My Bilingual Experience

Just for fun.

As we communicate, we utilize a common language to practice in a conversation every day. We read, speak, write – we communicate. But what happens when you are taken out of your everyday usual communication practice and submerge into a foreign language. Well, I have been experiencing this since I 1994, when I moved to the U.S. It is interesting to watch how my language skills sort of cross with one another. Sometimes it is complementary, and sometimes… Well… I wish I did not open my mouth. Sometimes, I find English language for a Russian speaker may sound in reverse. I realize that my thought process when I speak Russian is also different from my thought process when I speak English. Truly the two languages cannot be any more different from each other.

What also motivated me to write this post, was a conversation with my coworker today. She is also bilingual. It was interesting to notice how our brain worked and we could almost finish each other sentences and understand each other half way through the conversation, yet our conversations was full of “you know” “like” “umm” “aaa” etc. But what boggled my mind was the fact that all of the sudden I realized I no longer remembered all of the definitions of the cases in Russian language. For a person who’s native language is Russian, it is imperative to know all the cases to be able to properly communicate. So, I decided to find a definition online in Russian and then translate it to English. I believe my English version came out pretty decent.

So, here is the definition translated by me from a Russian source:

Russian <<Падеж>> (Padezh, Rus.) – Case, in inflectional language (synthetic language) or [agglutinating system], is a word category (usually a name), that shows its syntactic role in a sentence and connects separate words of that sentence together.

In other words, cases help connect the words together into a sentence. For Russians it is often challenging to accept the fact that there are not as many cases in English language. There are 6 cases in Russian language… LOL yeah… that may be quiet an experience for the beginner learners of English. But that is also the part which makes it easier to transition.

In Russian language nouns, adjectives, numerals, and pronouns “declinate” (they change their cases). Declination is expressed by the ending of a word (the word ends differently in a different case).

Here are six main cases:

  • Nominative case – Именительный (Imenitel’ni)
  • Genitive case – Родительный (Roditel’ni)
  • Dative case – Дательный (Datel-ni)
  • Accusative case – Винительный (Vinitel’ni)
  • Instrumental case – Творительный (Tvoritel’ni)
  • Prepositive case – Предложный (Predlojni)

There are several secondary cases besides the ones I learned in school. Those cases, as well, I’ve used many of times in my communication, but never thought of them as separate cases from the main six:

  • Vocative case (Zvatel’ni) – (exists in Slavic languages) Name Anna, in Vocative case I’d address to her as An’! or in other words, english translation would be “hey, Ann!” For Mikhail it would be, Mik!
    Partitive case (Kolichestvenno-otdelitel’ni) – (or secondary Genitive case) that is used to define a whole of something as a part of. For example head of garlic – Golovka chesnok[a] or chesnok[u].
  • Locative case (Mestni) – or secondary Prepositive case – where noun means of a place of happening for example: Stoiat v sneg[u] – stand in a snow. but Prepositive case in the sentence of Dumat’ o sneg[e] – think of a snow. Stoiat v vode – stand in a water and dumat’ o vod’e – think of water have the same ending [ea].
  • Ablative case (Iskhodn’i) – where noun means a place that is a beginning from point A to point B it would be point A – for example: vishel iz less[u]- came out of the woods. This case differentiates from Locative case by the accent on the IZ (out of).

Boy! Russian language is beautiful! Things that we use on an everyday basis and don’t even think about how they are processed by our brain automatically.

However, for a Russian speaker it may be a challenge to communicate in English language. The proper understanding and the use of articles in this case (case – you get it :)) is the key in helping a Russian-speaker to navigate the ocean of English language.

SOURCES:

Bogoroditsky V.A. General Course of Russian Grammar (from university readings). 6 edition. — p. 167—167, 311.
Wikipedia in Russian

50th Anniversary of Spaceflight


April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseevich Gagarin was the first human in space. The rocket carying Vostok 1 spacecraft with Youri Gagarin on board blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:07 am of local time. Spacecraft Vostok 1 circled the planet Earth in 108 minutes, while Gagarin reported of the happening outside of his vizor (illuminator). This was the first step of humanity into the vast universe and unleashed a great era of human spaceflight.

August of 1999, in Vancouver, Washington, the ceremony of the memorial rededication to Chkalov’s Transpolar flight took place.  Honorable guests from Russia were present, among whom were the family members of Chkalov, his son, Seattle’s Council General, and the second man in space Gherman Titov.

I was videotaping that ceremony for CVTV, and one would think, nothing may be connecting Gagarin and Vancouver, Washington, perhaps one is right.  But I think differently.  Gagarin was the first man in space to orbit the Earth in spacecraft Vostok 1, Gherman Titov was the second man to do the same but for 25 hours and not one but 17 orbits around Earth.  Gherman Titov visited Vancouver, Washington during transpolar flight memorial rededication.

It is amazing how intertwined our lives often get, without us even knowing.  Here, in Vancouver, Washington, cosmonaut Gherman Titov walked the grounds of the Fort Vancovuer National Historic reserve and visited the Pearson Air Museum nearly 40 years after the first spaceflight took place.

This visit, even though was wonderfully conducted by the local government officials, mayor Royce Pollard and others gave great speeches, and the presence of local representatives as well as the official delegation from Russia made the event festive and gala-ish, it went by unnoticed.  The majority of locals, and once again our neighbor city with its major local networks did not even know this event was happening.

Somehow I care about the fact that the second man in space visited our town, weather unnoticeably or not, it became a part of history.  So, the question would then be how much do we go about life and skip its true shining of the happening around us.

From Baikonur Cosmodrome to the spaceflight era, from Vancouver Washington’s Pearson Air Museum, to the world history of aerospace, today I celebrate, along with the global community the 50th Anniversary of Spaceflight!