Learning Russian

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Your house here in Salinas has two languages: English, which is your Daddy’s (and my) first language, and Russian, which is your mommy’s. Since I am spending so much time here, I am trying to learn some Russian! Your mommy is my teacher.

My Russian Teacher, Olga

I like learning languages. I learned some Spanish in High School and continued so I could better talk to my students and their parents here in Salinas. Later, I learned French so I could travel in Europe and talk to the people I met.

In many ways, Spanish and French are easy to learn. Both share an alphabet with English, and the languages work the same in many ways. Much of English is handed down from the Romance Languages, like French, Spanish, and even Italian.

Russian is a Slavic language spoken by 260 million people, making it the 6th most used language in the world. It didn’t have a written alphabet until the year 863, when two monks from Greece created an alphabet for it, using Greek and Roman letters. Russian is a very complicated language in this written form, and is hard to learn to read.

Fortunately, I am learning like a baby does. Your Mommy holds up a slipper and says the word for slipper, I repeat it, and then I know the Russian word for slipper. I have not learned the proper Cyrillic alphabet, so I write everything as I think it would be written using the English alphabet.

Slippers, as I write them, are “tapitchki”. “Molowka” is milk. To say “Hello”, you say “pree-vyet,”, and good-bye is “paka”. One interesting and confusing thing is that you use the same word, “pajalsta” for please and you’re welcome. Thank you is “spaseeba”.

So if someone asks for some slippers, it goes like this:

“Tapitchki, pajalsta.” (Slippers, Please)

You give them the slippers. “Na.” (Here.)

“Spaseeba,” they say. (Thank you)

“Pajalsta”. (You’re welcome.)

So the conversation begins and ends with “pajalsta”. Kind of nice and balanced. I try and practice a little each day, with you or your Mommy, or even your Daddy, who didn’t learn any languages in school but has learned Russian from your Mommy.

I hope I can keep learning.


Grandma Judy




Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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