikanski. (Yes, I actually have heard a Russian derisively mutter this under his breath when in my presence--I imagine he was saying something like "Ugh, obviously we have some American girls in our presence...I can tell by how I can no longer hear my own thoughts because the room is echoing with giggles and rainbows...where is my vodka?").

So, yes. I'm totally done for. No special trips to see Putin for me.

Another interesting fact I'd like to point out about my new audio program, is the first phrase I learned was "Excuse me".

. . . definitely could have used that 7 years ago when I frantically jumped on a bus and smacked an old lady in the face as I reached for the standing-room-only bar. All I could do was stand there completely and stupidly silent as she rattled off a string of what I could only assume were profanities.

I was sure it would only make matters worse if I exhausted my Russian vocabulary on phrases such as "Happy 8th of March" and "I want an apple".


  1. awesome Amanda its easy ( you heard my Russian Accent in Sean Cogan's Bond before) (because my mom side is 1/3 Russian decent) Try rolling your R's like Jared Gutierez did in Spanish Class!!! Remember WE WHERE IN SPANISH CLASS TOGETHER?!?!?! :) OH the memories!!!!! :D remember insane Senora would teach us how to roll our R's? ( i think i remember you having a hard time with that) try combineing that and that should definitely get you going...... just some help

  2. Nope, the 'r' rolling is not a problem. Never has been.

  3. Marhaba! Kayfa haluki?

    The rolling r in Spanish and Arabic gives me fits unless I really concentrate, at which point I forget the rest of what I'm trying to say.

  4. Has anyone ever told you that you have a gift for writing? Sure, it's been honed by years under the tutelage of Dr Hensley and practice. But it is difficult to work with something that's not there - and, chica, you've got it! It's only gotten better over time.