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Russian by Candlelight: 1.5 Weeks In


russian by candlelightTonight was supposed to be my big study night. After class, my brain was tired, so I plopped myself down into my not-so-comfy bed (that felt very comfy at that moment), underneath my thick blanket in my sauna like room — far, far away from the snow and ice that lay outside — and took a nap.

I was feeling good when I woke up, which was made even better when Pat called and we had our first real conversation in a while since the previous few days were plagued with Internet and Skype issues. Only, mid-call, my power went out. We ended the call early so that my phone/alarm clock wouldn’t run out of battery before the next morning.

I remember this being an issue — power outages — during my time in Bishkek in 2008. When I lived in a microdistrict with the family, we had many nights plagued with silence and flashlights… no TV… no studying… just early bed and darkness. But, in the center of the city, the lights would rarely go out.

It’s like the Russian language Gods really don’t want me to learn Russian, hey? The language already makes my brain hurt for 5 hours a day with its 6 cases, its funky sounds and its numerous irregularities. Now I can’t even do my homework normally.

I’m sitting here with my notes, reading by candlelight, thanks to my flatmate’s ability to be prepared for such situations.

(Obviously, I stopped doing my homework and switched to typing this up since candlelight is not the best for the eyes.)

working by candlelight

Russian language… what can I say about you?

I have studied many languages now in my time, but I have yet to master any of them. Latin in high school was not about speaking. Italian was learned in college, but I was never good at conversing. Spanish in Guatemala was a small triumph when I found myself booking tours and arguing with people without thinking too hard by the end of it. But Russian…

Russian was special. I spent more time with Russian back in 2008 than any other language — actually getting to a point where I could converse poorly on the telephone and get around on my own. There was a small moment of victory when I returned from my 2 weeks in Kazakhstan and Nargiza said that I was speaking without an accent — which was surprising, but reaffirming in every way imaginable.

When I arrived in Ukraine, I barely spoke Russian, but when I did, I was complimented often on my accent. I loved that, but now…

It’s gone. All of it. Bce.

Ok, so the first day of class last week in Bishkek, I was an absolute mess. I couldn’t say ANYTHING because I forgot the words, and I couldn’t remember grammar for the life of me. When I read a story, my teacher did say that my accent was good, but I had a long way to go.

Oy. It sucks to think I did all that head-desking a few years ago to come back with nothing. Yes, it is YET ANOTHER thing in my life I’ve done half-way.

That said, I can say now, after 1.5 weeks, that it is starting to come back. I will be talking in class and notice a random word from my past conversations popping out of my mouth on its own. When I don’t know a word and ask for the meaning to realize it is also a word I used often in the past, it is almost immediately reintegrated into my small vocabulary. Little things like this make me think, no matter how frustrated I get when I can’t properly express myself, that I could someday speak in the language freely.

Someday. Maybe.

Until then, I need to study, review, talk, listen and wait.


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8 Responses to Russian by Candlelight: 1.5 Weeks In

  1. Chris November 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    You’ve got to admit, there’s something very cool about studying by candlelight though…

    • Brooke November 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

      Maybe, yes… but not when you really want to get something accomplished 😉

  2. Katie November 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    I soooo feel your pain. Not about the candlelight studying, but just the language in general. Funnily, I have also been complemented on my accent by some and others have been impressed with my limited ability to say much (although I’ve become a pro at explaining my trip around Russia in Russian – even using the correct forms of verbs of motion!). On the other hand, I have had people snap at me to “speak English” and have no patience to try to listen to me stammer out what I think is the right thing to say in Russian – that gets so frustrating and demoralizing and temporarily makes me insecure to even keep trying.

    Good luck with the rest of your course!

    • Brooke November 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

      Thanks, but I’m beginning to think this was a failure 😉 Oi! But at least it got me to a nice re-introductory level of Russian, so hopefully I can continue doing skype lessons and other stuff when I get back to Sydney to keep up! Maybe edufire or something like that.

  3. Alexia November 15, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    I can also relate to your frustration with language learning – I’ve been studying Italian for about eight months now, and on some occasions it feels like it’s sinking in, like I’m actually able to understand in a way I never thought I could. And then other times – like now! – it’s like I haven’t learnt anything at all, and it’s all vanished out of my head! So I dread to think what it’s like with a language like Russian.

    Keep perservering though, and good luck – found your blog today whilst looking for travel blogs, it’s fab! xxx

    • Brooke November 17, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

      Aw thanks for the kind words and for stopping by! I’m so wishing my parents had put me in a bi-lingual school when I was a wee tot. My life would be so much better 🙂


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