“What does it mean?”
Gibberish in your ear. After all, a word without meaning is, well, meaningless.
How on Earth do babies pick up words?
First, they listen. Not necessarily because they desire to. They don’t decide to pay attention or not, it’s more like they are hardwired to listen.
And that “hardware” is called a language acquisition device, conveniently known as LAD.
LAD is a theory that “all humans share a mechanism which allows us to comprehend, develop, and use language like no other animal”.
This instinctive mental capacity enables an infant to acquire and produce language.
Around three quarters of the babies in the world learn more than one language.
“They won’t realize that the words belong to different languages until they’re older.”
(Read more in this excellent book about language here: CRYSTAL, D. (2010). Learning how to understand. In A Little Book of Language (pp. 14-20). Yale University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1np8zv.5)
How do you use this information to learn Russian?
Focus on the most common sounds, letters, and words.
As for words, don’t worry at the beginning about studying from a book or another source about how to classify “nouns” “prepositions” “verbs”, etc.
Try to let your brain work to classify them.
Before you read “Milkmaid” in the caption to the right did you look at the image and guess what it was before being told the answer?
As always, make sure to click on the links as they are decent resources.
Many of the links will take you to google translate so that you can hear the pronunciation of the word.
My plan is to hear foreign sounds and shout, whisper, sing them. At the least this is an entertaining option.
Now, what’s the most common word in the Russian language?
[ee] <- click here for the sound
1 Look at a few sentences it’s used in.
Мальчик и девочка играют.
Pronounced: Mal’chik i devochka igrayut.
Sentence translation: A boy and a girl are playing.
Мы стояли и ждали.
Pronounced: My stoyali i zhdali.
Sentence translation: We stood and waited.
Я это и имею в виду.
Pronounced: YA eto i imeyu v vidu.
Sentence translation: That’s what I have in mind. / I mean it.
И как ты не понимаешь, что это интересно?
Pronounced: I kak ty ne ponimayesh’, chto eto interesno?
Sentence translation: How come you don’t understand that this is interesting?
Мы так и сделали.
Pronounced: My tak i sdelali.
Sentence translation: This is what we did / We did just that.
Я даже и не знаю.
Pronounced: YA dazhe i ne znayu.
Sentence translation: I do not even know.
Она и нам рассказала.
Pronounced: Ona i nam rasskazala.
Sentence translation: She told us too.
Here’s a palate cleanser:
Russian Nun by J. Monstein, around 1865.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.