Team building with Igor

I started Slavic studies at university quite out of the blue. There was no clear reason, no Russian grandmother of Polish boyfriend, it just seemed nice to me. Actually it went like this: I was browsing through a brochure of one of the universities and eliminated negatively. Medicine? No. Law? No. Science? No. Engineering? NO. Communication sciences? Perhaps… But there are already so many people doing this. No. Art sciences? Perhaps… But as soon as I discovered this also included knowing what copper is exactly made of – no no no. Japanese studies? Naaah, I have nothing with Japan. Slavic studies? Yeah, why not?

Considering how hard it is for me to take decisions, this was fairly easy. After I had found that and did some research, I stopped looking for other things. Partially because I felt this was a good choice, but probably also because I was lazy and I didn’t want to end up in a giant dilemma. So after let’s say searching for two, three months, I had made up my mind.

I went to university unprepared, and ended up in a class where everyone seemed to be passionate about either Russian or Polish. There were people who had family there, others knew the Russian alphabet and some grammar, some knew the history. I knew nothing. It was a bit ridiculous. But I went to university to learn all these things – I assumed it had no use to learn them in advance if I’d be learning them there. Call it lazy, but it paid off. Never do too much effort.

“Russian language to the best” or something like that. Source.

I quickly fell in love with both languages. I enjoyed the worlds opening up for me since I now understood some words. Love at first sight. Never did I regret my decision – it was one of the best I ever made. But this year, things changed. After a billion trillion exercises I knew nothing of, I kinda broke down and started hating Russian. Let me put it this way: let’s say Polish is a guy named Jacek, and Russian is a guy named Igor.
Jacek and I would be sitting in our garden, reading poetry together while listening classical music and some ’80s music. We’d have calm conversations and make delicious pierogi in the evening.
But Igor and I… We would be throwing plates at each other, screaming and raging, ignoring each other a few days and then slowly make up with a bottle of vodka and a balalaika playing in the background. For me, Russian has alway been the language of passion and heavy feelings- both good and bad…

You see, Igor and I, we need team building to keep the bond strong so we can be buddies for the rest of our lives. Which might sound ridiculous, but really, team building with your language is very important in case you want to graduate in it.
So here are a few steps in order to keep the love burning.

1. Fall in love

If you don’t fall in love at least once, it will be very hard to maintain and keep on going. Fall in love once and you’ll always know what made you start this – even when you almost throw up after making all the exercises.

2. Find a music band that sings in your beloved language

You will hear the sounds of your languages, which is great, and you’ll want to know what the lyrics mean. You’ll get used to certain ways of saying things, certain phrases and so on. (Warning: it is possible that sometimes in classe, you will feel the need to sing out loud when someone uses a phrases from a certain song.) Music really helps me getting a grip on Russian. The band I’m at the moment crazy about is Louna.

I love their jackets in this picture! She’s totally badass and has a very, very good voice. A crush on the second from left is optional (but kinda inevitable).

3. Buy a good grammar book

In case your syllabus isn’t all too clear. And honestly, chances are high. But a good grammar book gives you a feeling of certainty. You can always rely on it and all the information is nicely put together. I myself was lucky enough to buy one in a group purchase. I’m very grateful to the older students for organizing that purchase. My grammar book is my best friend at the moment.

4. Find an idol who speaks your beloved language

I found one, and guess what she does for a living! If you guessed ‘ballerina’, you’re very right. Ekaterina Kondaurova is my current girl crush because she appears to be an amazing dancer and smart, kind woman. In fact she has many things in common with who I am and above all who I want to be. Though there are many good, great, astonishing dancers, she caught my eye with her maturity and attitude (not only the ballet attitude). It would be totally awesome to meet her in real life!
The best thing about this, is that I watch her talk in videos on YouTube. By that you get to hear the sounds of the language again. Understanding natives speakers is the aim, so listening to them is a good exercise. It will only get more fun to hear your idol talking when you understand him or her.

5. Use it

Talk. Try to find people who speak the same language. Write. Listen. Do something with it and you’ll feel how much fun it is – regardless of all the frustrations it caused you to have, it will feel good once you can use the language. Then it becomes worth it. That’s what you want!

So, in case you want to learn a new languages, keep this in mind, and you will succeed.
I hope.

Leave a comment


  1. pretty cool post. liked this a lot. wish i had done something more interesting in my undergrad actually.

  2. NotAPunkRocker

     /  January 9, 2014

    Great advice. I really need to pick up with Spanish…now to be known going forward as Javier.

    Of course she is a ballerina. Gorgeous!

    • Go on, have some fun with Javier, you know you want to ;).

      I know right! She’s totally awesome. If I weren’t straight and crushing on the Louna guy, I’d be crushing on her.

  3. How fun! And all very good advice. I wish I knew more than the pieces of languages I’ve used to scrape by while traveling. I also have a somewhat random (but awesome) undergrad degree so this rocked my face off 😉

    • It’s good to know a bit of many languages! And it’s never too late to start learning a new one! Especially not with these tips ;).

