neofight78's Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency Продолжается!

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neofight78
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neofight78's Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency Продолжается!

Postby neofight78 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 12:30 am

Hey all!

As this is not the start of my journey here's a little background:

I've been studying Russian for about 3 years (6 months + several years gap + 2.5 years). I passed the TRKI-1 exam last summer, and I'm round about the B2 level now (more on this shortly). I started off on Rosetta Stone (yes I was naive, but actually I think the product gets a bad rap). I then progressed to taking lessons, flashcards and LingQ. Eventually Rosetta Stone got dropped, but actually I am grateful for the good start it gave me and the safe environment it gives for the complete language learning newbie. I shall no doubt flesh out the details of this brief description as the log progresses...

This week:

The main news is that I've booked myself in for a 2-week course + TRKI-2 exam in October with these guys: http://www.exlinguo.com/en/russian-course/russia/novosibirsk. I'm pretty excited about going to Russia for the first time and can't wait. My tutor lives in Novosibirsk and I'm looking forward to meeting up with her too. She's been such an immense help along the way. However, I think a bit closer to the date I'll get slightly more stressy about the exam. Whilst generally speaking I take exams in my stride, it's a somewhat artificial scenario which will test my knowledge in a more academic than a practical way. Reading materials will be using a different style of Russian than what I'm used to, and I'll need to talk and write with structure rather than using my usual conversational style overflowing with tangents and random humour. The other slightly scary prospect will be facing scenarios where I *need* Russian for a practical reason to communicate with people who don't care that I'm a language learner. I definitely want to make sure I use the evenings and weekends to take myself away from the classroom and out of my comfort zone, but at the same time it's a little bit scary.

In terms of study, as I am preparing for the exam, I'm taking a more structured approach than normal (wayward really is the key word in the log's name). I got two practice letters written, and some grammar exercises done, all in addition to my normal non exam orientated study routine. The back end of the week has seen my motivation drop off, which is unusual for me. Most likely it is down to far too much sleep deprivation. But anyhow, this is why I'm sat here drinking a beer and writing a log instead of studying :)

Normally, I do quite well on grammar exercises (although of course it's a different matter to actually internalise the material). But this week I got a lot of the answers wrong. Which is not actually a bad thing, as it shows that I'm working on something that well, err... needs working on! Impersonal / passive constructions seem to be a weak point (among many others). To be honest with my subs2srs experiment (sorry, that's going to have to be another post), I had already noticed this. The upside is, that I think if I can manage to get on top of this area of grammar, I'm going to be a lot more competent at dealing with native materials, which is what I'm intending to do more and more of now that I've got a fairly decent grounding in the language.
Last edited by neofight78 on Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 10:53 am

Saturday morning update:

Now the exam is booked the preparation starts in earnest. My general level of Russian is good enough, so the focus really is on being able to demonstrate that in the exam and to getting used the exam format and success criteria. So with all of that in mind my tutor and I tried to replicate the oral exam today. So I read a text and prepared a presentation on it in the 30 minutes before the lesson. I then proceeded to give the presentation after which I had to answer various questions on the topic. I know the format from the previous exam, but it's clearly not something I normally practice and the following problems revealed themselves, although to be honest I think we were both at least half aware of all of them.

  • I'm not great at unaided reading - Normally I use dictionaries, LingQ, work with text and audio, create flashcards etc when I work with a text. I need to get better at working around the inevitable gaps in lexical and grammatical knowledge.

  • Structured speech - In fairness the reading and note taking took up the 30 minutes, so I didn't get to plan the structure. But having said that my lessons are normally just conversation practice and for the exam I need to get away from that conversational "stream of consciousness" style to something more structured. Personally I think it's daft, haven't the examiners head of post modernism! :)

  • Slow start - I'm not sure that this isn't entirely down to it being early Saturday morning and having to switch into ""Russian mode". Hopefully, there will be no such problem in Russia. Although perhaps in part the slow start was down to not having my points well prepared.
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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:20 am

Post weekend update:

I had a friend come to stay over on the Saturday and was at a wedding on Sunday (BTW I was holding the groom's wedding crown, what masochist came up with that tradition!?), so I didn't get much done studywise. I'm behind on the flashcards as a result, but hopefully I'll have caught up by the end of the week. Last night I finished off some of last week's grammar exercises on impersonal constructions which I have to admit are a weak point and still don't seem to make a lot of sense to me - a sure sign I need to keep working on this area and eventually the mist will clear.

At lunchtimes I grab some time with LingQ. I usually have two short texts that I can get through in 30 minutes. Currently I'm working through Terry Pratchett's Colour of Magic, which is tough going as I'm not used to fiction and the vocabulary is that more richer and descriptive. The other item is a transcript of a news video about a mummified boy found in Russia. The process is to review the flashcards for the text, and then afterwards read the text. The flashcards help prime the brain to understand the text when reading. I do this three days in a row before moving on to the next text.

