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she gives it to him

9th January 2008 permanent link

Tim Ferriss’s keys to rapid language learning: Sentence Six in Russian. (Sentence One, Sentence Two, Sentence Three, Sentence Four, Sentence Five)

She gives it to him
Она даёт его ему

“Ana dayot yevo yemu”. She gives it to him.

  1. Move along, nothing much to see here, except the stress not on the “o” in “oна”/“ana”, she, a very common word.

Then Tim recommends playing around with some more variations on the theme: negations, changes of tense, conditionals. Let’s try:

She did not take it from them
Она не взяла его у них

“Ana ne vsyala yevo u nich”. She did not take it from them.

  1. … in order to expose Russian’s horrifying gender forms of verbs. “vsyala” is the feminine past tense of “take”. Do I as a man need to worry much about learning this? Sadly, yes. One of my most common occasions for speaking Russian in everyday life, should I ever get good enough at it, would be responding to enquiries from my mother-in-law or my wife’s friends about things my wife said or did. Other male students’ mileage may vary.
  2. Furthermore, unlike English and French which both have four commonly used past tenses, and German which has three – Ancient Greek I seem to recall reading somewhere had lots & lots – Russian has one past tense, but two things called moods. I haven’t the slightest idea why these need a special separate name instead of just calling them “tenses”
  3. I had also rather hoped ablative might be one of Russian’s six noun cases, but it isn’t, and in any case “них”/“nich”, them, has no declensions. Its role in the sentence is made clear by the presence of the preposition “у”, “from”.

Where do I go from here? The American military rates Russian as a Category Three (out of Four) difficulty language for native English speakers, and I saw this article saying it requires 780 hours of immersive study to reach “intermediate” proficiency. Oops. Tim would want me to take that number with a pinch of salt, especially coming as it does from a company that exists to sell those immersive study hours. Instead elsewhere on his site he suggests starting vocabulary with a list of the hundred most common words in the language in question. So let’s see where I can find one of those. (I’m already ok with the twenty or so nouns most interesting to small boys, but disappointingly few everyday conversations tend to be about ships, planes, elephants or crocodiles.)

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