Friday, October 18, 2013

To Russian, With "Enough" ( and "Through" and "Bough")

I've just started working my way through a textbook on Russian again.  Maybe I'm a hopeless optimist, maybe I'm just stubborn, but I can't seem to leave it aside, as hard as it is.

I've been studying languages for a long time.  I have a degree in German.  French, Spanish...they all came very easily to me.

Russian is sneaky.  You think, oh, this is gonna be a breeze! after you see that the alphabet isn't that hard.  They give you that, then they painstakingly show you how to write cyrillic cursive, the only problem with which is being able to read your own cyrillic cursive; then they give you some vocabulary and useful phrases.

Then you're thrown, unwitting, into a grammar that is so complex, so boggling, that you realize the language itself is reserved only for the apparatchiks or the tsar's court or whichever beknighted elite is running the motherland nowadays, and that you have just been toyed with, given a few trinkets, but locked out of the real treasure.  Cases.  Tenses.  Moods. They have a perfective case.  What the *#^( is that????  Perfective?

Which makes me wonder if the entire Cold War was a complete waste of resources.  Both the Soviet Union and the United States had the weapons that assured mutual destruction...or at least mutual feelings of total incompetence...hundreds of years before Hiroshima: the English and Russian languages.  English, of course, is notorious for its impermeability to the average non-Anglophone, with spelling rules that each have more exceptions than examples.  One superpower summit where the translators called in sick, and both sides would have immediately (in sign language) drawn up a treaty, each fearful of the possibility of women and children having to comprehend that horrible language after  the other marched in and took over.

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