During the past few months, I’ve really been trying to bring some balance to the amount of time I spend on my two current languages, German and Russian. My German is coming along nicely, as I add more and more vocabulary to my memory. I have, however, been a bit frustrated with the advances I’ve made with my Russian.
I first started learning Russian earlier this year, in January, when I received a copy of the New Penguin Russian Course book. It is now July of this year, and where am I? Chapter 7, 50 or so pages into the book. Not a whole lot of progress, when you look at it like that.
However, when I look at it in a different way, I feel a bit better:
I know a smattering of Russian words; the present tense conjugations of a few different types of verbs; and the basics of adjectives. I also know a bit about the nominative case, the prepositional case, and the accusative case. Furthermore, I can write in Russian script, and pronounce Russian with few problems (some of the big consonant clusters still make my English-speaking tongue wrap around itself).
I skimmed through my book earlier, looking far, far ahead, and at first felt rather daunted. A lot of the grammar looks very complicated, and for a brief moment, I even considered throwing in the towel. But then I thought back to how I felt when I first started working on learning Russian.
When I first started with the book, the Cyrillic alphabet looked like something from a different planet. Me? I’d never be able to make sense of that. Well, I can now make sense of it just fine. Later, I started trying to learn the words at the end of each chapter, in the vocabulary lists. When I first started, I felt that I’d never remember those slippery Russian words. Well, now I remember about 95% of them. I had similar feelings when I first ran into the prepositional cases of personal pronouns, but those have since been locked into my memory.
In other words, if I try to worry about learning all the grammar of Russian all at once, of course it’s going to appear daunting. Of course I’ll be overwhelmed. Anyone would be. But if I just keep chipping away at it, like someone chipping away at a large boulder with a small chisel, eventually, they will chisel the boulder down to nothing. It may take them quite a long time, and they’re certainly not going to pull it off in a day or two, but it’s possible.
It just takes a lot of steady, slow work. I need to keep that in mind as I chisel away at my Russian.