Learning a language… In another Language

My italian has been coming along quite nice, so naturally I decided to learn Russian. Sarcastic thoughts aside, the other girl could only speak italian and a few words of english. Guess I was going to learn the basics in another language I had only been learning for 4 months.

I visited the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and in my hostel I finally met someone from Belarus! This is a country that has fascinated me due to it’s sheer mystery. No one really talks about it, visa and permits are really strict, and it’s no one’s first travel destination. The mystery is intriguing to me, and it only intensified when I learned that the pronunciation of the country does not rhyme with Polaris, the pool cleaning vacuum. Meeting someone from Belarus was exciting, but like I previously stated, she barely knew any english. Lucky for us, I have been studying italian for the past 4 months and I knew enough to be able to carry some sort of conversation, with the help of google translate of course.

We talked for a few hours, speaking slowly, being extra expressive, and laughing a lot. I showed her a photo of a hedgehog, and tried to explain that is used to belong to my boyfriend. Instead she thought I had said the hedgehog was my boyfriend! Funny how communication between humans work. I learned a lot about italian, and I did my best to help her with her english.

The next night I went downstairs to talk with her, Anastasia, again. She was accompanied by two italians from Sardegna (Sardinia). They knew a little more english, which made having conversation a little easier. With that, Anastasia decided to teach us the Cyrillic alphabet, aka the “weird things Russians use as letters (many other slavic languages use it too).” Examples such as:

А
A
Б
Be
В
Ve
Г
Ge
Ґ
Ge upturn
Д
De
Ђ
Dje
Ѓ
Gje
Е
Ye
Ё
Yo
Є
Yest
Ж
Zhe

Instead of using the english pronunciations listed above, they were sounded out using the italian alphabet. Noticeable changes being “ghe” instead of ge, and “je” (like in german “ja”), and “jo” for ye and yo since there is no technically j in italian. Looking at the english pronunciation now… I’m actually confused.

The pronunciations weren’t the hardest part to figure out. She would write an example word, but then translate it to italian, a very strange experience indeed.

Here is the paper she wrote all the notes on.

The Russian alphabet with italian pronunciations.

The 5th letter down is the “de,” same in italian and english. On the back of the page were a few examples, our name, and our doodles. I thought the de looked like a rocket ship, though they thought I drew a grave at first!

Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over
Our names were written in the top left hand corner, our doodles all over

My name in russian would be: Мэри 

Our russian lesson ended with Anastasia reciting a russian poem. Like any unfamiliar language, it sounded like straight up gibberish to me. Maybe one day I’ll understand, you never know. Russian may come in handy one day in the future.

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