My month of November sits in my memories as one big jumbled mess of thoughts, some that don’t even seem real anymore. I tried to decompress when I got home, but let’s face it, a press trip to the Gold Coast for 3 days the day AFTER I got home, followed by dealing with the anxiety involved in taking part in a blog forum and then finally a weekend away for Travel Massive… they all haven’t really provided the time.
I’m sure my thoughts about my month in Kyrgyzstan will become clearer in the coming weeks, but for now I at least am able to focus on some of the specifics that went along with my attempt at learning Russian. Here are some of the things I learned about Russian language learning (for me):
1. I cannot say the Russian word for eagle and have people understand me until I say it at least 15 times.
On my first weekend in town, I was invited by Kirstin of Ivory Pomegranate to head out to Bokonbaeva to watch the eagle hunters perform. Well, when I got back to class on Monday and tried to explain what I saw, my teacher could not for the life of her catch my drift until I said the word about 15 times. Same goes for when I was trying to also explain the experience to the toe-stepping taxi driver.
2. I know more than I think and should just trust my instincts.
I guess I have an issue with self-doubt. I mentioned at the end of my 4th week how I was saying all the right things but questioning myself afterwards. Not cool, Brooke… not cool.
3. I’m far too shy with my language learning practice.
Again, no one likes to fail. I hate being put on the spot and failing, or drawing a blank, but that shield has to fall or no gains can ever be made.
4. Russian is… not easy.
It has 6 cases, a strange alphabet, funky sounds and more exceptions than you can shake a stick at. Obviously, you will not master this language in a short period, and I need more time (hopefully in the spring!).
5. Intensive language lessons in Kyrgyzstan are still one hell of a deal.
Did you hear? I got 80 hours of 1-on-1 language lessons, two text books, a room for 4 weeks at the school’s dorm (with weekly maid service) and a private transfer service on arrival for the whopping price of $515. B-A-R-G-A-I-N.
6. Speaking Russian is just as much about the attitude.
I’ve sat and watched people change their posture and their tone when switching to Russian. You can’t speak the language properly without getting into its rhythm. I will be writing more about this in the future with tips from the awesome polyglot Susanna Zaraysky of Language is Music.
7. Forcing yourself to take a taxi solo is some of the best street practice you can get.
8. There is an initial spark of extreme satisfaction when your immediate response to a situation is to respond first in Russian.
Talk about conditioning! When you get to the point where you’re confused as to which language you should be talking in, that’s progress people.
9. When you don’t use it, you lose it twice as fast as it was learned.
I often felt that if I went a weekend with only speaking English, Monday was twice as hard as the other days of the week.
10. Other languages don’t always have a word you might have in your native language.
They also may not describe or explain experiences in the same way (and lets not forget about sentence structure).
11. Russian has like 18 different verbs of motion. Kill me.
There are words for if you travel somewhere one way, go there and come, you just started your journey or if you are going by vehicle or by foot. It is one confusing mess of words, and I just don’t get it.
12. Learning Russian needs to go beyond text books and a couple teachers.
It’s a big world where people say and explain things in different ways and use different words. You have to expect any of them.