Friday, August 12, 2011

Why not learn Russian? (почему бы не изучать русский язык?)

It's been over two years since I handed in my thesis for what is distressingly called a "terminal degree." A Masters in Public Administration (MPA) is the end of the line...that is unless you want a Ph.D in Public Policy (the major differences, I know not). So for 24+ months I have joyfully enjoyed the lack of any formal education, instead immersing myself in learning the ins and outs of becoming a good a bureaucrat. Things like:
  • Who to CC on an email and when. 
  • Who not to CC on an email and when. 
  • The risks and lack of respect when using BCC on an email.
  • And the politically advantageous uses for email forwarding. 
Now that I've mastered the art of strategic email communication (and if you don't believe that this is an art, there are plenty of political email flubs available on the internet for your amusement), I thought I should move on to something a little more challenging. So I racked my brain for the most challenging thing I could possible think of, and I came up with, of course, learning Russian! Because why not add another half-baked set of language skills to my repertoire. 

(Left & Above: the Moscow Subway, a work of art) 

Currently my ability to communicate in anything other than English involves: 1) high-school Spanish that gets me pretty far when in Spain or Costa Rica after 3+ glasses of tempranillo (un mas vino tinto por favor!); 2) a college minor in Norwegian that at one point allowed me to read Harry Potter and converse about UN conventions and immigration policy in norsk, but now is at about the same level as my Spanish (det er mange finne gutter her og jeg vil ha mer øl!); and 3) a Belizean mix of kriol and two different mayan languages, which depending on the context would allow me to curse out someone on the bus who just grabbed me inappropriately (madda ras bwoi!) or ask for more tortillas (mane se wa?). I also know how say the equivalent of "cheers" in almost any place that I've traveled or had exposure to (skål, prost, chin chin, salud, sante, egészségedre). As a maybe wanna be diplomat, I've found that the word or phrase that you say while clinking glasses is often the most useful. 

But with Russian, I'm hoping to move beyond the level of novelty and actually communicate, which at some point in my life would require being in Russia for a period of time. And after spending a week there last fall, that would pose absolutely no problem with me. There were so many surprising, wonderful, and strange things in Moscow and I have been fascinated by the country ever since (hence my choice of banner for this blog). Getting back there may be a ways down the road, so for now I'm loading up on Pimsleur podcasts and have enrolled in a weekly class beginning in September. Should be an interesting adventure! до свидания!

(Below Left: The Russian White House (Parliament) and St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square)

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