Studying Russian in Russia

Studying Russian in Russia is definitely a different experience. In my German and Spanish classes, I had a teacher teaching me in English, and then I had exercises, homework, and tests in the class language. At Liden & Denz, they put you through a written exam, then do an oral test to get an idea of where you're at. Then they do good a job of placing you in a group of students who are at a similar aptitude level. From the very first class, they teach and ask and answer questions all in Russian. They'll use hand signals, little pictures on the white board, objects in the classroom--anything they can think of to communicate in Russian. When all else has failed, they'll resort to English, or another language if they are able, in order to clarify or answer a question. 

Having everything in Russian makes understanding and following along a lot harder, but it also pushes you to learn and think and to express yourself in Russian. If you can think of a way to express yourself, even if you know it means making a mistake, you just make it and let the teachers show you the correct way to say what's on your mind.

A Lot to Learn

It takes a lot of study to keep up with the classes. In Russian there are so many word endings for doing different things that you really have your work cut out for you keeping it all straight. 

Take for example, this picture of the different questions in Russian. In English, we have the word "what". In Russian, you have "что" as the subject of the sentence, or as a direct object. (What is that? What are you doing?) But you also have "чом" which is used with certain prepositions. For example, "на чом" means "on what" and is generally used to ask "On what form of transport did you come?" or, as we would ask in English, "How did you get here?". If you want to ask "without what?" or "from what?" or "of what?" you use the form "чего".

And that's just the tip of the iceberg!

Hitting the Books

My ability to read, write, speak and understand spoken Russian all grew significantly during my time in St. Petersburg. It takes some doing to train a set of Roman-alphabet-English-writing hands to work out a sensible string of Russian. But at a Russian language school, you really don't have any choice but to get up to speed, and do it quickly: ALL written instruction on the whiteboard is done in Russian. 

I may have spent considerable time seeing the sights and getting familiar with Russia, but I also spent a lot of time and effort studying Russian! I left Russia feeling that I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I have the determination to keep working at it, a little each day, and I am determined to put this to work in my genealogical endeavors.