The Fake Russian

First, a note: I’m trying this new “post by email” thing in WordPress, as I have been having intermittent problems connecting to my website due to my web host, Time Warner Cable. Time Warner ought to win worst ISP of the year award as far I’m concerned, but I digress. I really hope everything is formatted properly for this post. Apologies if it isn’t – I’m doing this by email on my iPad!

During my seven days of orientation, I observed something amusing as I met my new classmates and professors: as soon as they found out I speak Russian, they automatically assumed I am Russian. The first time it happened, I overheard a classmate say she was born in Moldova. I asked her in Russian if she spoke it and she answered in the affirmative. “You were born there, too?” she asked. I was flattered that she thought I’m Russian, as I assumed that my accent marked me as a non-native speaker. I reluctantly told her that no, I was not born in Russia, I just studied it as an undergraduate.

She was not the only one to assume I’m Russian. A few of the foreign students, mainly from east Asia, asked what it’s like to live there. I told them I’ve traveled there, but never lived there long-term. One was in awe when I told her I learned Russian as a second language. “I think it’s the hardest language in the world,” she said. (I told her I think her native language, Chinese, is much harder!)

Those are just two instances out of many. After a little while, I almost wished I had just told people I’m Russian, or Ukrainian, or Belarusian. (I didn’t because I’d feel funny lying to people who are my friends and future colleagues at work. But still, the temptation was there.)

Last week, while waiting for my mock interview to start, I was hanging out with some of my new friends. Someone asked, yet again, if I’m from Russia. “No, I’m a fake Russian,” I joked. My new friend S. burst out laughing. “That’s funny,” he said when everyone looked at him.

I hadn’t meant to be that funny, but hey, I’m not going to complain if people think I’m hilarious.

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7 thoughts on “The Fake Russian

  1. Aw that’s cute!

    At international gatherings, especially towards the end, people tend to form cliques… but I’m always pulled into the Russian clique for after-party gatherings, with the explanation that I’m already “nashe”.

    To be honest I still feel like a fifth wheel… until I’ve had my 5th or 6th vodka or something and actually start speaking Russian.

    1. I know what you mean – I sometimes end up with the Russian people, too, if I’m at a gathering. When they start reminiscing about their childhoods in Russia, I feel out of place, though!

  2. Russian and Chinese are definitely both very difficult to learn. I just have a marginal knowledge about the Russian language, however my Chinese is pretty much ok. A friend of mine in Switzerland speaks about 10 languages (including Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese) and he told me that Russian is much more difficult for him. He said that the grammar is particularly difficult, whereas the Chinese Grammar is really pretty easy. I do agree that Chinese is difficult, however the difficulty is not as high as the rumour goes!!

  3. I am almost unable to recognize most Chinese writing after years of no practise, because all of it requires memory work–to memorise literally thousands and thousands of characters/phrases. A lot of non-natives can’t pick up tones for some reason–but there are only four tones, and grammar depends mostly on syntax.

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