Category Archives: Russian

International Mother Language Day

Сегодня – Международный день родного языка. Мой родной язык – Русский! Я горд моим родным языком даже если я не использую его каждый день.

Today – 21st of February – is the International Mother Language Day. My mother language is Russian! I am proud of my mother language, even if I do not get to use it every day.

Apart from Russian, I know reasonably good English and have dabbled in French, Esperanto and – now – Spanish. I feel that starting from Russian, many other European/Germanic languages are easier, because Russian has a very complex grammar system with its conjugation and cases, tenses and moods. This helps with relating features of other languages to the examples in the one(s) I already know. This, of course, does not help at all with pronunciation, which for me is now atrocious in whichever language I speak.

Studying Spanish, I do find omitted pronouns in Spanish, but even that has its equivalence in Russian. Unfortunately, there is no equivalence for conflating conjugation for he/she and you (él/ella y usted). Using accents to differentiate words is a bit confusing too (él y el, qué y que). I am sure as I progress in Spanish, these things will become the second (3rd? 5th?) nature, but for now they do grate a bit.

I find Esperanto the easiest language of all, which is not very surprising, since it was specifically designed to be really easy. If I had to design a language from scratch, I don’t think I would be able to come up with anything significantly simpler than Esperanto, while still addressing the real use.

On translated poetry and the power of internet

I am not into poetry. This could be easily explained by the fact that we had to learn by heart very long, very boring poems about hapless peasants in the Russian literature class.
But there was one short piece of poetry that I really liked. It was a translation by Marshak, who was often said to produce a better translation than the original was.
I did not remember who it was translated from, just the poem itself:

   О ПОЦЕЛУЕ
– Он целовал вас, кажется?
– Боюсь, что это так!
– Но как же вы позволили?
– Ах, он такой чудак!
Он думал, что уснула я
И все во сне стерплю,
Иль думал, что я думала,
Что думал он: я сплю!

I have tried to find the original several times, but never without success. It was not helped that I thought this work to be by Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. But all roads lead to the internet and it finally showed up. It turned out to be a much shorter verse by the english poet Coventry Patmore:

“I saw you take his kiss!” “‘Tis true.”
“O, modesty!” “‘Twas strictly kept:
“He thought me asleep; at least, I knew
“He thought I thought he thought I slept.”

I should be able to relax now, but I cannot. For – to me – the translation does sound much better than the original and I wish I could translate it preserved back into English to read to other people.