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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.



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 →