Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel

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Thoughts on Learning Russian and Saloncon

Am feeling somewhat better today, though work is proceeding slowly, as my brain is high-grade mush.

I should mention that just after we get back from Hawaii, I'll be the Guest of Honor along with squirrel_monkey at Saloncon in Somerset, NJ, so if you're in the general New Jersey area and want to come see me in a corset, high ye steampunky self hence to salonconvention and get your tickets. I must stress that you do not need to be in costume to attend the con.

I made a very long sentence all by myself in Russian last night, with two clauses and everything. I'd forgotten how much puzzle-solving pleasure I take in learning new languages, and while I'd never say Russian was easy, I'm grateful to have the cushion of ancient Greek to soften the blow of a case system and verb aspect. (Whatever, bitchez, I got yer aorist right here, and Russian verbs are delightfully formulaic compared to that fuck-off huge verb chart I had to memorize back in the day. Ah! Memories! Good times, eh ladyvivien? sovay? burkean? Solidarity, mates. Can we have a classicist gang sign?)

The other day I caught myself thinking: I'm so glad I know Greek! I can't imagine how hard it would be to learn an inflected language from a dead stop, when you don't even know what a case system is, and have never heard of a declension! And a new alphabet, too? That's inhuman! Oh, wait...I guess that's Greek.

I've been very good about my daily lessons, and it's a fascinating process. I learned Greek and Latin concurrently, so the brainiac powers necessary were developed at the same time. Whereas now, the neural pathways have already been blazed, and it's fun to slot new words into familiar Tetris-like shapes in my memory. Accusative, check. Perfective aspect, check. Memorize, rinse, repeat. It helps that so much is immediately applicable from Greek to Russian, hell, some of the declensions are even the same. Some of the words are the same. And having listened passively to so much spoken Russian over the past two years, I can mimic pretty well and I recognize a lot of words just from how often I hear them. It's such a joy to learn something you know you are completely capable of, that you have the terminology and history to do without grotesque pain. I had all these tools lying around and it's awesome to finally use them.

The hardest thing has easily been pronunciation--English most often, though not always, places the emphasis on the first syllable, where Russian favors the last or the middle. (Man, the middle-syllable emphasis kills me.) Even if I know where the emphasis is, it's often difficult to reproduce it. I say "I can't make my mouth do that" a lot. And while the rolled r's and back-of-the-throat kh's are easy with Athena at my back, some of the consonant combinations are brutal on my tongue, and it's such a slushy language that I often just get everything jumbled up in my mouth and end up with nothing but mush. So many soft sounds, sh and zh and talking with a mouthful of snow.

I have a long way to go, but it's been awhile since I had this much fun, and felt like...hey, I'm a pretty smart girl. Look what I can do. I'm kind of proud of myself. Plus I have the world' best incentive: the look justbeast gets on his face when I say something in Russian is utterly priceless. And one day I will get to read dimkin, who I hear is truly something else.

Tonight I'm teaching myself songs! I have a fantastic musical memory, and secretly love singing above all things save writing, so I can hardly wait to get home.

A final note: the online Russian systems available are atrocious. They have the nasty habit of asking you to use verbs in a sentence and assign pronouns without ever translating the words for you, so I have to have Babelfish up in an adjacent tab while I work, because telling me what the words mean would ruin the purity of raw, uncensored, XXX conjugation. I have yet to find one that serves my needs, except for one, which sadly only has one module up, and is thus useless shortly after learning to tell Ivan where you work. (At the People's Munitions Factory with my proletariat brothers, Comrade.) I'm using a combination of Rosetta Stone, my own lesson plans, and justbeast.

justbeast sold separately.
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