      And… What is your undergrad then? You made me curious :).

      • Ha– it’s African-American Studies!

      • That does sound intersting though!
        But I’m afraid these kinds of studies don’t really have a lot of ‘future’. That counts for mine too…

      • My original plan was law school, I decided to quit life and go travel instead– ha.

        But at least we can say we actually learned something in college, eh?

      • Haha, sounds like a great plan though!

        Oh we did/do! Whether it gets you to places or not, at least you learn to hate studying, right? 😉


     /  January 9, 2014

    that’s so well put.

    when I recap my own experience, I’d say, french, my 1st FL, was an “arranged marriage” (my parents decided which language I should learn at school, and I started getting french classes at the tender age of 8; first came pronounciation lessons. yes. with an actual mirror, pouting and all)

    and from your list, idols and music are truly a great way in getting ahead of the game.
    which leads me to two suggestions 😉

    have you listened to zemfira? she’s probably the only singer-songwriter who really creates musical art in contemporary russia. it’s real indie albeit successfull singer-songwriter-rock, lots of ballads:

    and many, many more

    a very eccentric musician is lina milovich. her lyrics are hard to interpret, but stunning; and the videos are artsy, yet ironic. the music genre is hard to define; probably pop music?

    just check out her official channel (the one that posted both vids above).

    • Thank you so much for these suggestions! I will certainyl listen to more of their songs. Very interesting artists!

      Everyone here has French from the age of 10 and most people hate it (and consider it difficult – they obvs never tried Russian and Polish…). I liked it though.
      After all I believe every language has its use in the end. But the mirror and the pouting, I must admit, that’s pretty funny :D.


         /  January 12, 2014

        I liked French pretty much, I still do 😉 and hey, some people consider German difficult. please darlings. German? difficult?

      • It’s not as easy compared to English, but by now I have changed my mind – German is sooo straight forward.
        But as a native Dutch speaker, it’s sometimes hard to not just talk Dutch with a German accent :D.


         /  January 14, 2014

        haha 😀 I like the sound of Dutch and was even considering learning it. to my ear, Dutch has no real harshness, as if all packed in velvet.

      • Really? Most people think it sounds rude and not beautiful at all. But we’ve got somany dialects that it really depends on the city you’re in…
        If you’d ever decide to gor for Dutch, don’t hesitate to ask for help! 😉


         /  January 14, 2014

        ну взаимно, чоуш 😉

  5. That’s actually great advice for anyone in any subject, to listen to how the people that re passionate about it speak, and learn wht they’re talking about and how they do it.

    • And glad to hear you’ve got your passion back!

      • Do I ever give bad advice? 😉
        Actually it was all just an excuse to throw in some more ballet.

        Well yeah, it’s the kind of passion that sometimes makes you go insane, but overall Igor and I can’t live without each other ;).

  6. I hated learning languages in school but this was a good post. I especially liked your descriptions of the two languages with Igor and Jacek.

  7. RO

     /  January 9, 2014

    I find it very interesting that you chose Slavic Studies! I had never heard of it before and as you say, someone who has no real connection to the language or culture from family or whatever, it’s a cool choice to make!
    And gosh I love Ekaterina Kondaurova…! Good idol to have 😉

    • I had never heard of it either before I ‘discovered’ it in the information thing. It was a total random choice, but as you know I like to be a little different, hehe ;).

      She’s so awesome indeed! I knew you’d like her too! 😀

  8. Love this! I’m not familiar with this ballerina, but she is clearly gorgeous from the picture. I will have to check her out. Kudos to you, I’ve always wished I could speak another language (besides very broken French)…

    • She’s above all very good at femme fatale roles, like Odile and Carmen, and before that she above all danced in contemporary pieces like In the middle somwhat elevated (she’s wearing that costume in the pic here).
      Really worth checking out I’d say :).

      I used to be good at French (I’ve had classes for 8 years), but with learning new languages it slowly fades away…

  9. I could write an essay here. But instead of boring you – another good idea is to watch movies in this language. You will learn in like 1,2,3 🙂

    • You never bore me, Edita! 😉

      I would love to, but unfortunately I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t know where to find movies.
      Yes, I’m that pathetic…

  10. Very good advice. I had German and French at university – I knew neither about either language beforehand – and my relationship with German sounds a bit like yours with Russian. I just never got a grip on it.

    • Useful languages, but not always all too logical… I used to have German in high school and barely remember anything from – except for the useless things.
      But you know, you might still understand it a bt and that’s already something!

  11. Udachi on your Slavic studies, btw if you want to watch a Russian film… Look for Brat ( aka brother) with Sergey Bodrov jr. (There’s brat 2, but the first … Makes an impact ) . Both can be found on YouTube with English subtitles.

  12. This post just motivated me to learn a foreign language. Though I still think I can’t do it but thanks 🙂

    • Don’t give up! The most important thing probably is to find a language you truly want to learn. Motivation makes itself for a part :).
      And if you ever need support, feel free to ask for it here!


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