Friday, May 7, 2021

The Alphabet

 

Whatever we learn, or at least some of it, goes with us; it never gets completely lost.  I've realized that when visiting Moscow, a few years ago.


In the higher grade of elementary school, in communist Romania,  we started  to learn russian  as a second language. It was  difficult for us, native speakers of a romance language (romanian) because of 
russian's Cyrillic script as opposed to the Latin script.   Besides, our teacher was young and inexperienced, so the teaching was not very productive.

teacher of russian holding bouquet of flowers (my head touching it).


Years later, I managed to remember only a few random russian words,  but I did remember well  the alphabet. The knowledge of the alphabet was of tremendous help to me in two places in Moscow: the stunning Metro (reading the names of the stations), and the famous Novodevichi cemetery where all the 'Who's Who' of Russia were buried (reading the names on the headstones).

T-shirt with the map of the metro stations. It's made of fine cotton,
 

(The signs  everywhere in the city were in russian only, which made it very difficult for a tourist without a guide or group to find his way around).

After visiting the tombstones of politicians (Khruschev, Yeltsin), of writers (Chechkov, Gogol), composers (Shostakovitch), ballet dancer (Galina Ulanova), wives of Stalin and Gurbachev (Nadhezda, Raisa), violonist (David Oistreich), opera singer (Shaleapin) and others, I approached a small group of tourists in a corner I was about to explore on my own.

Yeltsin's  headstone; it catches the eye with its unusual shape and colors.


ballet dancer Galina Ulanova's tombstone

It turned out, the group I approached  was  israeli . While listening to the guide's explanations  (in hebrew),  I got the strange feeling he didn't know any russian. I was probably right, as he pointed to a headstone and said ;'here liesTupolev' (aircraft designer, the designer of the famous Tupolev  russian military bombers). 'No, I found myself intervening, Tupolev  lies next; have a look at the name on the stone'. There was silence in the air, and I felt badly about it.

Obviously, the guide could  not read russian.  I could....due to those rather boring russian lessons in elementary school. lol.

 

 

 

 

56 comments:

  1. I'd certainly be lost for words! :)

    Have a great weekend, DUTA..take good care.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Those who live in english- speaking countries or in most of the western countries are used to english being everywhere. Well, in Russia you'd better know some russian.

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  2. When we went to China we joined a tour group, because there was no way we would be able to read anything.

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    1. It's typical of communist or former communist countries to wish to emphasize their national language at all costs. And the cost is high as it affects tourism in a negative way.

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  3. Replies
    1. The Moscow trip was not an easy one, and not only because of the language. So, I felt rather good with myself when it was all over. I saw it as a personal achievement.

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  4. Wow Duta, amazing that you know Russian, Roumanian, Hebrew, English... Yiddish?? other languages too?! Wow, and the photo too is very precious of the class, and you next to the flower bouquet! Shabbat Shalom! blessings!❤️

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    1. Yes, the photo is precious to me. It's an end of school year photo. The teacher of russian was very loved as a person. She was so modest, even shy!
      Shabbat Shalom! Blessings to you too, Shayndel!

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  5. Perhaps the tour guide should have studied more what he would be touring before venturing out on it. Then he would have known whose tomb it was.

    What a wonderful class picture. Do you stay in touch with any of your fellow students?

    I admire anyone that can learn another language, no matter what the age. My mom's native language was Polish. I wish she taught us that along with English. A lot of Hispanic people here teach their children Spanish first then English.

    betty

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    1. A language is an asset. Parents should definitely pass on their mother tongue to their kids.
      We live in a restless world where people try to acquire passports and languages in case they'll have to become migrants.
      (To answer your question - no, I'm not in touch with any from the class picture).

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  6. Well your Russian letters paid off then, but one would think a guide would be able to read Russian when showing people around.
    The ballerina headstone is beautiful.

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    1. Paid off - indeed.
      The prestigious Novodevichi cemetery looks like an exhibition of sculptures depicting the deceased and their profession. The ballerina's headstone is quite impressive!
      (I wrote a post on the cemetery in july 2015).

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  7. When I met my boyfriend, he was writing his notes in Russian. It was an English lit class. Oh, I was so impressed. But I don't think he knows any of it anymore. That's so wonderful that you got a chance to use your Russian. That must have been a great trip. Loved the post!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The Moscow trip was a good trip (If you type Moscow in the search box you'll come about the posts I wrote on it).
      Your boyfriend has probably forgotten most of the russian he knew because he made little or no use of it.

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    2. Most definitely you need to use the language. You sound like one who likes to communicate and that is always helpful for especially a traveler. At one time, I helped out with a deaf class and I really wanted to learn which is one more language you must keep in contact with those who know it or you'll lose it. But one student was so helpful. He said he would trace over the drawing of the sign language and kept a notebook. He was from Mexico and had learned his own sign language from his grandmother. Unfortunately, he was left on his own and he did thankfully end up in the states. I may have forgotten sign language but he was very inspiring.

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    3. It has crossed my mind to learn sign language, but I gave up the idea as it did not seem practical to me for several reasons.
      Anyway, the story with the Mexican student is a nice one.

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    4. I hope you are doing OK. Just to let you know I am thinking of you and all the turmoil going on at the moment. Stay safe!

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    5. So far, I'm OK, thank God.
      Thanks for thinking about me. Things are not looking good, but we must stay optimistic.

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  8. And you have mastered English very well too, Duta.

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    1. Thank you.
      The thing with a language is that you might forget most of it if you don't use or practice it.
      I write my blog in english mainly for the purpose of preserving my knowledge of english. After my parents died I made great efforts to stay in touch with people with whom I could speak my native language - romanian.

      Fluency of speech is the heart of the matter. I have no english speaking contacts with whom I could practice english conversation, and so my stronger side is writing/reading.

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  9. Ah, the things we absorb when we don't know it! You have had a fascinating life and so many remarkable experiences!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Right. We sometimes absorb things without even being aware of it; it's stronger than us.
      If these absorbed things help us later in life, we feel gratitude and appreciation.That's what I felt about the russian alphabet. It sure helped me.

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  10. I took 2 years of Spanish in high school and don't remember much of it but I can say a couple of things.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. As I've said in the opening - not everything gets forgotten or lost. Some of it stays with us, and is remembered.
      Spanish is a major language and is spoken in many countries.

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  11. Sometimes, unfortunately language is a big barrier. When I was in Tenerife, they didn't have English language tours available, so we had to buy in Spanish which we don't know at all hehe: D

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    1. When we don't know the language of the place we're visiting, this language becomes a barrier, indeed.
      I usually take with me some word/phrase booklet, just in case...

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  12. That photo of you with that teacher and everyone else, is such a great photo!

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    1. Thanks Lon. I like it too. In this picture we are at a stage in life where we don't know yet of its difficulties. We look here nice kids and free of worry.

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  13. That is a very good class photograph.

    I also liked the photograph showing ballet dancer Galina Ulanova's tombstone, it is very nice.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you, Jan.
      Ulanova's tombstone is superb! It's not the only one to be admired. Novodevichi resembles an art exhibition, with a display of many beautiful sculptures representing the famous russians buried there.

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  14. que interesante, y que bueno que la guia no supiera el idioma para poder leerlo, jeje.

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    1. I'm glad you find my post interesting.
      As for the guide, I think the right guide to such a place, should have at least some minimal knowledge of the local language.

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  15. Yes knowing additional languages (however minimal) is always good.

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    1. I keep saying that, and encouraging both
      youngsters and parents to take that seriously. Even a minimal knowledge of a foreign language is a big asset which could open doors in the future.

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  16. My parents and grandparents had to learn Russian too in school. I can read some Russian too, but my generation didn't learn it at school. I admire XIX century Russian litarature, Dostojewski is amazing!

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    1. Polish (your language) and Russian are both slavic languages, thus, closely related. However, as far as I know, polish uses Latin script no Cyrillic, so that makes a difference.

      There's much good to be said about russian literature in general, and Dostoevsky's in particular.

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  17. This is such an interesting post! The tombstones, especially of the ballet dancer are beautiful. I like your class photo and good for you for retaining some of what you learned.
    I took latin in high school, but have retained very little.

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    1. Thank you Mari. I'm glad you liked it.
      It's a known fact that what we don't use we forget; that's especially true of languages. Pity!

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  18. LOL! That's funny! LOL! Good for you knowing Russian! I love the picture of you in school and those headstones are wonderful! Big Hugs!

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    1. It is rather funny, but I remember feeling a bit embarrassed by the situation.
      Anyway, thanks a lot for your kind words about the pictures.
      Big hugs to you too!

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  19. That is really a win-lose situation! He should have known. I think you did well.

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    1. I wish to believe that every tourist guide has some basic knowledge of the local language.
      Even if there are signs in a major language like english, french,german, spanish - still, the man in the street/market/shop knows mainly his native language and it often makes things difficult.

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  20. This is one advantage of learning other languages :)
    It is funny, he was so confident. I think he need to learn basic alphabet, symbols, or simple local words as a tourist guide.

    Have a great week, Duta.

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    1. Definitely. A good guide that respects his profession, would have to know at least the basics of the local language
      A great week to you too, Evi!

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  21. You always post such interesting things. Love visiting your blog.

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    1. That's quite a compliment! I am flattered.
      Thank you Linda.

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  22. it's awesome you were able to absorb enough in school to help navigate around, and it's so good you could correct the guide so people understood the correct location! I think they may have felt a little embarrassed but I'm sure people liked you correcting them!

    Hope you are having a good day :) It's a stormy one here!

    Away From The Blue

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    1. Thank you, Mica, for your...awesome comment. It's encouraging and supporting, it made my day.

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  23. Duta, thinking of you. I just heard news about Israel and thought of you. I hope you are safe. Are the troubles near you?

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    1. Thanks Sandi for your concern.
      Well, the troubles are everywhere - rockets in the sky, riots on the ground.

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  24. i love old photos:) they bring back so many memories;)

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    1. Me too. There is something about those old black and white photos that catches the eye and doesn't let it go. It's memories, nostalgia, youth.

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  25. Dear DUTA...all the reports I'm seeing and hearing coming out of Israel are very worrying, very upsetting. I do hope you are okay. Please take good care...stay safe. My thoughts and best wishes are with you and your loved ones.

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    1. I greatly appreciate your thoughts and wishes for me, dear Lee.

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  26. We are thinking of you, Duta. Stay well and stay safe during this awful crisis that is happening in Israel. Hugs from Canada.

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    1. Thank you so much.I really appreciate your thoughts, wishes, and hugs.

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