Another part of our experience here is looking for a language school to learn (at least) basic Russian. My husband found a promising one close to where we are staying, and I went and visited it. Although a little hidden, it’s an apartment-kind of entrepreneurship (much like the nursery I was writing about in an earlier post), but the people there surprised me as young, dynamic, smart and accommodating. Also, they have been running for a little over a year, but had students from all over the world – they had hung a map, and the only part that still needed covering was Latin America (they probably don’t come here because of the weather, I laughed).
A little embarrassed, I explained our situation, and asked about their method of teaching. You see, as an Eastern European, I was taught foreign language in a thorough manner, but in quite a tedious fashion, lessons and lessons about conjugating verbs in verbal modes and times that even natives don’t know how to use… And although it is a very accurate way to learn new languages, it takes years. Literally. Thus my shyness in explaining that is not what we needed. The teacher stepped in and continued for me. They understand our needs. The lessons are highly interactive, focused on day-to-day conversations (going to a grocery store, ordering a cab). I sighed and we both laughed. It was nice to get that out in the open. Because the truth is, at the end of the day, even though it would be nice, I don’t need to read Tolstoy in Russian just yet. But I do need to pay bills or buy stamps.
In the end, a little anecdote about different ways of learning, and the difference between being a native speaker and learning a language ”in levels”:
As I was studying for TOEFL and looking on a one-choice exercise for phrasal verbs (I believe it was a choice between „filling in” or „filling out” a form, never understood that one), I looked up at my husband, native English speaker, my guru, and asked which was the correct one. ”Both” he replied immediately and nonchalantly. ”But… there is only one correct choice! Which one is it?”, I urged. ”Well, either… I would understand either way!”, he continued and moved on. I laughed, but it was also the day I understood that getting good scores in exams doesn’t mean much. Because at the end of your language struggles, you just want to be understood. And while getting trick questions at language tests might do it, even native speakers aren’t so demanding. Because language evolves in a dynamic way, and in real life, you can express yourself in countless ways, there is no single one-choice answer. It was also the day I stopped asking my husband for language advice; he thought me everything I needed 🙂