In one of my other lives I’ve been reading about Threshold concepts, a term I first learned about last October, via a book recommendation (Didau, 2015) by my daughter. Didau highlights some of the features of Threshold concepts:
A threshold concept is sort of like a “penny drops” moment, a point of learning from which there is no return: you can’t unlearn it, and it changes you, moves you forward.
My recent four weeks of learning Russian with private lessons (I have had eleven now, four of those face to face in Peter) have certainly provided me with these experiences. ‘Troublesome” in that they “presented [me] with a degree of difficulty […] incoherent or counter-intuitive”. This is Good, because good learning should be hard! Integrative, in that it brought “together different parts of the subject [I] hadn’t previously seen as connected. Reconsitutive, in that it “may shift [my] sense of self over time” and it Transformative, in that, once understood it will “change the way [I] see the subject and [myself].”
It’s that last one which I hope gives me the impetus to continue my studies, which , currently are very troublesome, as we’re delving into imperfective and perfective verbs “in anger” for my first time.
On the one hand, I am frustrated because I can’t speak it fluently yet. (I should know better!) On the other hand, I am quietly pleased I got very high marks in the reading and grammar parts of a sample Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (Elementary level) (as well as previously, the reading and listening elements of a sample Russian GCSE paper) I managed to communicate – albeit falteringly- with the housekeeper and her husband of the Airbnb on our last trip in April, as well as now more confidently ordering food in restaurants. But I’m still thwarted by not having instantly at my fingertips the case endings – I need to crack that as well as understanding verbal aspects.
I watched this video on Youtube, where the kind beardy guy suggests making up and memorising sample phrases to help with cases. I like the idea. Of course, you need to know the rules as well, and drill them, but as he says, some easily retrievable sentences you can refer to can provide a signpost at any given moment. It’s similar to learning songs, which I find very helpful. We just need someone to make a good Russian song with orderly sequenced sentences in all cases and all genders, but with a nice tune:)
Didau, D. (2015). What if everything you knew about education was wrong?. Crown House Publishing.