Вы говорите по-русски?

The first experience talking to someone unfamiliar often leads to feelings of uneasiness. However, talking to a stranger in his native tongue that you’re only learning is even more difficult. I had the opportunity to speak with a native in Narva, Estonia early on during this trip, and his reaction surprised me.

I attended the festival at Narva Castle, hoping to purchase pink cotton candy, a delicious treat often enjoyed at fun festivities. Here’s my first major attempt to speak Russian on my own:

“Здравствуйте! Один сахарная вата пожалуйста! Извините, пожалуйста. Одна сахарная вата пожалуйста,” I said, correcting the gender of “one.”

The man behind the counter stared at me and smiled. He then responded, “Откуда вы?”

“Я из Америки,” I said, feeling defeated in my first Russian practice because he clearly could tell that I am not from here.

He continued on about how he could tell I was a not a native because I used the term “please” a lot. However, he was very kind, and I felt that I achieved something by speaking to him in Russian on my own. Many language barriers exist, and it’s important to make every attempt possible to practice speaking with the locals in order to improve. It’s been a lot of fun trying already!

Haley S.


One thought on “Вы говорите по-русски?

  1. Haley: there are two important moments here! First, your ability to self-correct your Russian. That’s awesome! And, second, the realization that language is not only words and syntax, but also cultural norms. Yes, comparatively, we say please a lot more, but Russians have their own syntax of politeness–for example, the use of negatives (Вы не хотите чай? or Вы не скажете…Вам не трудно вернуть мою книгу? and the hyper polite: Не могли бы вы…).
    So glad you’re having fun! Keep it up. You guys are going to make such amazing progress in your Russian over the next 7 weeks. I can’t wait to hear the results!

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