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