August 31, 2009 | Russian

Russian Concludes

The final day of Russian!

Today I took the Acela from New York to D.C., where I am going to teach two days of writing and grammar classes.

I haven’t done Pimsleur in two days, and it feels strange. I did, however, spend quite a bit of time yesterday trying to figure out which Pimsleur lessons to download for Arabic. They have Egyptian Arabic and Eastern Arabic. I previously thought I should be doing Eastern, a sense that was supported by the fact that there are 90 lessons available for that one compared to only a small number for Egyptian, but now I’m not sure. In addition, I believe what I’m really supposed to be doing is modern standard Arabic. Help! I need to call and ask.

When I was walking through Penn Station to my train tonight, hearing all the random snippets of dialogue as I passed people, I was thinking how much more I would overhear in New York City if I truly spoke a bunch of other languages. Particularly from people who are accustomed to having no one, or at least very few people, understand them. This kind of passerby eavesdropping requires real fluency, of course, but true polyglots must have an interesting time on the subways.

The woman across from me on the Acela was from Croatia. She said she speaks seven languages and observed that language instruction here is abysmal. She feels languages help her memory, and I told her I thought my brain had been waking up since I began this project. I do feel, well, smarter. It would be great if that were a consequence. I have been feeling gradually stupider for a while now.

Caviar Display in Brighton Beach Deli

I thought I would be mourning the end of Russian, but I am not. I have done Russian every day for two months without missing a single day, and I am ready to try another language. Anyway, I plan to keep working on my Russian here and there in the cracks in my Arabic schedule.

The cab driver who picked me up at Union Station in D.C. said he originally knew five languages, but remembers only two now, Urdu and English. He’s from Pakistan, came here 30-something years ago when he was 18, and has hardly any accent at all. He said languages are easy to learn. He also said he didn’t understand why, when he came to the U.S., people were so proud of English, as though it was the only language in the world.

His attitude was, it’s just one language.

Once settled in my D.C. hotel, I did some late night Russian review before going to sleep. I enjoyed it, but don’t think it was very useful. It was a little like being a senior in high school with senioritis.

I feel I am already forgetting my Russian, and I haven’t even stopped studying it yet.

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