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Grammar Geek

January 26, 2011

This week I am at the language refresher in Chernihiv. For those of you who are not in the know, though this is called a refresher it is fairly new learning for me because I learned Ukrainian in Pre-Service Training, but switched to Russian a couple of months ago because Russian is what people actually speak in my city. So I came to the refresher and no one knew what to do with me, or to which group I should be added, because, as I was told “we don’t know where you are in your ability.” I told them I also did not know,  but I am not in a great hurry to take another Language Proficiency Exam (note: I am a bad test-taker, always have been. I always get nervous and then do not score as well as I should, thus not representing my true abilities. It’s a curse).

The funny thing about language and learning and changing – the grammatical rules I learned for Ukrainian are similar or the same for Russian, but the details are different. This sometimes throws me (or annoys others) – when I see something that is different, so I ask about the details, just to make sure I understand it. “So in Ukrainian it is like X, that’s (not) true in Russian?”  The devil, as they say, is in the details.

I find myself in a unique situation – I have a really good grasp of grammar, and have been doing well when we are discussing grammar-related topics, but because I switched languages and do not have a tutor (and, I’ll be honest, need to be better about studying), my vocabulary is not so great. By the way – trying to add new vocabulary on your own is HARD! My understanding is better than I realized, because I understand people when they talk (much of the time) but then comes a word I don’t know and I believe I get the proverbial blank look on my face. Our morning class instructor catches this and makes sure I understand. Bless her for this because I don’t want to feel as if I am slowing down the class.

It’s an interesting situation in which I find myself. Many people I know, who learned either Ukrainian or Russian, are more concerned about building their vocabulary than they are about getting the grammar right. Part of me understands this, because Russian and Ukrainian are both so complex grammatically. Perhaps that is why I actually enjoy taking classes like these, because it is like a puzzle – the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. Though this may come across as self-punishment, that is why it is interesting – there are so many layers and aspects, it is like problem-solving in some ways, and I love problem-solving.

It is also nice to learn these things because it illuminates some of the things I encounter on a daily basis but do not understand because I do not know the rule(s) behind why it is written the way it is written.

So things are going well, a day into training. Can I go back and do language training again? Call me a grammar geek, a book nerd, or whatever you want – the fact is I like learning and I like puzzles, and this language seems to provide me with both.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sofia permalink
    January 26, 2011 6:07 am

    Karin, good luck with Russian! I know how difficult it is to learn this language but I’m pretty sure that next time we meet, we could talk in Russian:)

    I hope it will be soon!

  2. Heidi permalink
    January 28, 2011 1:32 pm

    Well, I have the exact opposite problem as you with tests. I am exceptionally good at them. As in, I can pass, even excel at exams on topics that I know nothing about. A great skill to have to be sure, but I am always left wondering what I actually know. And it really affects my confidence in my nursing skills. I passed the NCLEX in the least amount of questions (70) in 22 min… But I am not sure I actually know how to be a nurse. 😦 You on the other hand, I have met you and know you are beyond brilliant, and am certain you are doing really well in Russian. 🙂

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