Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Seeing the fruits of my labour...

After a tough introduction to academic language and terminology in class this week, I felt the need to test my day-to-day language skills out in the real world. I confessed to Katya that my preoccupation with academia and archival research has stunted my ability to speak and understand when out and about. She was sympathetic but confident I wasn't too far off the mark.

I took her confidence out on a mission to gather together some things for dinner and a couple of cards (and stamps) to wish loved ones 'С Новым годом' (or a Gledelig Juhl and Merry Christmas for the benefit of those who expect presents on the 24th and 25th of December). 

The time spent on numbers this trip (even in the context of dates and time) has really helped my navigating shops. Weights and measures are essential at the market where I can buy quantities more suited to cooking for one during such a short stay. Being able to anticipate costs and deal with roubles in the hundreds - particularly given the exchange rate of about 50 roubles to the pound - offers the opportunity to hand over something closer to the exact change at the counter and avoid the risk of returning home with pockets full of coins.   

I still get lost at times and I'd love when that happens to be able learn from what I've not understand immediately, rather than simply draw a blank and have to muddle along regardless. Patience is a virtue, but I think I've already mentioned that service doesn't always come with a smile in Russia. This isn't a place where 'the customer is always right' is culturally embedded. The Soviet legacy lives on. I do get a positive response a lot of the time I try, but I guess its frustrating for both sides when something just isn't understood.

The long and short of it is that the better my language skills get, the better I eat. Or at least the more control I have over the variety and quantity of food I can purchase. It helps when I'm sticking to a limited budget and want to diversify a little without incurring waste or extra expense. Anyway, dinner is served...


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