Friday, December 09, 2011

Learning church Latin and Russian
From Venuleius. It’s Not About Latin™ but it’s worth learning.

I learned some Latin and Russian.

The hardest thing about learning Russian isn’t the alphabet (азбука). That’s easy to adjust to. The hardest is starting all over again with vocabulary since you’re dealing with the third main branch of the European family of languages, Slavic, so there aren’t that many root words in common with English (the Germanic branch) or the Romance branch (which English has stolen a lot of vocab from so Spanish for example is easy to learn).

The grammar has the same logic as other European languages. It works almost like Latin! It’s inflected with noun and adjective case endings, an elegant way to set up a language, as well as conjugating verbs, which students of modern European languages are familiar with. One difference is there’s the aspective, the difference between one time only and a state of being. (Black American English has it too: he workin’, ‘he’s at work’, and he be workin’, ‘he has a job’.)

The second hardest is learning the stresses (accents) in the words: you just have to hear enough of it to more or less get it. (Maria Sharapova’s last name in Russian is shaRApova.)

Worse comes to worst, do what others have done and mispronounce and make grammatical errors but know lots of words.

(Then there’s Slovio/Slavsk, an artificial simplified Russian that sort of does that. You can try it if your Russian and the other person’s English are both bad. They know you’re foreign anyway but you can more or less communicate. If he has some English, he’d probably rather try English.)

I understand about half of it.

Of course Russian’s a big down payment on Slavonic, the liturgical language. That’s like Chaucer’s English, mostly intelligible but strange. You eventually learn the differences.

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