Update On The Russian Resources Page

Remember that Russian resources page I talked about? Well, it is in progress. I’m making very slow progress on it—mainly because I’ve been working on other things, like violin and knitting and writing, not to mention some stuff for work.

But never fear, the progress is slow but steady. I’m going to keep working on it and I promise to let you know when it’s finished…

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Coming Soon: Russian Learning Resources

Dear friends, I am creating an exciting new resource that will be posted to this blog soon. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but I figure I need to just go ahead and do it. I want to create a page with resources for people who want to learn Russian.

Let’s say someone decides to learn Russian and realizes she needs a lot of practice listening, so she wants to download some podcasts. That’s an excellent idea, but the average person probably doesn’t know where to get Russian podcasts. And even if our hypothetical learner finds a bunch of podcasts, how will she know which ones are decent?

It’s a problem you can face with any aspect of language learning. Even if you are taking a class, you’re still going to have to do a lot of work on your own if you want to be fluent. That’s what I would like to help people with. I’ve been learning Russian for a long time and I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks along the way. 😉 I know a ton of good resources and I’m working on preparing a nice document to share with you aspiring Russian speakers out there.

Even if you aren’t learning Russian, some parts of this project will apply to language learning in general. I’ll be working on putting this together and I’ll let you know once it’s actually posted live on the blog. In the meantime, you can check out my Russian Log page, which has a list of Russian things I’ve watched and read.

My Latest Obsession: Russian Craft Blogs

As you probably saw last year, I stopped following the news. It’s been an excellent decision and one that I cannot recommend highly enough. However, since I used news websites to help with my Russian learning, I realized I needed some way to fill this void because I need my daily dose of Russian content. It’s not easy keeping up with my Russian in a monolingual city, but it can be done.

The first thing I’ve done is resolved to read more books in Russian. I read novels really slowly and Russian novels are often really long, so I’ve been working on the same book for ages. That isn’t enough, though. To get exposure to some more easily read material, I’ve turned to blogs. I used to read some political blogs in Russian, but you know how that ended up.

Luckily, there are a ton of Russian people using the internet to blog, just as there are in the English-speaking world. (I read that internet penetration in Russia isn’t as high as it is in the US or Canada, but since Russia is so big, that’s still a lot of people online. Just saying.) And I’ve found a new niche of Russian blogs that I am completely obsessed with. I call them the craft blogs.

Right now, I’m following four Russian craft blogs: Дневник рукодельницы, Creative Living (despite the name, it is written in Russian), Матрёшкин блог, and Родом из мечты. The four lovely Russian women post about their lives and the craft projects they do, like sewing, knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint. I am totally addicted to these blogs because they’re fascinating. It’s so neat to see what everyday life is like in Russia. You see, not all of these bloggers live in big glittering Moscow. The first one lives in Penza, I think, and another lives in Samara. And yes, maybe their lives aren’t as conventionally exciting as some well-known journalist or politician living in Moscow, but that isn’t a bad thing. My life isn’t exactly that exciting either, sometimes. I’m certainly not meeting famous people or jetting off to exotic locations every weekend!

Plus I like reading about other people’s crafts. It’s a bonus that I get to learn some Russian words while I’m at it. 🙂

Check Out My Guest Post On Language Surfer!

Yesterday I had a guest post run on Ron’s excellent blog Language Surfer. I didn’t get a chance to tell you about it earlier because it went up earlier than I expected—which isn’t a bad thing!

Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been involved with the language learning community for over four years now (even longer if you count the time I lurked in forums and on other people’s blogs before blogging about language on my own) and as diverse as language bloggers and their blogs may be, there does seem to be a commonality amongst them: many, many language learners who blog and post on forums learn more than one foreign language.

Read the rest here!
Continue reading “Check Out My Guest Post On Language Surfer!”

2016 New Year’s Resolutions: Language Learning And Music

This is the second part in a two-part series about my resolutions for 2016. Part 1 is here. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment about your resolutions, if you’ve made any!

This year, I’ve made some New Year’s Resolutions relating to my Russian learning and violin playing. First, I’ll talk about the Russian-related ones. I went on a business trip to New York in December (I just realized I forgot to blog about that, so I’ll have to write a post later and show you some pictures) and I met a lot of Russian people. I talked to many of them and was annoyed to find out that I had forgotten some words. I had a good comprehension of what they were saying to me, but I kept forgetting vocabulary when I tried to talk to them. It was so frustrating!

