What’ll Three Years of Russian Get You?

So, when I went to college, you had to take at least two years of a foreign language. Being that I’d changed high schools and graduated from a school so small. . .

How small was it?

The school that I graduated from was so small that, in order to meet my physical education requirement and have room for all my other classes, I was in 1st grade PE my junior year. I walked down to the other end of the school, to the small gym, and had PE with two sets of first graders.

How small was it?

I graduated fourth out of forty-seven.

How small was it?

My calculus class was once cancelled on account of hunting season.

Anyway, I’d had 18 weeks of French and 9 weeks of Spanish when I got to college and I didn’t believe that there’d be anybody in the intro classes to either of those languages who knew less about them than I do. (Here’s the whole sum total of what I learned in French: “vent” is wind and the kid with the French name of Guy will stab a girl in the face with a pen if she tries to take his seat. Guy, if you are reading this, through some strange coincidence, though I’ve forgiven you and the scar is not that noticeable any more, I still think that was a strange and shitty thing to do. You might want to cut back on the caffeine.)

So, I enrolled in Russian. Yes, for some reason, I thought that, even though eighteen weeks of French had taught me one word and a new-found respect for personal boundaries, I could pick up a whole new alphabet along with many new words and be queen of Slavic languages.

I stuck it out for three years. And, boy howdy, do I suck. Do you know what Russians you can communicate with after three years of Russian and no inherent language talent? Three year olds.

But the Professor has a friend who speaks fluent Russian, who went to Russia and wrestled drunken Russians, and, for some reason, when I get drunk, I feel the need to try to talk to him in Russian and recite snippits of Pushkin to him that I can’t remember while sober, but that seem to come rushing back to me without the least bit of provocation after a couple of beers.

Thus it occurs to me that, probably, the Russians that I can communicate with are even fewer than “three year olds.” No, if I ever find myself in Russia, I’ll be stuck talking to the drunken three year olds.

We can discuss milk–moloko, vodka–vodka, beer–pivo; water–voda; cows–corova; god–bog; pomegranate–granat; good things–horoshow; small things–malinki; and dogs–coboka.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, that’s not much different than what I normally discuss on Tiny Cat Pants. . .

4 thoughts on “What’ll Three Years of Russian Get You?

  1. Our experiences are strikingly similar. After four years of German, of which the only thing I definitely learned were how to count to 10 and dishwasher (geshirspulmachine in case your curious) I had four years of Russian, including a couple of months “in country” and the amount I rember is how to count to 10 and I never learned dishwasher because, I don’t think the Russians have them.

    My most humbling experience, however, was when I was in Russia, attempting to talk to my five year old host brother. He asked me for some gum, which was still a relative novelty overthere, and I offered him some, only if he would behave himself, which generally meant leaving me alone and not rifling my things looking for my hidden stash of m&ms. Of course I got the case wrong and the little shit corrected me.

    There is nothing more embarrasing than receiving language instruction from a smug five year old with a mouth full of Doublemint.


  2. You got stuck with smug five year olds and the Contrarian got the Russian mob to take him out for ice cream. That hardly seems fair.

    When I went to visit him last year, the whole family was speaking Russian, and the only one of them I could understand was the baby.

  3. I’ve got you all beat – I kick total ass at languages – here is a conversation I had just today. I call up GAY NY today and he answers “Bonjour”
    ME: Bonjour, Comment allez vous? oops, did I just ask you what your name was?
    GAY NY: No, you asked me how I was doing.

    And, french is like my 3rd language! I’VE ONLY HAD 2 SEMESTERS (deux semestres!).

    Now, if I could just get my mac to do ANYthing today, this day might be worth it.

    Au Revior mes amis!

  4. JR–you are so awesome that Blogger keeps repeating everything you say, like some demented, love-struck parrot!

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