…but I think I can speak Russian..a little bit!!
Liz was telling me about a talk she had on how children first learn to speak. The ideas they have seem to be the same as what I have experienced – learning a foreign language from nothing whilst living in the country. First you hear speech. Then you begin to understand it. And then you can start to speak it. Thinking about it, that’s the exact opposite of learning a foreign language in the classroom – first you have to speak, and learn words, and memorize grammar, and then you try to understand speech.
The brain really is an amazing thing. It’s managed to pick up sooo many words without me even knowing. Sometimes I struggle to read a word for the first time, but once my teacher has said it out loud to me, suddenly I realise that I’ve heard it before. Because I’ve heard it before, I can remember what it means and don’t have to try and memorize it. And when I do learn a new word, suddenly I start hearing it everywhere – in the street, in school, at home…
I’ve gone from only being able to say one word, to a few words, and some memorized sentences, to being able to have an actual conversation. I remember when I used to tell people ‘Russian no’ as I couldn’t remember how to say I don’t speak Russian. Then it went to ‘I Russian no’ to ‘I don’t Russian’ and then I finally remembered the verb – ‘I don’t speak Russian.’ This seems to be very similar to this article about children learning to speak.
“If we had to pick two words to convey the idea in “Mommy, get me some more milk,” we could not improve on “Mommy milk.” A lot of young children’s sentences are like this; that is, they are of a uniform shortness, starting out as one-word sentences. Later, as children mature a bit, they begin to use two-word sentences and then move up to three-word sentences and so on.”
And yesterday I realised for the first time, that I do know how to speak. I met my friend Kristina for tea and sushi, as she said she’d help me practise.
So she’d tell me to ask a question like: ‘what are your plans for tomorrow?’. I know all of these words but separately so until she’d said it, I didn’t know you could put them all together. You do say ‘which’ rather than ‘what’ in Russian, but the rest is quite simple! After that I was asking loads of questions and answering a little bit too. Went home buzzing – I can speak Russian!!!!