Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Ides of March Update on my Russian Studies During Lent

In my last post I expressed some frustration about my sense that things were not progressing as I had hoped. 

I have acquired a conversant level of language on a number of occasions, and I always have focused more on learning to say things than gaining comprehension. The result has been that I have frequently found that I come off to native speakers as knowing more than I really do. 

When they ask me about myself, I have memorized how to describe myself and I rattle it off with a level of fluidity that implies a fluency I don't really have. And that invariably means they continue the conversation with a speed that I can't follow. And so they are confused when, after I describe myself, I'm immediately saying, "Sorry, I don't understand, can you please speak more slowly?"

And so, more from happenstance than intention, I have been approaching Russian differently. 

Life has been getting in the way of formally sitting down everyday and studying. But I am still committed to this project. As I have described in previous posts, I have important personal reasons for acquiring a functional use of Russian.

And so, I have been contenting myself with regular, but passive, learning.

Since my last post, I have been listening daily for hours during my commute to recorded dialogs, as well as nightly listening to episodes of a terrific BBC program "Russian Language and People." (It's like the Spanish Destinos, but for Russian.)

I have experienced times when, upon listening to a particular dialog many times over, I suddenly understand every word of an entire sentence, just from hearing every word of it in other contexts in other sentences.

My vocation as a Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church means that I am hearing Russian constantly, and my level of comprehension has dramatically improved. I am still holding back on using the language with my parishioners. 

There is a Russian boy at the school where I teach, and he has a free period when I have hall duty (meaning, I walk the halls endlessly for an hour). And on a few occasions he has walked with me and I run through verb paradigms with him and practice simple conversations. 

In the final analysis, I am making progress. I am optimistic. Lent plods on. So do I...


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