Author Archive: Lauren

One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock… what??

So in today’s “Russian is fun” discovery, we learned about telling time. The teacher started by saying “oh no, it’s not as hard as the English way”… and then describes the Russian way. Which is a million times harder.

I’m sorry, but no language needs three different words for “o’clock” and three different words for “minute.” That’s just evil. (I know, I know English also sometimes likes to have several words for the same thing, but only when necessary. I’m fairly sure our different words to suggest “and” are more different than ещё and тоже.)

The good news is that finding things difficult means this class isn’t a total waste of money, since I am actually learning something new. The bad news is that it’s never any fun to find something hard – though it’s always made better if you’re struggling with other nice people.

Off to go read my notes a few more times and figure this out!


He, She…it, Russian has genders?

This week in Things I Didn’t Pick Up Learning Online: Russian is a language with gendered nouns. он, она and оно are the new he, she and it!

I’m used to the idea of genders because of Greek, but I don’t think I’m used to there being exceptions about what gender a word belongs to*… and that’s before you get to the fact that words ending with ь apparently have to be learned on an individual basis.

Now I’ve had a couple of days to think about it, I get that it’s how we know she’s моя мама and he’s мой папа, but in a language without articles I hadn’t really realized I knew that.

Perhaps that’s actually a point in online’s favour, that I learned something without even knowing it was happening. Now I know the actual rules about it, though, my Duolingo practice will make even more sense!

This week’s homework is to divide a bunch of house-related words into their gender category. Once we translate them in class next week, I’ll be able to label everything in the house!

* For example, in Greek “girl” is a neutral word, and it doesn’t suddenly become a feminine word because a girl is a girl.

Language Learning: Online vs Offline

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve just started taking Russian classes. I’m taking these after having gone to Russia two years ago, and having “studied” it on Duolingo.

Duolingo is a free language-learning site. The courses are easy to follow, and start with the basics before moving through different pieces of grammar and the vocabulary of various topics. It rewards you with “lingots” to spend in its store whenever you complete a lesson, level up, or reach a milestone in your streak of active days.

There is some criticism that it focuses too much on making learning fun, and that much the same as at school, memorizing answers doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve learned anything.

Duolingo: Learning tool or fun game?

Both. Making learning into a game makes you more inclined to keep at it – it took me about a year to get through my course, and the only reason my streak got broken was because I travelled and wasn’t able to get online.

I also do feel like I’ve learned by using it. I admit that I didn’t read the grammar notes with each lesson, and those probably would have helped me learn even more, but even so I have a large vocabulary and an idea of syntax and grammar.

It really depends on you

Have I learned from Duolingo? Sure. For people who are confident about practicing and learning by making mistakes, it’s probably a great way to learn for free.

However, if you aren’t one of those people, I think “real” classes are necessary to refine what you’ve learned. I spent a year on Duolingo, but then learned things – simple things – in my second class that were news to me.*


Something I discovered through the Duolingo forums, “laddering” is learning a third language through your second language. For example, if you’re an English speaker, you could ladder by taking the Russian for German speakers’ course.

Or, for my own real-life example, you could learn Russian in a class designed for Greek speakers. The idea is that it helps you learn the third language while also continuing to improve the second language, and it helps with concentration. I didn’t do it intentionally, but I am going to stick with it now it’s happened.

In my case, Russian is also more similar to Greek than English. There are more similarities in the alphabet and verb formation, and even to an extent in terms of “what you see is what you read” when it comes to spelling. (You know, unless it’s an unstressed O which is pronounced A, just to be really confusing. [Something else I didn’t learn/totally forgot during my time on Duolingo.])

* For those who will understand this, those things were:

  • Его. Not actually pronounced “eyo”, but “evo.” Why? Because if Г is between Е and О, it’s pronounced like a V. Who knew?!
  • Что это/Кто это. Like I said, I didn’t really focus on grammar while using Duolingo, so I didn’t make a note of any rules. In class, I thought I got it: что for things, кто for people. But no. It’s что for non-living things кто for living things, not just things v people.



The teacher becomes the student

No, not because I’ve gone back to school to take a PGCE or any other teacher training. Rather, I’ve decided to play student by taking Russian lessons – partly because most of my private students are Russian and I’d like to know it in order to help them, and partly because I’m currently still in Cyprus, where Russian is the new English when it comes to languages employers want.

I’m taking level 1 lessons, which is one 90 minute class a week, and these are my starting stats:

  • English is my mother tongue
  • I speak, read and write Greek fluently. I grew up in Cyprus, which meant having to learn it at school and constantly being exposed to it, and although I hate using it I can with no problem. *
  • I’ve been using Duolingo for about a year, and I’ve done both the Russian for English speakers and English for Russian speakers courses. I don’t feel confident with it (though see above, that’s partly me never being confident with other languages), but I do know the alphabet, a lot of vocabulary and a little grammar. **

* There are two reasons this is relevant: one, it proves I have (or at least, used to have) the ability to learn languages. Two, Russian is more similar to Greek than English – at least when it comes to the alphabet – and I’m hoping that comes in helpful in finding it less foreign.

