Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Any excuse for a celebration...or cake!

What a difference a "день" makes!

After two long, intense, brain-cell consuming lessons with my very patient teacher Katya, my hard work has paid off and I've come away from my first practical lesson feeling like I'm almost speaking the same language as everyone around me.

Another aspect of my course this time round that differs from April is the chance to meet with a tutor, Nastya, in the city and put to practice all the theory battling for space in my head. Its provided the perfect opportunity to sort the mess out and put some of it to good use. I'm not claiming fluency by a long way but in the time it took to walk from 'Dom Knigi' to a cafe off Nevsky Prospect I managed what I would almost consider a legitimate two-way conversation.

Granted I still hit more than my fair share of dead ends and had to resort to requesting a prompt, but it was only through gaining the confidence to actually consider how I could express myself with the limited vocabulary I have that I've come away acknowledging my strengths rather than just my limitations.

This for me is where I'm expecting to develop the Russian I need for basic survival in a country still pretty ill equipped to deal with foreign tourists. I'm not someone who settles for the point and smile approach (or shouting loudly and slowly as the old cliche goes...) but at times you still think you're facing a brick wall in your attempts to communicate here. Its also provided a great opportunity to ask about some of the aspects of Russian life and culture, both contemporary and 'back in the day'. Its this all round education that this trip is becoming invaluable and leads me back nicely to what how my classroom lessons are going to develop over the next two weeks...

I won't go into great detail. My interest in being here and the demands of my course when I return to university in October aren't universal, but its telling of the flexibility on offer when undertaking one-to-one tuition. Having spoken to my tutor we've laid out a plan to spend the majority of my time while I'm here looking at the skills and understanding needed to tackle Russian history. Using (basic!) historical text and the grammar related to it I can begin to improve my chances of reading primary documents and fast track my way through the next year before I need to start research. Its been a daunting prospect up till now, but a challenge I'm only going to enjoy more and more as my progress continues.

And the cake? Well, any excuse for that. Anyone finding themselves on Nevsky Prospect with a few spare roubles in their pocket needs to make a trip to 'Север' (The North) for an incredible selection of everything vaguely fattening and high in calories. Look for a blue sign with a polar bear, a few blocks from the metro heading away from the Winter Palace. Tirimasu happens to be my poison of choice and at less that 300 roubles for enough to feed an apartment full of hungry language students you really can't say "нет"!

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