I know what I don’t know (My week in Russian 19-25 Feb)

This week I have been mainly…

getting frustrated at all the things I can’t say, forget, get wrong and generally don’t do successfully.

Unfortunately, as a linguist and a language teacher, I’m already aware of how much I still have left to learn, and rather than focusing on my successes, I’m getting my head in a spin about my failures. It happens each time I have my private lesson with Lilya on Monday. They are excellent lessons because my brain is forced to function right up to its highest limit (and sometimes even beyond) There is only me in the class – I can’t hide! I have to answer every question, and having the brain of a 58 year old is no excuse. But I come out of the lessons – having spoken Russian for a hour and a half – tormenting myself for missing off a soft sign in my homework, using the accusative when I should have used the dative when I actually knew that, forgetting , when put on the spot, the prepositional plural adjective ending.. I must be rubbish 🙁   What am I thinking of, planning to take an exam in April?

I wish I could praise myself a bit more. (Oh, Lilya praises me – that’s not the issue – I don’t praise myself) It is now 15 months since I began studying Russian in earnest (in “anger” as  my developer colleagues would say!) In terms of grammar, I sail through A2 level exercises and even tackled a B1 grammar test the other day, getting 97/100. I could walk a GCSE  Russian (I know; I did the past papers) and I could happily have a long conversation with you (or even give you an off the cuff ten minute talk) about various aspects of my life, family and career. I know  – I’ve done all of those too.

So why is this not good enough? I think perhaps I’m comparing myself with my younger self in an unfair way, and I think I am comparing my progress in Russian with hypothetical progress in another language in an unfair way too:

I remember the young me, top of the class in languages and finding the work very easy. But I forget it took me about three years to get to the level I am at in Russian after 18 months. I forget I never had high level private lessons that stretch me to the limits of my abilities. I never had to struggle.

And I think to myself…. if only I were learning Dutch or Italian, or Portuguese… I’d be of a far higher standard than I am  now in Russian. Of course, but these languages (to me with my past experiences) are much easier to manage; it’s not right to put them on the same step as Russian.

So I go on.. Anyway…

This week I’ve been:

  • practising indirect speech (with Lilya)
  • doing practice written and spoken tests on my own
  • learning about Maslenitsa  and eating pancakes (with the UCLAN Russian society)

And worrying about #uksnow. Will it affect my imminent journey to St Petersburg on Thursday?

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