Three years ago, I began learning Russian and three years ago this week I began this occasional blog to document my progress (or, in my own head, frustratingly, lack of progress.) Being a linguist and former language teacher brings both advantages and disadvantages when learning a new language. It’s an advantage because you know how to learn, you can make linguistic comparisons and shortcuts, but it’s a disadvantage because you are aware of how much you still have to learn. When struggling to express yourself in the new language you realise you could say it without effort in your other languages. I’ve been tormenting myself with this for three years, along the lines of “When will my Russian be as good as my French?” conveniently forgetting that I have been speaking French for 50 years and have a degree in it -whereas in three years, all I have to show is that I obtained B1 First Certification ТРКИ …
Which, of course, is actually rather good, especially as I have a full time job and was also studying for a Masters degree at the same time (which I have now got!) . Were it someone other than myself, I’d be congratulating them, but something in me still felt the need to prove myself further.
Last week I presented in Russian (on Gamification) at a Moscow conference on 21st century digital learning and fielded questions without the use of the translation headset. Within five minutes of arriving at the conference, one of the delegates was quizzing me about forum grading and plugins in the latest version of Moodle and I suddenly realised – I could understand him – this is my specialist subject, in Russian, and I could understand him! For once, instead of focusing depressingly on the long road ahead, I became aware just how far I have actually come along that road in three years. A bit of a threshold moment (see Threshold concepts, which I embraced in my Masters!) and, fingers crossed, it might go someway to easing my personal pain of not being good enough yet.
I originally started studying Russian because my son has moved there and I wanted to be able to cope on my own when visiting him. Three years on I am also using Russian in my job with Moodle HQ, spreading the word in this slavic tongue.
And so, abandoning my plan of stopping my private lessons at the end of this year, I shall instead continue and take the next level up – B2 level. Watch this space!
This is an inspiring story.
I wonder whether there is a single path forwards at the higher levels – because everyone communicates differently, and does different things with their language skills. But a person who can explain ed tech (and I can vouch for the gamification presentation which was spot on) and pass standardised examinations is definitely doing something right.