July 19, 2009 | Russian
Crazy Lady Talking to Herself
A good language-learning strategy: having no shame.
I can’t believe it: first-person present-tense verbs in Russian show gender. In other words, the verb form accompanying “I” is different if a man is speaking than it would be if a woman were speaking. That concept is utterly bizarre to me. But as I’ve said, that’s part of why I wanted to do this—to expand my parochial sense of what a language can and should be.
Tonight I did a 2.25-hour walk around Central Park, listening nonstop to VocabuLearn. VocabuLearn is very cool. It comes as a package of CDs divided up according to parts of speech or grammatical structures: (1) nouns, (2) adjectives and adverbs, (3) verbs, and (4) expressions. With nouns, for example, you hear a voice in English telling you a noun, then you guess what it is in Russian, and then you are given the answer so you can repeat it. After a while, the recording switches so that you are given Russian nouns first and have to guess at the English. It works the same way for the other grammatical structures.
Anyway, audio quality really matters with this stuff, and so my headphones are serious ones. Gigantic. With a huge cord. So, these days I walk around regularly in public with this giant headset on my head, talking to myself in another language.
This project requires me not to mind looking like a nerd. Fortunately, I had a lot of practice in junior high school.
For the sake of convenience and portability, I have transfered my VocabuLearn files onto the tiniest of devices: the iPod Shuffle. It and my headphones are incongruous; the headphones must weigh about 30 times what the Shuffle weighs. It is kind of like a Great Dane cuddling one of those teacup dogs.
I need to assign myself a certain number of Pimsleur and grammar book tasks a day. I plan to disregard Pimsleur’s recommendation of doing just one lesson a day. Sorry, Dr. Pimsleur (Dr. Pimsleur being the originator of this stuff).
When I do exercises in my Russian grammar book, I tend to talk to it. Out loud.
Today with each exercise question I begged, “Please be right! Please be right!” If I got something wrong, it was “Why?! Why?!”
I did particularly badly on an exercise where I had to say what/whom Katya likes to paint. Apparently I don’t know.