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 television, low-quality dramas, and a variety of useless talk shows. I understand very little, but I can pick out individual words now, more each day.
Pimsleur phrases are sticking in my craw. (I wrote that sentence, then had to go look up what a craw is; it is a bird’s throat.) Here’s the thing: Pimsleur consists of a series of oral lessons in which you are prompted to say various things in Russian, sometimes randomly, sometimes as part of a dialogue, sometimes translating from English, sometimes just answering questions posed to you in Russian. For the most part, it’s varied and interesting, but there is also a lot of repetition. There has to be, or you won’t learn the stuff.
Anyway, I am currently finding that there is a lot of craw-sticking, through no fault of Pimsleur’s, and it is getting annoying. I end up with these phrases and sentences from my Pimsleur lessons playing over and over in my head when I go running, to the point that I feel almost nauseated. Particularly, this week, this one: “Shto be ve hatili payabilit?” (That’s my own makeshift transliteration, so any deficiencies are my own.) It means, “What would you like to have for lunch?” Having that question play over and over in my head—shto be ve hatili payabilit shto be ve hatili payabilit shto be ve hatili payabilit—is really irksome when I am trying to relax and enjoy a jog in Central Park.
The torturous repetition made me think of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, a book I absolutely loved as a child. In it, a giant brain called “It” controls a town. Everyone acts the same, moves the same, does the same thing at the same time, all in accordance with the direction of this huge, pulsating brain. There is no chaos—only order. In one terrifying scene, all the little boys up and down the street come out of their houses at the exact same time, bouncing their balls in the exact same rhythm. It was super creepy, and today the rhythmic repetition of Pimsleur sentences is making me think of that. My feet are not free; they are prisoners of the rhythm of a Pimsleur lesson.
I know that sounds as though I am not having fun. I really am, though. Sometimes it’s also fun to complain a little.