Tag: russian

Tonight I became a Russian.

Splean in VTB Arena

Ever since I came to Moscow in August of last year, it’s felt like I’ve been on a quest to become more russian. Besides all the effort I’ve put into becoming a better Russian speaker, that is. It hasn’t always been obvious – sometimes it’s been as simple as learning to appreciate the at times downright bizarre architecture of Moscow where apartment buildings from the Soviet era can be found sharing the outline of the city with skyscrapers from the naughties. But tonight it was obvious – very obvious.

You see, there’s this little band I’ve been listening to since before I could even speak Russian.
I was sending letters to some girl I found on Interpals, and she recommended them to me. They’re only known in Russia and some former Soviet repulics such as Latvia.

The reason? All their lyrics are in Russian. They are known as Splean.

I have been wanting to see them live ever since I started studying Russian, and tonight I finally got to do it, inside a football stadium in Moscow, with a russian girl on my shoulders (technically from Belarus but her native language is Russian so whatever…). I was screaming the words that I knew, and sharing my love for this “little group” – as they like to refer to themselves – with thousands of russians and russian-speaking people. And even though I literally couldn’t understand anything of some of the songs, all of us had one thing in common: culture.

And I don’t just mean “culture” in the artistic sense of the word: I’ve come to realize that besides the ability to communicate more or less fluently in the same language, the one thing that binds a people together is “culture” in the sense of shared values, shared beliefs and, not least, shared experiences and cultural preferences.

Okay, so I didn’t grew up with Splean on the radio, or listened to them because my parents or my brother introduced me to them, or because I saw them on TV. Hell, the first time I heard them I couldn’t even understand anything of what they were singing about. But I love their songs just as deeply as any russian who’s listened to their music all his or her life. Maybe even more so, because I’ve had to go through a hell of a lot of work to understand what they were trying to tell me through their lyrics.

And tonight I got to confirm that: by the end of the concert, my lungs were burning, my ears were pounding, my feet, hands and neck were sore, and I knew that I could go to bed having given one hundred percent of my energy to share an experience I literally had to go through hundreds of classroom hours to be able to enjoy.

Was it worth it? When you’re singing words along with thousands of screaming people knowing that you are all there for the same thing: fuck yes, it was worth it.

Okay, so my Russian isn’t fluent yet – but tonight, I became a Russian. At least, culturally.

More on Tallinn Summer School

So yesterday I got tired of the internet not working on my floor, and I investigated the issue using the Russian I knew and had learned here in Tallinn.

I also learned a new word from the receptionist: уже. It means “yet”, and I used it to ask why the internet wasn’t working yet (after she’d restarted the routers), as in: Вопрос: почему интернет уже не работа? The result was a kind of long winded answer that I didn’t fully comprehend, except for the part about tomorrow. The hotel I’m staying at (Center Hotel Tallinn) is a technological marvel – you should absolutely stay there if you care about an internet connection that works half the time!

Anyway, I digress.

When I came to this city, what I knew of Russian was mostly word soup; my grammar was non-existant. Before the end of my second week, I’m able to form simple sentences with confidence and make myself understood. And along the way I’ve had great experiences and made new friends from around the globe. Here are a few images:

Tallin Summer School - collage

A small glimpse into the things I’ve seen and done at Tallin Summer School 2015.

All in all, if you were to ask me; “Should I go to Tallinn Summer School”, my answer would most definitely be “yes!”

To piss when writing: Learning Russian

So yesterday I started learning Russian here in Tallinn, after taking a test that even a guy from Canada who ended up in advanced class classified as hard. I was eventually placed in the intermediary class.

Matriuska dolls!

Matriuska dolls!

The teacher was speaking Russian all the time, and my friend Massa from Japan who speaks American English fluently with no accent said, half an hour into the first lesson, that his head felt like it was about to explode.

Today I switched to the beginner class, and it feels more comfortable, because I didn’t know any grammar. In a language where even numbers are inflected (I shit you not) that’s kind of important. Interestingly though, stress might be even more important!

The verb писать means “he is writing” if you put the stress on the first syllable, “he is pissing” when putting stress on the last one. In addition, Russian is a highly inflected language, meaning that different conjugations result in different meanings.  Я писаю, the standard conjugation, means “I am pissing”; to get “I am writing”, you need to use “я пишу”.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the days ahead with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation…

Mats out.