Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why am I Learning Russian?

My mother was shocked to find that when I returned from Egypt I had picked up a few phrases -not of Arabic - but of Russian.

In a way, so am I... but what is more ridiculous is that upon my arrival back in the UK I immediately started to learn Russian. Within a couple of days I had got hold of an audio Language course, a book on grammer and more recently an interactive CD-Rom.

Of course, I freely admit that initially my primary motivation was because of the beautiful Russian girl that I met out there. But even then I knew that if things did not work out (and statistically the odds were stacked up against me) then it would be a lot of wasted effort.

Allow me to digress momentarily, if I were to attempt to advertise the idea of learning a new language I would say, "Learning a Language Can be Fun and Easy." This seems like a stupid cliche, but extraordinarily, it is actually true. I can barely go out without meeting somebody who can speak some Russian - so I relish the chance to practice. And the more I learn, the more I enjoy it.

As things turned out - there is nothing more between my Russian dancer friend and I. So I was faced with the decision to continue learning this new language or not.

In a strange moment of clarity I realised that I was not learning Russian for her... but for me. Incidentally enough I dated a Persian girl for many years and I never learned more than a few words of Farsi. Somehow it never appealed to me. But something about Russian did.

Anyway, my special friend was not the only Russian girl I met in Egypt, there were about seven that I was friendly with and I kept on thinking to myself that if I could repeat my life and go back there again but and suddenly be able to come out and start speaking Russian it would be amazing.

And if 3 months ago somebody would have told me that yesterday I would be spending the afternoon in the pub speaking Russian with the Polish girl that worked there I'd have probably told them to fuck off. But I did. (okay it was the odd phrase here and there...but I was suddenly aware of how much I had learned - and still wanted to learn)

All in all it is quite mystifying but somehow something feels "right". I love the idea of being able to speak this exotic language. My vanity is such that I feel that anybody who hears me speak Russian will be impressed with my intelligence. My stubborness is such that now that I have said I will learn Russian - I will not stop until I have learned Russian. But the Vanity thing is important - very important.

My vanity is what primarly made me start to learn Salsa, and with Russian my vanity/pride is kiicking in again - I am suddenly taken back to being 9 years old.

It is 1987 - On the TV I see a feature about the Challenger Space shuttle and the open trials they were having. I remember that there were various mental and physical tests -at the end of this little news feature the presenter said that beyond these mental and physical tasks was the fact that the successful candidate would have to learn to speak Russian. And this stuck with me. In order to be an astronaut - I would have to learn to speak Russian. (and as a 9 year old - that seemed an insurmountable obstacle)

So here I am - satisfying my inner child.

Also, I think of the Clint Eastwood Movie FIREFOX where Clint Eastwood would have to learn to THINK in Russian, all the James Bond movies... the cold war... Spies... intelligence agents... that Russian Playboy Centrefold I remember seeing a few years ago. All of these little things add up in my mind and make my decision worthwhile.

If I let you into a secret - I can speak Finnish as well, but this is through no choice of my own, I speak Finnish because I am half Finnish. (my grammer is terrible, but my vocabulary is reasonable) It helps with my pronunciation of Russian. But Russian is my choice... it feels right. And I cannot explain it more than that. Typical English arrogance is that everybody speaks English - so why should be bother to learn any other languages. Fair enough, but vanity makes me want to be better than them. Which leads me to my final point.

There is one final reason which for the time being I shall keep to myself. But I shall say this:

One never knows what the future holds.


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