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Episode #13 – Russian Made Easy
Welcome to episode 13. We know that cognates are words that sound very similar between two languages and have the same meaning. And we’ve learned lots of them already. But there’s also something known as a false cognate. Those are words that sound similar between two languages but have totally different meanings. For example, listen to this Russian word:
That sounds like that kind of oil and vinegar salad dressing, doesn’t it? Listen again:
Well, in Russian it doesn’t refer to a salad dressing. Ask a Russian person for some винегрет and he’ll hand you a salad made of beets, pickles, potatoes, carrots, and onions. The word vinaigrette in English and the word винегрет in Russian are false cognates. They do sound the same, but they represent different things.
So, listen to and repeat these four words. Three are cognates, but one is a false cognate. Ready?
They are all common locations in a city or town. One more time…
Let’s hear them in context. The first was парк
A large grassy area in the middle of a city is called a парк
So, we say park, and in Russian they of course roll that R: парк
Next was: центр
The main, downtown part of a city is called the центр
Hear how that’s starting with a T – S sound? tsss-entr
Try saying: What’s up? ….what’s….ts…tssssentr
So we say “the downtown area” or the “city center” and in Russian they say just: центр
Then we heard: кафе
An informal restaraunt, often focusing on lunch rather than dinner is called a кафе
So in English we say: cafe, and in Russian the vowels change slightly: кафе
And finally we heard the false cognate: магазин
Any building where products are bought and sold is called a магазин
So, the Russian word магазин translates as store in English.
Ok, quiz time. Of those four locations, where might you go to have lunch?
Where might you go to play frisbee?
Where would you go to buy something?
And where would you go to be in the heart of the city?
As we let those percolate in your memory, let’s now review the material from the last podcast.
Imagine you’re showing your friend a photo of Moscow. Tell them:
This is Moscow.
Say: I love Moscow!
Я люблю Москву!
Say: I like Kiev but I love Odessa.
Мне нравится Киев но я люблю Одессу.
Ask your friend:
Do you like St. Petersburg?
Тебе нравится Санкт Петербург?
What are two ways we might say: I love you.
Я тебя люблю
Я люблю тебя.
So, do you remember our four new words?
Where would you go to fly a kite?
Did you notice how the native speaker added a “ff” sound in front of парк? Listen again:
fff-park. That’s because she’s answering my question by saying, “to the park”
That “ff” sound means “to” in the sense of “moving towards a location.”
So, adding that “ff” sound, now:
Where would you go to look at the city’s tallest buildings?
Where would you go to buy a souvenir?
Now, it’s hard to say “ff” magazin…So Russians pronounce it as the letter “V” instead: v-magazin
Where would you go to have coffee and snacks?
Alright. There are two more words I want to show you before we put everything together today. For now, just listen and repeat the first one:
One more time:
Let’s get the meaning from context:
You and some friends are standing in your home by the front door. You’re ready to head out, you’ve got your house keys in your hand. As you open the front door you call out to everyone:
…and then you gesture for them to all follow you outside.
What might you have said in English? Probably:
Let’s head out!
And that’s how poshli is used. It’s a call to action, to get people to head off to some location.
And though it translates as “let’s head out” or “let’s go”, the super-literal meaning is:
we / they headed out on foot
It’s a past-tense verb.
For example, if someone has asked you where James and Natasha are, you might say:
James and Natasha went to the park.
Джэймс и Наташа пошли в парк.
Again poshli literally means “they headed out somewhere (on foot).” But you’ll mostly be using it as a way to encourage your friends to head out to wherever your destination is. So, grab your keys, open the door and tell your girlfriend:
It doesn’t have to be a command. It can also be a question as well:
And here’s the other word to learn:
Can you hear that it’s a question? Listen again…
So, there you are in your Kiev apartment, and you want to head out to grab a bite. You open the door and have this brief exchange with your girlfriend:
Or, imagine instead that you’re in some smaller Russian city and you want to see the main downtown area. Your conversation would go like this…
How would you translate that whole conversation?
You say: Katya, let’s go!
And she asks: Kuda?
And you say, To the center.
So kuda must mean “to where?” or, “to which location are we headed?”
Of course, usually it’s the person who is local who’d be the more pro-active person. So, imagine your Russian friend is ready to head out. What will she say?
And you ask her:
To where? as in, Where are we headed?
How will she say:
To the park.
This is a very common exchange in Russian, so I want to make sure we master it. Before doing some more, though…it’s Tip Time…
V.O. And now, here’s your Tip of the Day from Russian Made Easy…
I got an email this morning from a listener named Brent in Berlin. He writes, “Здравствуйте Марк…” That’s a good way to start. “I want to thank you for these podcasts. I’m in Moscow and so far I’ve been able to order all my own meals in Russian, and I introduced myself and my business partner to the Russians we’ll be working with.” He thanks me and then writes… “My request is if you could do a podcast on colors.”
Thank you, Brent, for your kind words. It’s kinda the coolest part of the job, to hear that it’s working for people. But I’d like to talk for a moment about your request to learn colors. The problem is, an all-audio format isn’t really the ideal way to teach a language, and the topic of colors is a classic example of why.
In the field of language learning — among both students, and those who create courses — there seems to be an assumption that, well, language is something we speak and something we hear, so an audio-only course should be a great way to learn.
I mean, here I am, making these podcasts, and I’m nevertheless telling you that an all-audio format is not ideal. It’s pretty good. I mean, you’ve hopefully learned a lot here, but here’s the thing:
Assuming you’re not blind, then your vision played a major role in your acquisition of language. I don’t mean for reading. I mean, for learning the meaning of words and phrases. Honestly, all five senses play a role in learning a language, but since we are primarily visual creatures — that is, most of what we know about the world is processed through our vision — that means most of what you learned in English was done visually.
In an all-audio format, the stimulus, if you will, always has to come through your hearing, and that’s often not the ideal way. So, for me to test your recall of the Russian word for red, for example, I have to ask you: “Ok, now how do you say RED in Russian?”
Whereas, in a course that uses video, I can say: “You’re about to see a series of colors onscreen. Please say each one in Russian.” So I can just show you a color and you name it. With video, I can make you think directly in Russian.
That limitation of an all-audio format is why there are a lot of topics and themes I’m avoiding in this podcast. And it’s why I always encourage you to check out our Russian Accelerator course, because it features video. Long term, if you really want to become conversational in Russian, a video-based course is the way to go.
Alright, let’s get back to today’s new words. Imagine your Russian friend wants to buy a new phone and is ready to head out. What will he say to you as he opens his front door to leave?
To where? as in, Where are we headed?
How will he say: To the store.
Tell him: Ok. Let’s go!
One more. Tell your friend:
I want coffee.
Я хочу кофе.
And I want a cappuccino.
И я хочу капучино.
Suggest: Let’s go to Starbucks?
Пошли в Старбакс?
Ok. I love Starbucks. Let’s go!
Хорошо. Я люблю Старбакс. Пошли!
That’s the end of today’s podcast. And given that we just learned to talk about where we’re headed, next time we’ll learn to talk about where we are. So, be sure you have today’s new words and constructions on your flashcards, and I’ll see you in the next podcast.
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Episode 13 – Full Program
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