Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The so-called, and so sought after, immersion.

People are always complaining about how they get so little exposure to their target language in their home countries, pointing out what great progress they would make were they to find themselves in a situation of immersion. Since I have been through immersion once already, or twice if you count Norway, I have no real illusions about how much progress I expect to make. Three months is not a very long time.

I have now been in Russia for almost a month, and what kind of progress have I made? I have no idea. I don't think my spoken Russian is all that much better, however I find it easier to use since I am in contact with it in a more natural way every day. I don't speak all that much Russian though, and the occasions I have spoken most Russian on here have been while meeting my old Russian friends Alexey and Sasha, who neither of them lives here. We have speaking classes, but they are often used for reading, something I find weird, and a lot of the time is used on defining words. Luckily, the class was divided into two groups after 1 1/2 week, so we don't have to explain all that many words anymore, but it is still almost driving me crazy. If we are given as an assignment to read a text, then surely people can look up the words they don't know at home and learn them before the lesson? And then the teacher can just assume that we know them? Or is this pure insanity on my behalf? The actual time we end up speaking during our speaking classes is very limited, and of course the teacher speaks very slowly. And that's it for speaking Russian, the rest of the time we speak Norwegian, even though some classes are in excruciatingly slow Russian. I can't really blame anyone though, I'm the one who is here with a group of students who have studied Russian for one year, but I did expect it to be much, much more difficult. I expected to be constantly busy, but I'm actually more busy when I study in Oslo, since we don't have any reading to do here, except for some grammar in our fabulously dry and boring grammar book. What takes up a lot of time for most people are the translations, but I did them before I even left Oslo, so even though some of them are going to be replaced by other texts (because the first ones were too difficult), I saved myself lots of time. The other thing people seem to find time consuming is writing short essays every week, but since I have been a fan of writing essays for a long time that is something I do in 30 minutes or so...

And now that I don't have all that much to do, I'm going to try to resist that old temptation of over studying everything, and instead try to read and watch Russian television and movies, and of course see more of the city. Getting to and from school reduces my amount of free time, but I try to use it as best I can and read on the way, that is what I can get a place to sit or when we don't walk. Actually being in Russia beats most things, so I don't really care all that much about school.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

St Petersburg Book Market.

Today we visited the book market in St Petersburg, located nearby the Elizarovskaja metro station. I found the line of tables *outside* the actual market, which is an indoor three floor arrangement, the most interesting part. I am really much more interested in actually OLD books, not just new ones, or modern editions, which are easy to find and not the slightest bit unique. And since I'm looking for classics most of the time, book markets with old dusty books are much better suited for me. Unfortunately, only the outside of the market was like that. Lots of books for 10-20-30-40 roubles! I bought a stack of books for 130 roubles in total within a couple of minutes, and a St Petersburg comic for 50 roubles inside the building (mostly just because the seller was so charming and bubbly enthusiastic about her books). I was a bit annoyed at finding Татьяна Толстая's Крысь for 50 roubles there, because I bought it for 140 yesterday...

Накануне - Тургенев
Записки охотника, Рудин - Тургенев

That is, for those who don't speak Russian, On the Eve and A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev. Ever since reading Fathers and Sons, Turgenev has been one of my favorite Russian authors. I got the impression that he writes in very understandable prose, and I have read one short story from A Sportsman's Sketches before, years ago, and I still remember it, which is surely a good sign. So I am very much looking forward to reading his books, and I'm absolutely thrilled that I found them for just a couple of rubles.

"Сквозь жар души, сквозь хлад ума..." - Некрасов

Not even sure what this is, but I knew that I was supposed to know Nekrasov from somewhere, and the book was just extremely cute.

Стихитворения, поэмы - Лермонтов

Lermontov was one of the first Russian authors I read in Russian, albeit in a bilingual French-Russian edition that I bought in France once; A Hero of Our Time. I really liked it, and since I have been trying to read more poetry for the last five or so years (unsuccessfully) I decided to give his poems a go.

По дорогам Венгрии - Дружинин

I don't really know what this is either, I'm not too sure if it's fiction or not (I think it's fiction, or autobiographical, but I haven't really looked into it very much), but it's about Hungary, it didn't cost a thing, and true to my habit I gave in to the temptation :-)

Мелкий Бес - Федор Сологуб

A long long time ago I read a very strange short story by Sologub, and I am a bit curious about him.

Река жизни - Куприн

Just before leaving Norway I read a short story by Kuprin, after having received recommendations on lang-8, and since I liked that short story, and since I always want to discover new authors, this collection of short stories came in very handy.

Полный пока

This is a highly modern booklet with comic strips from St. Petersburg. They seem to be all black humor strips, and language wise I thought it could be a nice challenge.

These are of course not the only books I have bought so far. The book I'm currently reading is actually not a Russian one, but the author is originally Russian and the book is about St. Petersburg and the Revolution: We the Living by Ayn Rand. I will wait with my judgment on the book until I have read all of it. I also bought a Russian translation of a Francoise Sagan book; Un orage immobile. The edition was just so cute I couldn't help myself. The same goes for Любовь Фрау Клейст by Ирина Муравьёва. I have no idea who this author is, but the book was extremely cheap and it appealed to me somehow. The list goes on with The Idiot by Dostoyevsky and finally a tiny hardcover bilingual poetry collection of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (German/Russian).

As far as the rest of my stay here is concerned, I haven't actually been in the mood for writing about any of it. I think what I would say would be inadequate anyway. Of course everyone knows that St. Petersburg is an excellent city. I even put up with overcrowded public transport here, and that is saying a lot... ;)