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.