Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Russian language

I guess I'm already able to write a quick overview about the Russian language to demystify it a bit! Russian language is very easy when compared to rich languages as Portuguese. :-)


People might have a mental barrier to learn Russian due to its different alphabet (Cyrillic alphabet) which sometimes makes me think it was created to confuse everyone since it has letters that look like some of the Latin letters but mirrored, for example: Я, И, З - They don't sound as R, N, E... There are also identical letters to Latin alphabet but with different sound. The letters H,P,Y,C,B,X in Russian sound like N,R,U,S,V,H in the Latin alphabet, respectively. In the beginning it's very hard to read since reader's brain is used to Latin alphabet and it tries to "convert" these letters while reading it.


To make it even more messy, the handwriting in Russian makes the lower-case of the letter Д looks like the Latin letter 'g' and the lower-case for И looks like the Latin letter 'u' while the lower-case for T looks like the Latin letter 'm'. You can check the handwriting in this picture beside.
If one manages to catch up the alphabet, the grammar isn't so hard and the verbs are VERY simplified.


They have full conjugation for present tense, meaning: every pronoun has its unique conjugated form for a given verb. However, for the past tense you just need to know if it is singular or plural and if singular we also need to know the gender. They don't have a non-virile form for the plural (In case of women or animals performed the action). So, it's so easy, that when you have the male singular form of the verb, you just need to add 'a' if the pronoun is feminine, or 'o' if the pronoun is neutral. If it's plural you just need to add 'и'. (of course there are some exceptions).

One more annoying thing about the Russian language is the verb "to be". It almost doesn't exist in the present tense. There is only one form (Есть) for all pronouns but it's not used in the present tense anyway. The rule is simple, if there is no verb in the sentence it means that the 'to be' verb is being used implicitly. It sounds so primitive! For example: to say "I am Brazilian", I have to say "Я Бразилец" (I Brazilian). The only thing I can compare it to is to Tarzan introducing himself: "Me Tarzan!"

Summarising my short analysis: Russian language is far from being rich - no offense! - and the pronunciation isn't so different from other Slavonic languages but it's still worth learning because it's widely spoken and is a key language!

Have fun!

Thursday, 14 June 2012


After ten days in living and learning Russian language in Petrozavodsk, in the northwest of Russia, I can re-enforce my theory that smaller towns in the country-side are perfect for deep cultural immersion into a society. When I ride a bus and I see no signs in English nor hear no foreigner talking, I think to myself: "Oh my god, am I really living this? I made my way to Karelia!".
Petrozavodsk has less than 300.000 inhabitants, so for me it's quite small comparing to St. Petersburg or Moscow. It's situated by the huge lake Onega and has a nice, cheap and effective (but I didn't say clean) transport system of trolley buses and mini-vans. A single ride costs 12-15 roubles, while in St. Petersburg it costs 30 roubles. The beer price range in a club is 90-120 roubles. Which ISN'T cheaper than in Wroclaw! (Shall I go even farther to found cheaper?) :-) On the other hand, food is quite cheap in restaurants. I could get a pancake for 50 roubles today.
The nightlife is not as intense as in Wroclaw. However, the clubs seem to be quite crowded due to a better ratio of people/clubs in town.
By the lake there is a quay from which fast boats depart to Kizhi island, a very famous island with wooden chapels and churches built in the 18th century. It's a must-see attraction. Some people actually go there to get completely drunk which I think is inappropriate. :-)

More photos were added to my photo album, click here to see them

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

First days in Russia

All I wanted was a full month of vacations to completely forget about my present routine in Poland (at least for a month) and have the opportunity to learn Russian.
My idea was to reproduce the experience that I had in Poland in 2007 in the AIESEC's "Peace project" - deep cultural immersion, language barrier, new friends and cultural shock.
So, thanks to Kamil (my friend from Warsaw) I got to know about an exchange program in the city of Petrozavodsk, in the far lands of Karelia (8 hours by train going North from St. Petersburg) - as depicted in the map. The program includes Russian language course and cultural activities. More details about the program in here:
I landed in St. Petersburg on 2nd of June, flying from Warsaw in the modern LOT Polish airlines Embraer jets and then taking the night train to Petrozavodsk. I've never been so far away from my mom. :)
 I have only two pocket phrasal books of Russian language with me and of course nearly no one here speaks the English language... why would they?
The first days are being hard not only because of the language barrier but also because of the bureaucracy in Russia. I couldn't buy a simcard yet because even for pre-paid phones they require passport with local residence registration and it takes few days for the program organisers to provide the necessary documents. I only have my Polish number with me for now.
Monday (4th June) was my first day in the school and I met my colleagues from different parts of the world: USA, Great Britain, Japan, Austria, Canada, Italy and of course I'm the only latino-boy in the group. :)
The overall experience is outstanding and so far everything is going according to the plan.
I created an album of photos which will be increasing day by day with new photos, so stay tuned!
The first photos are already there: