How elephants can teach Russian

Do you know Vovochka?.

For all fellow Russian-learners who have frequently felt the urge to tell the language where it can stuff its logic-defying genitive plural and infamous verbs of motion, Notmrsputin strongly recommends the wonderful new time4russian blog. Written by a teacher who patiently endured my garbled efforts during lessons at Moscow’s excellent Russianlab language school, the blog ditches the dreaded fake conversations common to many language courses (“Delighted to meet you Ivan Ivanovich – tell me more about your spark plug factory in Omsk…”) and offers jokes, Soviet-era songs and cartoons, films (subtitled, fortunately) and even a rather strange but oddly appealing video of a talkative lady in national costume making soup. The blog makes uses a learning method in which a Russian text is first broken down into small chunks with lots of literal English translation, then re-read without the translation. It’s pleasing – the system doesn’t interfere even with a long and really quite weird Russian joke about shooting coloured elephants (the day that joke seems anything but odd is the day to apply for Russian citizenship), and the method plus the wackiness, humour or sheer interest of the posts (history of Tetris anyone?) definitely helps words stick. Удачи, then, to all students of this infuriating but extraordinary language – we may never achieve fluency, but at least we’ll laugh trying.

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