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Monday, November 2, 2015

Russian Progress

The children and I have just finished our second month of Russian study.  When I finally gave in and started, I honestly didn't expect much progress very quickly.  Russian hovers somewhere between 'clip my toenails' and 'clean out the storage room' on my priority list.  Things that will eventually get done some time, but not on any kind of regular basis (yep.  And that is why I never get pedicures).

I don't really care if the girls became bilingual or can even converse with anyone on the street.  Our homeschool program only requires letter grades for core subjects, so I make sure that math and reading really get done, science and history mostly get done, and the rest is really just extra anyway.  And Russian is really, really extra.  About as extra as art.  When there's one of you and six people to take care of, you have to choose what you're really going to get worked up about.  You'd die if you cared about everything.

So I've been pleasantly surprised at our progress.  In addition to meeting with Albina, our very long-suffering tutor (on the day we studied animals Sophia decided to declare that she didn't want to eat a pink _____ when each animal was introduced), I also purchased Rosetta Stone and set up a flashcard program.  I figure that among the three three there would be enough coverage to get at least a few words stuck firmly in everyone's head.

And things are actually starting to stick.  I remember learning German while living in Vienna and slowly, slowly beginning to understand things that I saw and heard.  A high point was understanding a passing question about the time ('Wie spat ist est?') and answering in German.  We don't get out nearly as much as I did in Vienna, but the same thing is starting to happen here.  As we drive through town, Kathleen likes to read out all of the signs to practice her Cyrillic.  A few days ago she showed me a piece of paper with names written in Cyrillic.  When we were at the embassy Halloween party a few days ago, she started eavesdropping on conversations.  "Mom!" she turned to me excitedly, "They said something about boys!"

Edwin, who watches Dino Lingo every day (I will never, ever, ever be able to scrub those songs out of my memory.  Ever), likes to sit in the window and tell passersby how old he is.  "Hey!  Hey kid! I'm пять!  And soon I'll be шесть!"  Joseph, who also has been watching the dinosaurs teach him useful words like 'giraffe' and 'tiger' will randomly turn to me and ask me what the word for желтый is in Russian.  One afternoon during lunch he decided that, because I know the words for boy, green, milk, egg, and yellow, that I am the expert in Russian.  "Hey Mom, how do you say 'chocolate chip' in Russian?  What about 'generator'?  Do you know 'booster seat'?"  When, after striking out on a few more words, he pointed to his apple and I responded with яблоко, he exclaimed happily, "There!  You do know Russian!"

When we were at the park after a lesson when 'to see' was introduced, a man came up to me.  He asked if I knew Russian and then told me that I need to watch Eleanor, who was wandering (to him) dangerously close to an unsafe part (now that I think about it, I don't think that American parks have twelve-foot sheer drop-offs in them).  I pretended that I didn't understand him because dumb is easier than smart sometimes.  But I actually understood his words and not just his gestures.

And finally, finally, I can actually tell people who ring my doorbell that I don't speak Russian and do they speak English?  I even held a very stumbling conversation last week without someone who was convinced that our house was somebody else's дом, and I assured him that no, it was definitely our дом and by the way I didn't really understand Russian.  It was all very funny and we both laughed.  But he still kept ringing the doorbell.  So I eventually unplugged it.

Despite our progress, I'm still not moving Russian above toenail clipping in my priority list.  Because why put in more effort if we're still making progress?  Eventually when the girls are older and I have more time on my hands (ha, ha) we'll probably get around to studying Russian in some sort of systematic way with a text book.  I have far future plans that involve the children taking online college Russian courses, but they're still in the shadowy, insubstantial land of 'when they're so old they can drive cars' that probably isn't even real.  But for now, we're plunking along just fine.  Which is okay with me.  Maybe by this time next year I will be able to tell my gardner to prune the fruit trees.  But I'm not holding my breath.

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