I still think I’m at a decent level for a language learner, but I want to improve this year. I’m planning to use iTalki, a social networking site for language learning, more often. It has a lot of useful features, including a “Notebook” functionality where you can write short compositions in the language you’re learning and have them corrected by native speakers of that language. I’ve corrected other people’s work, but haven’t actually written anything myself.

The site is also sponsoring a language challenge this year (I can’t find a link to it, unfortunately) that I plan to join. (Anyone can join if you have an account.) I want to talk to native speakers on Skype, either teachers that I pay or random people as language exchange partners, during which I’d help them with English in exchange for Russian help.

I briefly considered studying a new language this year, but decided against it. The more I learn of the Russian language, the more I love it and want to improve more. And trust me, there’s definitely room for improvement. My accent could use some work and there’s a ton of vocabulary I still don’t know. I think the sheer volume of vocabulary is one of the most discouraging things about learning a language: it’s not until you try to learn a foreign language as an adult that you realize what an incredible amount of words exist in both your native language and foreign languages.

My resolution regarding my violin playing is a lot simpler: I just want to play more this year. I didn’t play as much as I should have last year. It’s hard to find time to play sometimes because I’m often too tired and/or too busy when I come home from work. How I’m going to rectify this, I don’t know. But hopefully I’ll figure something out.

Several of you left comments on my prior post—thank you! I will respond to them tomorrow or this weekend. For any readers who didn’t leave comments on the prior post: have you made resolutions? If so, what are some of them?

Catch-22

Ugh, you guys. I was trying to write a post with a video of a Russian song and I was going to translate the lyrics into English. I struggled with this silly post (which is still incomplete) for ages and still didn’t get it done, due to the translation! This is going to sound strange, but the better I have become at Russian, the worse I’ve become at translating. It’s like the two linguistic parts of my brain do not want to interface with each other and it’s very frustrating.

Basically, the longer I don’t do translation, the worse I get at it. But the worse I get, the more that makes me not want to do it!

So yes, it’s Monday and I don’t have a post with any substance for you—just this one whining about my lack of translation ability. Ugh.

How To Return To Language Study When You’ve Been Neglecting It

It's like someone on the internet made this image just for me! ;)
It’s like someone on the internet made this image just for me! 😉

Dear friends, I realized something terrible yesterday: I have not been studying enough Russian as of late. Things really became clear when I went to post a short sentence in Russian on Twitter and couldn’t remember how to spell the past tense of the Russian verb for to watch (the infinitive is смотреть, if you’re wondering, and the past tense I needed was смотрела). It was then I realized that I need to step up my Russian studying or risk forgetting basic things that every competent speaker should know.

If you’ve ever been in such a situation with your language study, here’s my advice for what you can do.

Don’t panic.

It took a while to learn the language, right? It will take a while to forget it, too. What I mean is you aren’t just going to wake up and say, “Hey, I can’t speak Russian/German/French/insert your language of choice here.” The learning was gradual, and so is the forgetting. That’s good news, as it gives you a chance to halt any forgetting immediately when you realize it’s started to happen.

Just do it.

I don’t know about you, but when I haven’t done something for a while, whether it’s language study or playing violin, sometimes the hardest thing is starting. I’ll feel bad that I haven’t done it in ages, then I sort of psych myself out of it as I think about how bad I’ll be when I eventually do start again. This is all pointless and just leads me to continue putting it off and feeling bad.

Here’s the thing, though: all you have to do is dive back in and do one small thing. For me, it was watching a short (about thirty-five minutes) documentary in Russian I had saved in my YouTube account. I understood most of it as I watched and after I started, I immediately felt better.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember when I just said that I understood most of the documentary I watched? It’s true that I didn’t get every word or every sentence. But that’s okay. At least I was watching, listening, and learning new phrases and sentence structures. I’m just going to keep watching videos and reading articles and going over things from my language notebook.

Don’t worry about “catching up.”

