Russian Lessons

In less than a month John and I will leave for a mission trip to Russia. We will be working at an orphanage with about 20 kids, ages 6 – 17. In many countries the young people learn some English in school. To my knowledge, this isn’t the case in Russia; at least not with the kids in the orphanage we’ll be visiting.

As it so happens, John has a patient who is originally from Russia. She is married to an American man and in an effort to help him learn Russian she bought him a CD set of Russian lessons – the Pimsleur method. She has graciously loaned the CD’s to us in hopes, I think, that we’ll be more successful than her husband was at learning Russian.

I had some Spanish in middle school, a year of Spanish in high school, and another year in college. Even with all that time invested, I still only know a few basic words of Spanish and had serious doubts about my ability to learn any language – most especially Russian; particularly in a month’s time. But, we have use of the CD’s so it’s not like I’ve had to invest a lot of money to try.

I started with the first CD – the introduction to the Pimsleur method. It was easy enough; it was all in English. The man on the CD promised me that this method was far superior to other methods used for learning languages and that I’m not really stupid just because the other methods didn’t work. I listened to that CD twice.

Then, it was time for the first real lesson. I had a 30 minute car ride ahead of me so I stuck the CD in and confidently turned it on. After “welcome to session one of the Pimsleur method for learning conversational Russian”, I heard, “esventja eio’eond iesleidienyosleofigneos t.” Suddenly my hopes for learning ANY Russian started to fade. But then again, the man on the intro CD had PROMISED I could do this.

The Pimsleur method involves doing one lesson a day for 30 minutes. Once you can respond to the questions correctly 80% of the time, you can move to the next lesson. I spent three sessions on lesson one. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the directions completely, as I missed a couple of days, but still I can proudly say that I now know how to say a few helpful phrases like, “Excuse me”, “Do you understand English?”, “Yes, I’m American” (because I’m sure someone will ask,) “No, I don’t understand Russian” (this is probably the most helpful phrase I’ll learn,) and “a little” as in “I understand a little” Russian (which I fear will be limited to the few words I just told you about.) The word for “a little” cracks me up. Since all learning is done on the CD and there are no books to look at, I’m going to spell it phonetically – mmmnnyoga. Hey, I wonder if they have “Hooked on Phonics” in Russia?

After three days on lesson one, I decided it was time for lesson two. I was so confident, in fact, that after having a successful morning session, I turned lesson two on in the afternoon. I sometimes struggle with rules. By the way, MY criterion for advancement is that I remember at least two words for more than five minutes after I turn off the CD.

I forged on with confidence into lesson two and after a brief review of lesson one I heard, “esventja eio’eond iesleidienyosleofigneos t.” Oh no, here we go again.

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