Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Russian language

As I have told in Kharkov they don't speak Ukrainian, but Russian. Even though all signs and university lectures are in Ukrainian I don't think this part of Ukraine ever spoke Ukrainian. They say Russian is a rich language, that there are about 50.000 words compared to 25.000 in English, and for sure I know there are a lot of cuss words. But I wonder how many are actively used, the few Russian words I have learned tend to pop up extremely often. And actually the way they construct sentences in Russian often reminds me of the way Tarzan is speaking. They don't use a lot of filling words, like 'is/am/are' or 'the/a'. In Russian you wouldn't say 'my name is Tarzan' or 'I am Tarzan', but rather something like 'me Tarzan'. If you mean to say 'how do I get to the metro' you simply say 'how get to metro' (kak braidji k'metro). When my colleagues mean to suggest that we go to lunch, they would never say 'hey! shall we maybe go for lunch now, or something..?', but more likely 'go, eat!' ('paidjum yiest'). And when we have had our lunch and want the waiter to take the money we have put, I have heard them say 'girl, take!' ('diervoschka vaizmi'). I don't think they mean to be rude, I guess they just like to cut to the chase.

I regret a bit that I have not had time to study some more Russian because it can teach you a lot about the country and culture. For example I find it interesting that people here most often don't ask 'how are you doing?' and when they do the standard answer is not 'fine' or 'good', but rather 'normal'. I guess it is more honest because if you are always 'good', 'good' becomes 'normal'. To me it is also interesting the way all Russians like to use short forms of each others' names. If for example your name is Alexander, people will more often call you names like Sasha, Sania, Sucha, Ljosha, Ljolik or numerous others. Some times the short forms aren't really shorter, girls called Olga are often called 'Ole' which is funny for me because my brother Ole has also been called Olga for fun. What has also caught my Danishly vain interest is that people here - when something goes wrong - like to use a quote from Shakespeare, 'not everything is good in the kingdom of Denmark'.

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