If you’ve been neglecting your language study for even a short amount of time, there’s probably going to be some regression. Maybe you don’t remember some vocabulary, or you forget how a certain grammatical concept works. Or, like me, you forget how to spell a basic verb. This is normal. Don’t worry about getting yourself to your previous level. It’s more beneficial to build a language study routine into your day and just go from there—for example, watch ten minutes of video and write down ten new words in your language notebook every day. It may not be much, but if that’s all you have time for, it will add up and in a year, your language abilities will be great.

Have you neglected your language learning? How did you get back into it?

A Pumpkin For The Season

I saw this fabulous pumpkin at the grocery store recently and couldn’t resist taking a picture. It was huge!

Click to see larger.
Click to see larger.

Keep in mind how big it is in relation to those flowers in the top right. The thing was almost $150!

Pumpkin in Russian is тыква [tykva]. My Russian professor told me that pumpkin pie isn’t really a thing in Russia; however, I’ve managed to find a few recipes* in Russian for тыквенный пирог [tykvenniy pirog] (that means pumpkin pie). Maybe in the Soviet era no one ate pumpkin pie and things have changed. After all, my professor left Russia many years ago. Or maybe it wasn’t a regional thing where he lived.

Anyway, I’m trying to learn more Russian vocabulary and I thought it would be fun to share it on the blog. Hopefully it’s interesting to readers, even if you aren’t learning Russian!

*Note: no, I have never made anything from a Russian recipe. I’d love to but the recipes from there always use the metric system and we use a different system in the United States.

Want To Read Anti-Kremlin News In Russian? It’s Possible.

A newspaper vendor in London. From here.
A newspaper vendor in London. From here.

Note: I was planning this post for today before I realized that it’s the eleventh anniversary of journalist Paul Klebnikov’s death. He was shot in Moscow in the evening of July 9, 2004. The publication he worked for, Forbes Russia, is on the list of anti-Kremlin news sources in Russian. Mr. Klebnikov produced some fantastic work during his life and I would highly recommend reading it.

I’m a big advocate of reading the news in the foreign language you’re learning. It’s okay if you don’t like political stuff. Pretty much any topic you can think of has news related to it. A lot of people like sports and entertainment-related stuff and Google News has sections for both of these in many foreign languages. Believe me, I’ve read my fair share of political news, and it does get old after a while, if you ask me.

Reading native media will also help you see what issues speakers of your target language deem important. For example, if you’re into sports, you can tell from reading the sports-related news in Russian that Russian people are REALLY into soccer (or football, for you European readers out there).

So anyway, I found this interesting link with the twenty most anti-Kremlin sites in Russian. For the record, many, many Russian-language news sites and pretty in favor of the current Russian government. At least, the more popular and well-known ones are.

Before I post the list, let me say this: if you’re learning Russian, I think you should read pro-Kremlin websites. If you’re pro-Kremlin, you’ll enjoy it, and if you’re anti-Kremlin—well, you know what they say about knowing your enemy.

That being said, I think it’s useful to know whether a site leans pro-Kremlin or anti-Kremlin. Based on an analysis conducted in March 2014 (which was a very politically contentious month), here are the twenty most anti-Kremlin websites.

1. Ekho Moskvy
2. Dozhd TV
3. Novaya gazeta
4. The New Times
5. Newsru.com
6. Radio Svoboda
7. RIA "New Region"
8. Slon.ru
9. RBK and RBK daily
10. Vedomosti
11. Snob
12. Rosbalt
13. Grani.ru
14. Yezhednevny zhurnal
15. Lenta.ru
16. Kommersant
17. Russky Zhurnal
18. Russian Forbes
19. Znack.com
20. Moskovskiye novosti

I’m pleased to say that I read Radio Svoboda (#6), RBK (#9), Rosbalt (#12), Kommersant (#16), and Forbes Russia (#18) on a regular basis. I read Vedomosti (#10) and Lenta.ru (#15) when I remember to, which varies from “often” to “not very much”. I listen to Ekho Moskvy (#1) podcasts and radio on a regular basis. Personally, I’ve never been much of a fan of Novaya Gazeta (#3) or The New Times (#4), as they’re a bit left-leaning for my tastes. As for the other sites on the list, I hadn’t heard of a lot of them before finding this list, so perhaps I will have to integrate them into my reading soon.

Needless to say, I read a ton of pro-Kremlin media as well. So don’t read too much (no pun intended!) into my choices. Mainly, I just want to learn as much Russian vocabulary as possible.