Saturday, February 24, 2007


The other day, Dad and I went to Borders after a lovely little college thingy I had to go to. Naturally, I ended up in the section I usually live in when I go to Borders--The Language Reference, the Russian section in particular. It was there that I discovered something really interesting.

It was in a copy of (and I'm not joking) Russian for Dummies. I thought I'd take a look and so I opened up the book and to my dismay, I realized after about five seconds that the book did not teach cyrillic, rather, it used transliteration to teach words.

Now, normally, I'd have nothing against transliteration, but I've come to realize since beginning my study of Russian that in short, transliteration stinks. It's much easier to pronounce Russian when you actually see the cyrillic letters and furthur more, the alphabet, in all honesty isn't all that hard to learn. But I digress.

It was about ten seconds after I realized that the words in the book had been transliterated, that I had the most shocking of revelations. I couldn't read it! And I'm only slightly exaggerating. I was looking at the English letters. I even knew what the English letters were supposed to sound like. But for the life of me I had the worst time trying to figure out what the words were supposed to be in Russian. It was actually more effort to sit there in Borders and squint at the words, trying to figure out what they were supposed to be, than to sit there with the cyrillic and figure that out. It was a real interesting, eye opening experience. One that I personally, found rather funny. My parents did as well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Slight Change

For those of you who may or may not be observant, you will notice that I changed the little subtag under the title of the blog. I kept the title becaues in all honesty, I've spent a good amount of time building up the name of the blog and so on and so forth, and I'd have to start all over if I changed the name. Anyway the point of this post is not to talk about blog titles, but to explain why I've changed the sub tag from "A record of my Experiences with Language" to "The Russian Odyssey..."

The main reason, well if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm going to be spending ten months with Rotary Youth Exchange in Russia, beginning in August. When that happens, This blog will switch to mostly talking about the experiences I'm having there. The reason I've changed it now, in February is because I've noticed that a lot of my posts lately have more to do with Russian, than with French, or any other language. Why? Probably because Russian has become my dominant language

No, this does not mean that I'm fluent in it, or that I speak it more than English. Let me explain. See, when I first started taking French, it became my "dominant" second language. This means that when I was thinking of phrases in foreign languages, and I couldn't think of a word in that language, my mind would automatically substitue a french word. And example of this might be "The dog runs in the park." If I were saying it in spanish "el perro corre en..." And I couldn't remember the word for park in spanish, then my mind would want me to say the word "le parque" in French instead.

For some reason though, the past few weeks Russian has steadily become more and more persistant. It's even begun to invade my french lately. I'll be driving to High school and trying to gear myself up for French by thinking of lovely french phrases. I'll be driving along and be thinking "the Weather is very cold" Only in french so it's "Le temps est..." And then out of the blue I'll mentally finish the sentance in Russian "очень холодная" and then I'm thinking "wait that's not right." It happens with more and more frequency in French class too. It's really frustrating when I know a French word, but all I can remember is the Russian word for it. I try not to encourage myself to make these half and half sentences because I'm worried if I do, I'll start speaking that way and the last thing I need is to be sitting there speaking 'fruchian.'

Sunday, February 04, 2007

16 Hours Or: Why I Love Rotary Youth Exchange

Volleyball involves more soccor moves than volleyball moves, You learn how to say the most interesting things in Foreign Languages (i.e. That is your Mom, in Chineese) You spend two hours trying to remember what it was you were supposed to remember, and for 16 hours you are thrown into a chaotic smorgasbord of language, culture, late night chats, passing around community bottles of mountain dew, and being starkly reminded by water cascading over your head that you've made a pact to stay awake. What is it? Why the latest Rotary overnighter of course! I've decided that Overnighters are one of the best things in the world, and I am amazed at the fact that I waited so long to experience one. Having chalked two of them up to my building character talley, I have found myself a different person.

They say going with Rotary on a year long youth exchange changes you. What they don't tell you is that the changing starts before you even set foot on foreign soil. When I went to our first mandatory overnighter, I didn't really know what to expect. It didn't take me long to figure out the way things work and by the end of that evening I was a changed person. I didn't realize it until I got home. All I knew was that when I woke up from my eight hour nap after being up all night, I felt different. It was difficult to describe but the Abigail who came home from that meeting was not the same Abigail who left. It took me a while but I finally realized why. In 16 hours, 16 short hours that considering the amount of time we live, isn't really that long, I had experienced more of the world than some people do in their entire lives. I learned what hand sympols not to show in the Czech Republic, I heard the Indian national anthem, and I learned a smattering of foreign phrases you wouldn't be able to learn anywhere else. It was a shocking revelation, but after I understood why I felt the way I did, it was a revelation that I came to terms with. I realized that I was ready to make this change, come what may.

Flash forward a month. Overnighter number two. It was even better than the first. Why? Because the ice had been broken. So what if it had been X amount of weeks since you'd last seen these people. There is a common bond between us that allowed us to just pick right up where we'd left off. Strengthening friendships made. Amazing what 16 hours can do for you. This month, what did learn? Well for starters I learned that if you're going to Russia, don't tell the guy from the Czech Republic, but the guy from Slovakia has some really good information. I practiced the Rotary "Smile and Nod", I learned about the similarities between Slavic languages, and discovered the differences in relationships in several countries. I was reminded that laughter is the same in any language.

I came home tired, but happy. Pumped up for the next time I'll get to see my friends. Friends who I spend 16 short hours with once a month, but who, in some ways, I am closer to than friends I've known for a lifetime. God Bless the Youth Exchange Bond!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Russian Poetry

So in Russian class we're doing a unit on books and Authors. Wednesday we were sitting in class talking about various authors and poets and Marina goes "Your home assignment is to pick a Russian poet and look up one of their poems" I'm sitting there thinking that it'll be neat because we're going to read a russian poem. " And memorize it." Suddenly my little dream world comes crashing down around me. Memorize a Russian poem? Are you kidding me? Then she says something like "It's okay, it can be short poem' A sigh of relief can be heard throughout the room "But it must be 10-12 lines long." What? Oh come on Marina! We have until Wednesday to memorize it. AHHHH! I picked a poem by Sergei Esenin. It's sixteen lines long, but the lines are short so hopefull it won't be too bad. I'll probably be posting it on here because It'll help me memorize it as well as help me practice my Russian typing.

We have a Rotary Overnighter tomorrow. I should really due my Rotary homework. We have to memorize phrases in other languages and I'd do mine in Russian except none of the Current inbounds are from Russia so I'll probably just do it in French and have my friend check it. I'll let you know how it goes probably Monday because I'm going to be fried all day sunday.