continuing education

I’ve been filling notebooks and boxes of index cards with Russian vocabulary for about three years now, ever since I started trying to read in Russian outside of class and began writing down all the words I didn’t yet know. It’s a good thing to have on the subway, whether you’re in New York or in Moscow.  Sometimes I think to myself, I have so many pages of words like this, why don’t I know all of Russian yet!  Of course, that is a ridiculous thought to have… but this habit of mine serves to remind me just how many words a language contains, how many variations, how many complexities, how much there will always be to learn… it was different, I think, with French, because so many words just come for free with knowing English, but since Russian is, a few exceptions aside, a whole world away, it feels like such a massive undertaking to acquire a foreign vocabulary.  And when I help my friends who are advanced in English, I feel like it must be the same for them, like climbing a mountain.  There are so many words in English…

Anyway, since I’m learning Russian outside of school now and it’s my own independent undertaking, I feel almost in a frenzy about learning it sometimes.  It somehow seems to matter more than anything I studied in college, more than writing a good paper or having a revelation about Paradise Lost, maybe because I’m doing it for myself and by myself.  But now I have a little help, and I’m very excited about it.  I met a Russian teacher named Frieda and we’ve arranged an exchange of language lessons of sorts– we meet in a cafe on Pushkinskaya, and work in one language, then another.  It’s kind of informal, but as we talk about whatever we’re talking about–this time we talked about Frieda’s romantic experience (since she’s in her early forties, she has quite a bit more of it than I do!) and the differences between how Russian and American women resolve or don’t resolve problems with their men–as we’re talking, we correct eachother, explain grammar, and the like.  And I’ve got some written homework to do now… it’s nice to take a break from being a teacher and be a bit of a student for a while!

Isn’t that right, Kot?


One response to “continuing education

  1. What a lovely post, Rachel, and so true! Whenever I do translation work from French (and there are still plenty of words there that would befuddle any English speaker), I have my browser open to At this point, I’ll sometimes see a word I’m typing already visible in the autofill box–shouldn’t you know this word? is what I think the computer is telling me. But I’m definitely jealous because I’d love to take a class in French (or, really, any other language) again. Someday . . .

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