Thursday, June 5, 2008


So lately I've found myself beginning to mix several languages. I took German for four years in high school and was an exchange student. Some of it I remember and most of it, sadly, not; however, at times, while studying another language words, phrases, structures, grammer rules will all pop up. Sometimes my very limited Spanish will creep in. So, what have I been studying hat has caused language chaos: Russian and Kyrgyz, yep two at once.

Since I'm going to Kyrgyzstan with the Peace Corps I figured it would be helpful to start learning some of the language, especially since both languages use the Cyrillic alphabet, which is very different from ours... the Latin alphabet. (Praise- I have successfully mastered the alphabet and know what the sounds are, pronunciation, symbols, and cursive derivatives- which my Russian tutor threw on me the very first meeting... ugh!). Since Kyrgyzstan is a former USSR republic Russian is the underlying language, although Kyrgyz is the official language. This is causing some confusion because, although Kyrgyz adds three other letters, I don't understand the difference. I assumed Kyrgyz was just like another dialect of Russian but it's not quite that. They have their own words for hi... Salam whereas in Russian its Privet (all words are written in English pronuciation.. not actual Cyrillic). They say good morning, and how are you differently so sometimes I wonder what the difference is and will I notice.

I've also noticed something else happening, which I understand is quite common... I've been inadverently mixing the two languages. I've been told most Kyrgyz people can speak and understand both languages but the Russians may not be able to understand the Kyrgyz... again not sure why. For instance, at my Russian lesson the other day my tutor wanted me to say some introductions and I said it in Kyrgyz instead of Russian... having not yet learned the Russian phonetically yet. She smiled and said no but was wondering what it was as it sounded similar but wasn't obviously Russian. It made me wonder if I had this experience in Kyrgyzstan if I would have been understood.

I also find language learning and teaching very different from what I had with German, and even somewhat from Spanish. With German we first learned letters, numbers, colors, days of the week, basic introduction... always with grammer mixed in and vocabulary. I haven't really had that too much. Sure I've had the alphabet and introductions but neither my tutor, Rosetta Stone or Peace Corps lessons have gone through the alphabet, letters or numbers. Even grammer isn't really explained. For instance, with Rosetta stone there's a grammer section and you say the word.. see it in a sentence then put the sentence together... that's fine... but what's the rule? Do nouns go first, verbs, etc? Seeing how the sentences get put together is one thing but if I don't understand how they're built, along with endings for nouns and verbs, singular and plural, then how can I speak the sentence correctly? Rosetta Stone is good in that it shows picture with words, has you speak, read and write, full immersion in other words... but I feel like they just jump you write into speaking, without going over basics. That's the same thing with the Peace Corps lessons. They don't cover the letters, numbers, grammer rules, etc. They just immediately jump in with phrases. How am I expected to speak correctly if I'm not taught how?

I know this is all preparatory work, that I get 10 weeks of in country training, where hopefully, this stuff is covered, but if not then I'm going to be so confused. I need to know how stuff is built, how it works, in order to properly understand. Maybe I'm just used to learning language the way I did with German or maybe I just don't understand how languages are supposed to be taught but teaching without grammer, without basic pronunciation skills, doesn't seem right to me. Oh well, I'll keep visiting my Russian tutor, doing Russian Rosetta stone, PC Kyrgyz and Russian and making my flashcards... while all the while wondering how to say a sentence...


marmotzero said...

I think the omission of the "rules" of language from Rosetta Stone is intentional. In the grammar lessons I've gotten to the point where I can just listen to the pronunciation of all of the different choices and get it right most of the time by judging which option would sound the most natural in the sentence. The rules are unnecessary.

Also, there's a little drop down window you can click in the upper right that takes you to a place where you can hear every letter in the alphabet pronounced and used in several different words.

Anonymous said...

You will find that Kyrgyz and Russian are two completely different languages. You cannot mix the two languages, people will not understand you if you do so - unless you are speaking to a Kyrgyz person. Russians in Kyrgyzstan do not speak Kyrgyz and will not resond if you greet them with a good morning in Kyrgyz. Also, they will expect that you speak Russian, so many Kyrgyz people will greet you that way until you learn to say to them, in Kyrgyz please.