Я не могу даже

“I’m not actually sure what he said in Russian, but I blew him a kiss because I felt like that was the most appropriate response.” You know, context clues.
Don’t try this at home, kids.
 [Not that you could, really, because being sassy to an ex-Soviet doesn’t happen in Suburbia, America.]

As some have already shown, we have all struggled. But as in loss and grief, there are stages to intensive programs like these. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I’d argue that I personally have experienced them in reverse order. What could we be feeling loss towards, if we are only gaining more knowledge and skill? We inadvertently lose our sanity and sense of old self, that’s what. I love Russian, this program, and have even developed an affinity for Narva, but to quote P!nk, “you don’t write songs when you’re happy.” It makes you doubt yourself in ways you didn’t think mattered, until you had to write a blog post in English and realized you had forgotten how. A glimpse into the stage of anger and the questions it spurs:

  • WHERE DO THE COMMAS GO? I know you don’t believe in the Oxford comma, but is this phrase about a different subject? It’s my blog post, and it’s all about me, so I’m the only subject, right? Do you have ANY respect for dangling modifiers, or do you just pretend to when they interrupt your clauses? I only think in participles and passive voice now. It doesn’t matter whether it is supposed to be who/whom/which/that, I won’t be using them. Who needs distinction anyway? OH WAIT, RUSSIAN DOES
  • WHERE ARE YOU GOING? It doesn’t even matter where, it only matters how! If you do the same botched math I did, accounting for a dozen participles, 15 verbs of motion and two tenses, you can arrange nearly 360 ways to say “to go.” I tried to buy a stamp, and although the conversation and confidence was smooth, I had to spend 30 seconds over thinking whether a postcard flies, sails, never to return, does it just go like a person to the movies or walks, like an outfit onto a person. tl;dr I just needed to say “America” and €1.10 later, I’d have reconnected with the simple linguistics miles away. But hey, at least I tried. Question is, which of the ~six verbs do I use to say that?
  • WHERE DID MY WiFi GO? Thrice during the course of this blog post did my internet перестал работать. Internet karma isn’t just good for reddit, you know.

In other words, English is easier than Russian: (Explicit and English)


Our goal, as Russian students here in Narva, is to develop our oral proficiency so that we may, one day, interact with adults, speak at a conversational pace and be understood. I, myself, am not quite there yet. There is little more frustrating than to walk past children teasing each other, in Russian, and realize that their native proficiency will still outshine your efforts 10 years down the road. But, hey, at least I can tie my shoes and reach tall shelves, right? Don’t let them grow, or I will have nothing!

Stratifying myself among the locals, I can only conclude that I have the oral proficiency of a cat. [Though approachable, I find the best course of action when approached by strangers is usually to make strange noises and run away.] Just when I believe to be communicating with others, they actually have no idea what I’m saying and at best think it’s cute that I try.

  • WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE? It’s intense, and it works, but it can come at the cost of sanity. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and upon my return to the US, I’ll experience the stages of grief in the proper order once more.

Now, with denial right around the corner, I don’t want to go [1/360 odds of getting it right].



– Hélène –



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