Thursday, February 19, 2004
I'm taking Russian. Don't ask why, because I don't really know. Apparently, I wanted to spend $600 on something I stink at and dread every week (for the next twelve weeks).
It's hard. Very hard. The first class, however, was easy enough. We spent two hours going over the alphabet, and it seemed that no one had studied Russian before. I immediately put on airs, as I've always considered myself a fine linguist, having studied Latin, Greek, and Spanish (albeit seven years ago in high school).
At the second class, the wheels came off. The two people in the class who were my age didn't show up and dropped the course. Then, we went around the room to talk about our language experience, and everyone was better with languages than me. A woman of about forty said that she had majored in Russian in college and wanted to refresh. A man with a strange accent said he was born and spent his youth in Georgia (not the US one, the European one) as I thought to myself, "Isn't that a fucking former republic of the Soviet Union?" Another middle-aged woman sings in Czech in an all-Czech choir. Finally, the man I call “Ken the Prick” acknowledged that he speaks Hebrew, Polish, French, and German. I am the only person both whose first language is English and has not studied Russian before.
To combat this, while in class, I often write out phonetic pronunciations of words, vowels, or combinations of sounds. When I get home to look over my notes, I find things like: "ы is like 'uch' or 'ugh' but much more emphatic/ugly/guttural." So that's always helpful. I’d probably be better off just drawing a fucking picture of the sound.
Last night’s class was the most painful yet. We often go around the room and pronounce words and of course, being the worst student, I get the most difficult words. The Russian word for “explosion” is вэрыв, which transliterates to v-z-r-ugh-v. When asked to pronounce it, instead of giving an earnest attempt, I sort made a “voo” noise and kicked the desk in front of me, hoping the teacher would move along. She asked me to repeat it, and I did the same thing: “voo”-kick. When she said, “One more time,” I gave her another “voo” and kicked the desk harder than I had ever before. She said, “Good” and moved on to the next student. Lesson: if you fail several times at something, people will eventually give up on you, and you will be much, much happier.