Russian: what gives?

In 1975, when foreign language lessons appeared in textbooks and on vinyl, I decided to learn Russian as a complement to the German that I had just learned with some fluency. The Cyrillic alphabet provided interesting and confusing sets of letters — enough to keep a learner engaged in sounds and texts that looked familiar to the under-aided eye. It appeared to resemble Gellarese in many ways, cobbled together in a manner that seemed intuitive to the 1970s Cold War setting, an interesting series of words that deliberately resembled a code and a language history that included the drama of Tolstoy and a presence that made it seem like background music in a Soviet department store.

Intrigue comes across between German and Russian as it is cast against a background that the geography of post-war Europe provided. However, German and Slavic speakers would not yield to translation with any degree of ease. Russian uses neither the definite nor the indefinite article, whereas German conveys the meaning and usage of every noun and pronoun. The German language spoken by a five-year-old in Berlin provide all the parts of speech, every inflection, and every nuance of meaning. Stack Russian next to German and you arrive at that enigma wrapped within a mystery that Russia represented to Churchill. The Slavic and German ways seem to play out like a spy thriller, where the similarities may lie somewhere between the butler and the wrestler. God help the translator maintain any measure of surety and sanity in such a world.

A Passionate Love Story

My German and Russian proceeded along these avenues of restriction. Of course, the tools available on the internet were yet decades away. It is difficult to imagine how any new language can be approached without Google and YouTube: an assuring set of mouse clicks away. Hence the heightened curiosity that is aroused upon employing YouTube and Google to assist the learner who arrives to answer the question posed for this post — what gives?

Somehow, languages once learned to any extent seem to stick onto various brain cells and cortexes. I still remember much of the Russian that I heard on those 1975 records, language segments that blended together like a fermenting beverage. Somewhere between beer and vodka, I believe.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

3 thoughts on “Russian: what gives?”

    1. Languages really are interesting, just as they are. I need to ask a former German language learner from Russia about all those endings in German, whereas German has 16 strong endings and 12 weak endings, Russia doesn’t even have a single word for “the” or “a”. Strange stuff is it not. But curious and enticing as well.
      Wishing you guys a pleasant Autumn!
      Still celebrating Trump’s loss at the polls in the climes. It is a refreshing change. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I took German for 2 years in school, my grandparents spoke it as did my father. And today? I can barely remember how to count, for heaven’s sake. So one of my kids went and got me a subscription to Der Speigel, in German, to more or less shame me into trying to pick it up again. Even though it’s been something like 50 years since I spoke or read German some things occasionally still click and I can find that if I concentrate and have patience I can pick up about 40 – 50% of it without having to resort to Google Translate.

    So now I’m also trying to learn Mandarin because, well, why not, right?

    I do have one huge advantage today thanks to the internet, access to hundreds of hours of Chinese television on YouTube.


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