Friday, January 25, 2013

Daria's return, frosty adventures, and linguistics part 2

To begin with, Daria returned last Friday night/Saturday morning. The plane was supposed to land around 5pm, but due to a snowstorm in Germany (layover), it didn't leave Boston until later because they knew they couldn't land, thus arriving in SPB about 2am. This new arrival pushed the transportation costs to the airport and back from less than 300 rubles to about 2200 rubles because we were forced to take a taxi after the metro and busses close for the night. However, despite the late arrival, she arrived safely and it's great to have her back in Russia. The pets, grandparents, and me most of all missed her presence here and we're all glad for her return. (Added bonus, I got some of my aunt's caramel corn via air-Daria).

We rested all day Saturday sleeping half the day away. Before Daria's departure, she and I had been talking about replacing the bed here. We had a beautiful old futon-esque bed (where you store bedding underneath when it's folded up and therefore is more of a bed than what Americans think of as a futon which is more couch that can be a bed; these types of beds are common here in Russia and many European countries with small apartments), with a sturdy wooden frame, and it once had a solid straw/wood mattress (actually comfy straw, not unpleasant). However, it was quite old, possibly 50/60+ years. Therefore on Sunday, Daria and I went with Olya, Vova, and Nadia in search of bed and bought a new bed. We had hoped that the old bed would be moved to a different room since it would be fine for a two week stay, but grandpa decided to just throw the bed out. The new bed has done wonders for a better night's sleep. It is also futon-esque though so it's quite nice to sit on when propped up. The animals also love it quite a bit.

As for the frosty adventures, Daria met me after work today in Tavrichesky Cad. We had a wonderful walk through the park and we ventured down onto the frozen pond and walked all over the pond. There's also a strip where people cleared some of the snow off the top and you run on the snow and then slide on the ice-strip. There is a meme on vkontakte (Russian social website) that has a picture of such ice-strips with the comment "You know what to do." Well, Daria and I had a fun time running and sliding for a while. Additionally, we enjoyed watching people ski around and all the kids slide and/or sled down the embankment onto the canals/pond. Lots of wintery fun was had this afternoon in the park.

Daria skating on the pond.
You can also notice that I've learned how to put photos in the blog. In addition to the winter fun we had outside, I had a chuckle the other day about how people put frost on their windows to give a winter atmosphere. Here we get the real deal and it looks beautiful, especially as the light fractures and glistens.

Moving into the linguistics part 2 on a few things I forgot last week. First, I read an interesting article about how knowing more than 1 language is good at staving off later-life diseases like Alzheimer's.

Secondly, I've been pondering over the past few months about business people learning multiple languages for their work. Many people around the world learn English for business, but why not encourage a majority/all of business people to learn two languages? Native English speakers should also learn languages like German or Japanese for business. With multiple people in a company knowing different languages, a company would be able to thrive with multi-national meetings/partners much better.

The last part of linguistics that I thought was interesting was that the word for 'pen' in Russian is ручка (roochka) which is also the same word for a door handle or a handle on a teapot. It is rooted with the word for hand рука. I hadn't thought about it for English, but we also share "hand" in "handle."

Until next time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Holidays and Linguistics

So I'll start with how the holidays happened. We had this break that was a couple weeks long, and clearly which I did not write, nor did I learn how to post pictures or do links in the blog. I relaxed, took Karma on actual walks, watched TV through pirated streaming and watched DVDs of which every DVD had an intro about the evils of pirating movies and TV. I was a bad student and didn't do any Russian homework.

However, I wasn't a complete dud. I went out to the bar with some of my students so I practiced some of my Russian and they practiced their English. I also visited Olya, Vova, and Nadia. The day I visited them started with just Olya and Nadia. We went to a playground and Nadia was absolutely adorable playing and swinging and climbing up the steps to go down the slide and up the steps and down the slide and up the steps and down the slide. Wonderful. I spoke mostly English with Olya, but when Vova came home the conversation transitioned into as much Russian as we could muster and it was good. Nadia kept wanting to talk to баба (baba), the more endearing term "grandma" as opposed to the long form, grandmother. Vova kept trying to fake her out with the phone calls, but she kept asking to speak so they finally called and told баба that Nadia wanted to speak to her. It was mostly just short sounds and animal noises (grandma asks "what does a dog say?" Nadia replies "Af Af" -woof woof). Lots of animal noises for the phone call that Nadia insisted on happening. Wonderful day though.

New Years itself consisted of me hanging out with the grandparents while Daria was off in the US for interviews. We had a nice dinner of festive foods like winter salads while Karma feasted on some ham that grandpa kept giving from the table. And of course they gave me the lions share of the champagne, which doesn't work for me. Russian grandparents always make the younger generation eat and drink more. There are pictures in the meme world of "before grandma's house" and "after grandma's house" that change from thin to fat. Well, they kept making me drink the champagne until I put a stop to it and had the rest with a mimosa in the morning. But it was a nice New Years with good celebration, present exchange, watching Putin give the Presidential speech, and the talk show hosts to follow.

During the holidays I met up with a friend from the US who is Russian and who came for some of the holidays. It was nice to see a good friend whom I haven't seen since college graduation, even if it was for a short time and grabbing a coffee.

I also tried to venture out for things, but the weather was too warm for things like skiing and skating as it even reached +5 C over the holidays (although currently it has dropped back to -20 C). I should have skipped the TV and ran out to throw a frisbee wearing shorts and flip-flops.

Overall it wasn't an adventuresome holiday like I had hoped, going to visit places like Stockholm or Copenhagen, but it wasn't a bad holiday either.

As for the linguistic aspect of this post, well . . .

I guess, first off, I've realized exactly how big my vocabulary is. Usually I'm able to grade my language appropriately, but every once in a while the only way I can describe a more basic word is with bigger words. This doesn't work. This then requires the use of a translator to give the Russian equivalent. I only hope the context isn't lost as it sometimes can be. However, I really have seen a big difference even in the everyday English that I normally use and the specialized jargon that I know. Every once in a while I come across a word that is a beautiful word, but we rarely use.

For example, I posted of facebook about teaching the word "macabre" which resulted in teaching Russians their own word макабричевскии, although I'll bet, it's a new word for them, coming in from French and English influence. None of my students, the school administrators, Daria's grandparents, etc knew this word. It has to be borrowed from English or French and then Russianized, but they didn't know what it meant. We got past that, but still.

Other examples come when sometimes someone will ask me about a definition and the only example I can think of is one or two levels above them, not something to describe what they would know.

And then, the macabre came out b/c the lesson in the book was about Jack the Ripper and other macabre topics, so I took the instance to teach them about Edgar Allen Poe, the piece "Masque of the Red Death" and the song by Thrice "The Red Death" about the poem.

My intermediate students learned about 35 new words (how much they remember I don't know), but I loved a few easy explanations like "opulence" - very rich, "inebriate" - very drunk, or "ebony" black." A difficult passage quickly turned to something understandable.

As for my own linguistic ventures, well I'm having a horrible time with the variations of one verb that depending on how you change it is either "teach," "learn," "teach yourself," and a few others and then moved into the past and/or perfect. This verb is killing me. 9 structures not including conjugation (for I, you, he/she/it, we, you, they) of each structure. This one word is my Russian bane.

Overall I think I'm doing well with my Russian though and I do try to speak as much in Russian as I can.

However the best news is that Daria returns to Russia in a couple hours. And with that news, I shall end my post.