** I admit that I did the courses without reading the grammar notes, which probably help you learn more. I think they offer a good foundation for knowing the basics – and probably work great for people willing to get out there and learn by making mistakes – but it’s probably true that it’s a little too gamified to be properly educational.

The first lesson was actually last week. It being the first lesson, it focused on the alphabet and some basic phrases that I already knew, but there was one major surprise: it turned out to be a Russian course for Greek speakers. It should be interesting learning my third language in a class for speakers of my second language…

Have you learned a language through Duolingo? Have you taken any language classes as an adult? Tell me about your experiences!

Hello! I return, with a question! Help a newbie?

*brushes off dust*

Oops.  I’ve had two other jobs since the last time I posted.  Now, while I intend to post about them and fix my terrible mistake, I would first like to put a question to whoever was and might still be reading this.

My situation:

1. Rather than telling you to go and read the previous posts, the brief version is that It Didn’t Go Well.  And now, two other teaching jobs Haven’t Gone Brilliantly.

2. That’s three jobs and three… let’s call them missteps.

3. One, maybe two of them can be blamed on the school, but the third is definitely mostly me.

  And here’s my reaction:

I know lots of people do a CELTA and then happily run off into the sunset and do great with it.  I’ve accepted that I am not one of those people – partly because I’m not a big traveller and partly because I think I’d prefer the stability of a “proper” school (I currently work at an after-school institute, and even that’s better) – and I need either more training or just better support.

Obviously, even job advertisements that promise great support won’t necessarily deliver on it, so that’s probably not my best shot.  Which leads me to:

PGCE/School Direct: Yay or nay?

Given that a PGCE is only 6 months or a year, I’m not entirely against it.  However, the idea of  School Direct, basically a paid job while learning rather than going as far as going back to being a student, appeals to me more.

The question being, is it as good as it sounds? Would I be better off just going back to university?  I feel like teaching is something I could like, if I could get it right, and if I started over now doing a full teaching degree I’d still only (“only”) be 29/30 when I graduate.

Door A, B or C

So there’s (A), a PGCE, preferably via School Direct.

There’s (B), start over properly and actually get a teaching degree.  On the one hand, PGCEs seem to be asked for more, but on the other it would be an entire course of training.  I’m not the biggest advocate of going to university, but at least I do actually feel qualified for the journalism/writing jobs I apply for.

Or there’s (C); accept that three jobs and three missteps means that maybe teaching just isn’t for me and look at other options.  Which is something I’m already doing.  I really should have more direction by now.

So? Is there anyone out there who’s been through this or is more knowledgeable and can help me out? 🙂

It’s all over when the fat lady sings

I survived! Don’t worry, the lack of posting was an over-tired issue, not anything horrible.

So.  The last eight weeks.  The plan for a new teacher to come in and take over and for me to sit and watch didn’t exactly happen: he came, he taught… and for five weeks out of eight, I taught too.  Yes, I could have just had three weeks off, why couldn’t they have seen it that way? Continue reading →

Week on, week off

As the Karate Kid would say.  Sort of.

My teaching of one kid was actually teaching of two kids.  I’m not sure if the mistake was that they thought it was only one or that he’d said one and should have said two.  Regardless, I didn’t say anything just in case the reaction would have been “what?! Stop immediately!” Continue reading →


You know what they say, be careful what you wish for.  Luckily I wasn’t fired like I was worried I was going to be, but there was a sudden shift in what I’m doing.  (Or rather, I was left to worry for a week and then it felt like the decision was made quickly.) Continue reading →

Drama Llama Llama Drama

The reason I don’t update often is because my life is currently as follows: ‘teach, prepare to teach, get some sleep, teach…’ then at the weekend ‘get up and distribute breakfasts, prepare to teach, get some sleep.’

At the risk of sounding whiny, should this not be enough? It takes up the whole day, I need a short nap when I get home so I can continue without falling asleep later, and I’ve had little downtime since I started a month ago.

Turns out, it isn’t. Continue reading →

Another… week… gone?

They say time flies when you’re having fun.  Or when your life is a neverending cycle of teaching, getting ready to teach, and fighting to get more than five hours’ sleep with zero time for anything else.

I haven’t even had a proper weekend yet – despite the three-day one last week – and I don’t just mean because of  planning.  Extracurricular tasks involve meeting and looking after the students staying in the house opposite me… fine when they’re agreeable, not so much when you have someone who was mis-sold both the house itself and her rooming situation.

But it’s good to be thrown in at the deep end.  Good experience.  Keeps you busy.  … Right? Continue reading →