If you don't speak Russian, please skip the first paragraph.
Мои дорогие Pусские Друзья! Мне стоило бы извиниться перед Вами. Может быть, эта история не очень Вас порадует. Откровенно говоря, двадцать три года тому назад я не любил русский язык. И я со своими друзьями откровенно это демонстрировал. Как мы это делали? Сейчас Вы это увидите.
I had to begin this entry with some Russian words to my Russian readers. Why? Because this story might not seem very nice for them. Maybe some might think that I don’t like the Russian language. This was true many years ago. Now, I do love the Russian language. In my opinion it’s beautiful. Why am I writing an entry about the Russian language in my blog? Using this story, I would like to explain how bad methods and exercise books can cause trouble for students.
During communism, students in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities were forced to learn Russian. I’m convinced that the main problem wasn’t the fact that we had to learn Russian; the greatest problems were actually created by the awkward books and their topics. Who is really interested in the life of Lenin – communist leader during the Great October Socialist Revolution of Russia in 1917 – or the Worldwide Victory of Communism? I clearly remember one sentence from these books: “The budget spent on the military of the United States of America would be enough to overcome world poverty”. Yeah, this statement might be true, but why didn't the author mention the Soviet Union's budget spent on non-military uses and the Warsaw Pact. In our books, there were only a few words written about the people of Russia or their lives.
I graduated from high school in 1986. Then I had an adventurous period in my life which is not relevant here, and so I began college two years later. It was so funny because some guys who I had helped in high school were one year behind me and then, in college, they got one year ahead of me and helped me out in return.
On the very first day of the first semester in the college in 1988, we had our first Russian class. Before forming smaller groups, the leader teacher of the language department gave all new students a short presentation about the requirements, targets and so forth. At the end of her speech, she asked if there was anyone who graduated from high school two years or more ago. There were only two guys, including me. She turned to me and said, “Having been accepted into college, you’ve refreshed yourself in your knowledge of Russian, haven’t you?” I was surprised. What? Is it serious? I began to ask myself if this was a college of finance or a college of Russian language. I answered, “Sorry, after I got accepted I still had to work and I left my office just two days ago. I had no time to refresh myself in anything.” She began to yell at me. “What were you thinking? You’d better to leave this college at once because I’m sure you can’t meet our high requirements.” I replied, “I didn't take the entrance exam for this college just so I would be kicked out on the first day because of my so called lack of knowledge in Russian.” Luckily I wasn’t put into her group. My teacher was from Russia and was married to a Hungarian guy. We had to work a lot because she was very, very, very strict, but I didn’t feel I was at any disadvantage due to my two year break in my Russian studies. I wasn’t among the best, but I knew enough to get B or B+.
The topics in the book still remained awkward: ‘Council for Mutual Economic Assistance’ (economic organization of communist countries) or ‘Advantages of Communist Economic Policy’ (Why? Did it have any?). Our Russian teachers tried to make their lectures more interesting, but we really couldn't become interested. We gave equal importance to the Russian language and the communist regime. That’s why when I passed the final exam in Russian at the end of the second semester, it was a great relief. I got a B. Hurray! “Russian language, never more!” we shouted, putting our exercise books in a great fire in the backyard of our students’ hostel. We had permission to use a camp fire for the purpose of cooking, but probably not for the burning of our Russian books.
The story didn’t end at this point. Not much later, communism failed and a new era began in my country. Once I met Russian tourists and, at that point, I realized that I understood everything they said. My teacher was very effective. I found out that the Russian language is very nice and it is not the language of the communism, but the language of a great and proud nation. I began to learn Russian again because I wanted to, not because I was forced to do so. I had great teachers and they gave me interesting activities, such as reading a news article about the internet in Russian. It was the first time I saw the word internet in my life (in 1994). There was a period when my Russian was better than my English. I still like and understand Russian, but unfortunately I forgot a lot. Maybe one day I can refresh myself in Russian, but now I will concentrate on English.
Gardeniafly was kind to review my entry again. She is not searching new students anymore. But I can recommend someone else, or you can visit Italki.
Sometimes, having a bad experience when learning a language can discourage a person from continuing that language. It's important that, if you do have a bad experience, you try to separate this experience from the language itself. Just because you have one bad experience, doesn't mean that you'll continue having bad experiences in this language. If any reader of this blog has had a negative experience in learning English, please feel free to contact me on italki and I'll try to convince you that English is actually fun!
I also would like to thank Evgeniya for reviewing the Russian sentences. Большое спасибо!
Next entry will be published on Thursday - Special Christmas passage.