Day OneJuly 1, 2009
Learning Russian

Getting Started!

The project gets underway at the New York Public Library.

I thought of this language project only yesterday while running in Central Park, so there hasn’t been much time to plan. It doesn’t really matter, though, as I don’t want to plan; I just want to get…

July 2, 2009 | Russian

Early Hurdles

I confront the Russian alphabet. Or rather, it confronts me.

This morning I realized that, although I was now fairly well set up with Russian books, a Russian dictionary, and Russian CDs, I was missing something critical, and that thing was: Russian TV. Therefore, the day began with a call…

July 3, 2009 | Russian

Russian Grammar Gifts

Russian grammar is hard, but there are a few freebies.

One great thing about this project is that it makes good use of my unfortunate recent tendency to watch too much television, some of it quite bad. In pursuit of higher language goals, my bad habits essentially become virtues. In…

July 5, 2009 | Russian

Brighton Beach Field Trip

I visit a Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Today I took a short field trip to Brighton Beach, a heavily Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had only a little time, because we had family in town, but I wanted to at least get a look at it. On…

July 9, 2009 | Russian

Russian Cases

Russian cases are crazy; even proper nouns change form.

I have discovered that even proper nouns change form in Russian. That would distress some of the people who take my (English) grammar and writing classes. For example, I get a lot of complaints from students about this kind of…

July 12, 2009 | Russian


In which I meet a Russian, and am at a loss for words.

By coincidence, my husband, Brandt Johnson, is currently acting in a play with a Russian theme. It is a show about Stalin called A Night in the Kremlin. I went to see it tonight and talked briefly to the playwright’…

July 15, 2009 | Russian

Pimsleur in My Craw

Repeating phrases over and over (and over) cannot be good for one's mental health.

As I have observed previously, this project allows me to watch bad TV as an educational tool. With a higher purpose to my bad-TV watching these days, I have now—in Russian and therefore totally guilt-free—watched dating games, court…

July 16, 2009 | Russian

Alphabetic Acrobatics

Learning the alphabet all over again ain't easy.

One big challenge for me in Russian: there are five different letters that look like the letter b in English. Here they are, in capital-letter form:  Б – This sounds like the English language b. Confusingly, the…

July 17, 2009 | Russian

Free Stuff!

Language-learning resources you don't have to pay for.

Today I discovered the miracle of eAudiobooks from NetLibrary, which is in turn available to me through the New York Public Library and, I believe, is offered by many other libraries as well. I was able to get Pimsleur Level…

July 18, 2009 | Russian

Russian Stress

It's starting to get to me.

Since I started this project, I have lost weight, but my blood pressure has soared. I felt nauseated yesterday and this morning—overwhelmed with Russian, it seems. Also, my ears hurt from my running headsets. Apparently my ears are built…