Language learning has been an interest of mine for most of my life. It goes hand in hand with travelling. It gives the traveller access to otherwise hidden cultures and connects the historian to entire civilisations otherwise lost in time.
In recent years I’ve been sedentary, and my passion for languages has lain dormant, apart from occasional online conversations with Afghan friends or Persian language news clips.
Recently I came across a blog by New York hyperglot Ellen Jovin which inspired me massively. I may be unable to travel and immerse myself in another language (which is the ideal) at the moment, but there is no better time in history for finding language learning resources.
And so I’ve decided to focus on learning Russian over the next year. Russian feels a bit like an unfinished project for me. I first came across it as a child living in Northern Afghanistan where our washing powder had names like Робот and Лотос. I studied two semesters of Russian in my first year of university. I chose it as I considered it to be the most interesting language I could study at the University of Saskatchewan. I probably put more effort into it than any other class. Most mornings I walked to class while flipping through homemade flash cards of vocabulary scribbled in terrible Russian handwriting. Not being able to fit more Russian classes into my degree was one of my biggest disappointments in university.
A few years later I bumped into a group of Russians on Kabul’s Chicken Street. I excitedly tried to strike up a conversation, only to run out of words after a stuttered здравствуйте. Despite learning hundreds of words and attending countless lectures on nominative and dative and accusative cases, it all fell flat in the real world.
And so I’ve now gathered some resources to try again. I will mostly be using audio resources as the last thing I need in my life is more screen time. It will also give me something to do on my commutes to work.
As a final “test” in a year or so I hope to find some native Russian speakers with whom I can have a conversation of at least 5-10 minutes. Maybe a restaurant or a Russian grocery store or a Russian Orthodox Church. Coronavirus permitting of course, as I’ll likely need to go into London for this.
I will post updates on my progress over the next few months. If nothing else it will be an added motivation to keep studying when the going gets tough.