Saturday, February 21, 2009

What I've Discovered about Language

I've been very bad at keeping up with blog posts since break. Forgive me but it's a combination of very busy-ness and computer issues.(My course load is harder than I thought it would be) But anyway, I've noticed some things in regards to the Russian language, and the way it pops up that I would just like to share with you.

I have officially become known at college as "That Russian girl." apparently my friends will mention my name to people who go "Who is that?" the friend will then mention something about "The one obsessed with Russia" to which the response it "Oh okay her!" I have been called "Half-Russian" I have been called "Communist," and I have been introduced as "Russian." And I'm okay with that. I've talked to people about it and have been told that it's just a neat thing because Russia's not typical, and that it automatically makes me cool. I've never considered myself "cool" but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Not only am I known as "The Russian girl," I am also know as "That girl who yells at people in Russian." Honestly though, it was just that one time, when that person was bothering me. My point is that I wasn't even really yelling. When I seriously get ticked off with people in Russian, I actually get quieter. But I can see how the yelling thing would come in because my words also get sharper and so while I'm not actually yelling, I imagine that to anyone on the receiving end, it's a little scary.

I get scared, because even though I'm trying hard, I'm still forgetting. I'll have someone ask me a word, and more and more often I have to stop and think about what the word is in Russian. Yet at the same time, it's really interesting the way language works. For example, my friend, M.K., lived in Macedonia and the Czech Republic for most of her life. Since Eastern European culture and Russian culture are similar, we've had some interesting chats. One thing we enjoy doing is speaking English with these really thick accents. The more I do it, the more I slip into it without thinking about it. Last night, I was hanging out with Puppy randomly speaking English with a Russian accent. I was saying something and then all of a sudden, I realized that I had gone from English to Russian. I just stopped and went, wow, I was just speaking Russian. It was a good feeling.

I've had other stuff too. Puppy, as I think I've mentioned doesn't care when I babble on in Russian so I do it a lot whenever we hang out. It's resulted in several cases of "What language are you speaking?" "Russian" "Oh that's so cool!" I've also had times where I'll be speaking Russian to Puppy or M.K. and then looked at someone else, said several sentences then all of a sudden stopped and gone "Wait, you don't understand Russian." Naturally, everyone present during these happenings finds it hilarious. I do too in a way, although mostly it just makes me feel happy when stuff like that happens.

The above generally come about because I tend to forget that other people don't understand Russian. I mean, I know I'm not in Russia anymore. But I've been studying now for three or four years, and I can't remember what's it's like to not understand it. So I forget what it sounds like to those outside.

There are two other things I've come to realize about my language in the past week or so. One is that I have a horrible Russian accent. No, I don't mean in English and I don't mean when I speak Russian (The latter I know). I've thrown out a little Spanish, and a little French with a friend and her comment is "Wow, you speak with a Russian accent." Puppy likes to give me a hard time about how atrociously I pronounce German words because Russians roll their Rs. I even know a girl who takes Latin and I was reading her homework out loud and she's helping me along with pronunciation and then suddenly she starts laughing and goes "You sound so Russian!: I suppose if Sign language had an accent I'd probably have a Russian one when I do it with Chatter.

The final thing I've come to realize is that I use Russian as a shield. I'm one of those people who when I'm in a new situation I get quieter until I evaluate the situation. I've come to see that a lot of times, if I am uncomfortable in a situation and I am with someone who understands, I will use Russian and then, when I become more comfortable, I'll go back to English. Perhaps this is because not everyone understands Russian and so no one can hear my uncertainties.

I don't know, but it fascinates me, the way that even now, my exchange is a part of me. When I started college I don't know that I intentionally planned on defining myself in this manner, and I certainly never expected to learn these cool things about the way my language works, but you know what, it all makes me happy. And I'm okay with that.