NABOKV-L post 0015350, Thu, 5 Jul 2007 14:27:55 -0400

Russians want Russian to make a comeback ...
*Baltimore Sun*

Complete article at the following URL:,0,5369534.story?coll=bal-opinion-headlines

So to speak
Originally published July 5, 2007

Russians want Russian to make a comeback. They're tired of Americans who
speak only English, and they're offended by Poles and Estonians who choose
not to speak Russian. They want their language to get some respect, and the
government has gone so far as to make 2007 the official Year of the Russian
Language (the news of which has only just now reached our offices).

Boy oh boy. Russian is a beautiful and nuanced and devilish language. It
sometimes bears a passing resemblance to headlinese, because it dispenses
with articles (the and a) and the present tense of to be - thus, Mayor
annoyed could be a precise translation of a perfectly correct Russian
sentence. But foreigners who try to learn it soon discover grammatical
constructions they never would have thought possible. The sounds aren't so
hard, once you've gotten your tongue around a soft L as opposed to a hard L
(don't ask), but the mind-bending is relentless and exhausting. Little
two-letter antecedents, so easily skipped over, can color a whole sentence,
if not a whole novel. Yet breakthroughs, when they come, are exhilarating.

There was a time when well-bred Russians didn't care for their own language,
and taught their children French instead. Nicholas II, the last czar,
generally wrote notes to his wife Alexandra in English. "My head speaks
English, my heart speaks Russian and my ear speaks French," said the writer
Vladimir Nabokov, born in St. Petersburg.

[ ... ]

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