The main goal this week is to try to keep on top of everything without being overtaken by tiredness!
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby tarvos » Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:21 am

Terry Pratchett in Russian is hard. I know, because I tried it.
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Satan of Elohim
None dare to stand in your way

Preferred pronouns: feminine.

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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:36 am

tarvos wrote:Terry Pratchett in Russian is hard. I know, because I tried it.


Yes, perhaps not the easiest book to enter the world of fiction with. But various friends with my kind of sense of humour have raved about the Discworld series over the years. So when Terry Pratchett died earlier this year, it seemed the right thing to do was to finally get round to reading some of his stuff.

Even though I'm not really that far into it, I'm beginning to see some of the vocabulary repeat. So hopefully in time the going will get a little easier...
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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:52 am

Mid week update:

Not really catching up with the flashcard deficit, but it's not getting out of control either, so hopefully I can catch up at the weekend without too much trouble. This week I am trying to concentrate on the exam preparation work and getting a decent amount of sleep, which is why the flashcards are slipping a little.

Grammar wise it's carrying on with impersonal / passive constructions. This week's exercises seem less mind bending which is a good sign. Today I did a listening exercise, which was a little tricky as the phrases for each of the multiple choice answers were all in the audio. This basically meant you couldn't just listen out for a few key words or phrases, you had to quite precisely follow the meaning.

I also did some writing following on from the audio test. I think the writing itself went ok, I've made big gains in my handwriting by taking lessons with a local teacher over the last month or two. It really is important to be able to write legibly and quickly, as the writing exam doesn't give you much time to get all your thoughts down. Last time the speed at which I could physically write was a big handicap.

Continuing to read and listen to the mummy news item, I've finished with the first half and I'm now studying the second, having split it into two to make it more manageable. I've finished the chunk of Color of Magic that I started at the beginning of the week, and I'm probably going to tackle a chess interview with Viktor Korchnoi next.
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby motylyok » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:16 pm

Grammar wise it's carrying on with impersonal / passive constructions


For some reason, I find these a complete pain in Russian as well! Good luck ploughing through.
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby Expugnator » Thu Jul 30, 2015 1:26 pm

I just wrote on my log how I find it difficult to understand some Georgian sentences due to little experience with grammar. Word order specifically is tricky, but also syntax overall, for example, the aforementioned preference of Russian for a dative collocation instead of a direct subject+verb+object for expressing a variety of feelings and states of mind. So, even though you may know your words, you need to be used to that grammar in order to understand the language, and this is specifically critical in real time (i.e. listening). It's not that grammar can just be absorbed passively while you improve your passive skills. A large portion of grammar knowledge involves applying it to interpretation. This explains why I find Estonian easier after having studied Georgian, Russian and German. Each of the latter taught me different ways in terms of morphology and syntax. When one manages to reach passive skills in the Romance or Scandinavian languages with little training on grammar interpretation applied to the sentence, this is just because those languages are as close to English as one can get.
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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:02 am

Thanks guys, glad I am not alone in this :)

There are certainly elements of grammar and vocabulary that don't map very well to English. Explanations can either be absent, low quality, or simply not comprehensible to the English mind. My limited experience tells me that you need to tackle these things with a mixture of exposure and grammar theory and a whole bunch of patience. Eventually the mist clears and then all seems rather straightforward and simple.

It's not just being able to understand the basic meaning either, some of the nuance can be lost too. A recent example that is perplexing me:

Где ему быть?

You can translate this word for word and get: "Where he is?". But if that's the meaning why not just "Где он"? As I understand it, and I may well be wrong, the above example perhaps would be better translated as "Where else would he be?", but that's a nuance that has to come from the grammar and not the vocabulary. I've still no idea how this sentence works, but maybe it will become clearer as I work through these grammar exercises.

I have a feeling this area is one of the last big stumbling blocks to good comprehension, although there are plenty of smaller ones still lying around!
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neofight78
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Re: neofight78's log - Wayward Ramble to Russian Fluency

Postby neofight78 » Sat Aug 01, 2015 1:29 pm

Saturday morning update:

Unfortunately, as an emergency, I had to take someone to the airport really early this morning. This result being I didn't get any study done yesterday and missed this mornings lesson. Whilst I've caught up on some sleep, I'm not sure how much studying I'll be able to get done today before tiredness overtakes me again. I'm well behind on the flashcards now, so I'm hoping to catch up on those today, and then tomorrow I'll start to prepare some study materials for the week ahead. We'll see how it goes...
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