The Experience of Learning Russian in Russia

Here I am after a somewhat 2-3 months break, making myself write another episode. Hopefully this text will come to life in the next 30 minutes or so, because now I am a very busy adult doing things adult people do, such as going to work and bingeing on Netflix.

Alrighty then, let’s talk about the marvelous world of Russian language, blyat’.

How were the first Russian classes?

Did you know that in some Russian stores (specially those that still live in the Soviet Union) you cannot take the item yourself? You have to ask a clerk to get it from the shelf for you, and you might have to pay for items separately if they are in different sections of the store.

It might be useful to mention here again that when I got to Belgorod I already knew some Russian. I could read the Russian alphabet and could survive in a groceries store. There were also a few colleagues in my class that didn’t know Russian at all. They all had to survive using mimics. Their trips to the hairdresser were specially funny back then.

Of course, we started by learning the Russian alphabet first. It seemed so easy when the teacher started with “A”, then “B”. Then she said “V”, followed by “Gh”, “D” “Ye”, “Yo”, so we just gave up right then and there, and went back to Brazil. As you can see, the Russian Alphabet is very different from Latin alphabets. Some letters have double sounds, such as the “ё”, which sounds like “yo”, or the “ц”, which sounds like “ts”. And don’t get me started on Russian cursive. I’ll talk about that some other day.

And that was just the beginning! There are so many ways in which Russian is different from Romance languages and from English as well. It is not for beginners, truly. During the next few weeks, we started practicing the phonetics of the Russian alphabet and saying some simple things. And I mean really simple, since Russian does not use the verb “To be” in the present, neither does it have articles. Yup, you read that right.

No, that is not an H, and that is not a P, and that is not a X and that is totally not an R. 

How does one survive without articles?

For non-native Russian speakers, this can be very hard to understand. How exactly do you differentiate between, let’s say, “The house” and “A house”?. Believe it or not, you don’t need articles to survive! You have been carrying them for nothing in your language all this time! Of course, it might sound weird, but give it a try: Instead of saying “This is the house I told you about”, you can say “This house I told you about”. It will still sound different from “I told you about this house” and “I told you about house”, so even though the sentences sound very weird in English, all of them still give you different information.
The short answer is context. You just need context.

What other surprises await us in the wonderful world of Russian Language?

Cases. D-e-c-l-e-n-s-i-o-n c-a-s-e-s. You don’t want to know what they are. Trust me.


Very well, you asked for it. Don’t tell me you didn’t ask for it in the comments.
In English, we have the words “I”, “She”, and “He”. But you don’t always say “I” in every phrase. Sometimes you need to change the pronouns to “Me”, “Her” and “Him” in order for a phrase to make sense.

Now imagine that every single word of your dictionary also changes depending on the grammar place it occupies in your phrase. Now imagine that every single word does that 5 times. Five torturing, mind-blowing times. And again, I am not talking about verbs and pronouns. I am talking about all words. The Russian language has 6 declension cases. Each one is used for a specific purpose, but to keep things simple, I will just say that the ending of the word determine its position as actor or object.

For a simple example, I can use the phrase “This is a pizza” in Russian. The word pizza ends with an “a” in this phrase, but if you want to say “I want a pizza” in Russian, in this phrase the word pizza will need to end with an “u”, “pizzu”. I have just showed you two declension cases, there are 6 of them, and each of them has their own complications, and I am glad to talk about all of them right n-

Please don’t

Ok, I won’t. This episode is boring enough already, especially for those who don’t like learning languages or don’t have interest in linguistics. Still, it’s my blog, so I will talk about whatever boring topic I want. I am not aiming for record views anyway, so…

This is actually a simplified table. You might think I am joking. I. Am. Not.

I would like to give some special thanks to those who told me I should keep writing. Sometimes I get discouraged, specially with everything else happening around me, but it’s nice to know that people actually find my blog funny and interesting. Yeah, some people find me funny, can you believe it?

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