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 any circumstances, It is disturbing to watch.
In any circumstances,however, there are limits to what kind of bad television I will watch. I hate soap operas in English. I also hate them in Spanish, Russian, or any other language. (They actually make me feel nauseated.) Unfortunately, one of the Russian channels I now subscribe to runs a Spanish-language soap called Tierra de Pasiones, meaning Land of Passions. The weird thing is, as the dialogue proceeds, you hear both the original Spanish and the Russian translation, simultaneously! So, for example, a glamorous woman will start talking melodramatically in Spanish, and then a Russian voice translating her begins moments later, covering over but not totally obscuring her voice. The entire show is like that, with dual voices dueling each other.
It is disturbing to watch.
A huge relief today: I was reminded that Russian has no articles. No “the.” No “a.” No “an.” I feel as though someone just gave me a big gift card for Niketown.
In addition—and this is something I never realized before—there is no verb for the present tense of “to be.” Therefore, instead of saying “The woman is a doctor,” all you have to say is the Russian equivalent of “Woman doctor.” Two words instead of five, and no grammar to decide. Your only task is to remember two nouns.
I feel up to that challenge.