Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rooskie Yazik

Documenting our unschooling journey is a challenge. Most days if you were a casual observer you would think we're not schooling our children at all. But they are learning, every moment of every day they're learning something new. One new thing they're learning is some Rooskie Yazik ~ Russian.

~Pryvet (hi/hello) from Shannon~

Shannon had really been showing a lot of interest in speaking things in foreign tongues. I use that phrase as both boys have taken to making up their own language as well as actually trying to learn other languages.
While I took Spanish in high school (even went to Spain), I must admit that having Spanish shoved down our throats lately by well-meaning PBS shows and characters ala Miss Rosa has made me rather sick of it. And, I'm also really tired of hearing about learning to speak Mandarin. This seems to be the new "white collar" language that is the subject of moms' conversations whenever a playgroup springs up. There is validity for learning both of those languages, and I won't put down anyone who does but, as usual, our path has led us in a different direction.

Why Russian? Well, I like it. I like hearing men speak it, there is something very masculine about the language to my ears. A kinda sexist statement, but the truth none the less. Also, and more importantly, the boys have a Babushka ("grandmother"). My step-mother is from the Ukraine, meaning one of their grandmothers is fluent in Russian. (For you persnickety folks, yes, we know there is a difference between Ukrainian Russian and Russian) That's just a gem there that can't be passed up!! Justin's grandfather also speaks a little Russian, so there is another bonus.

How have we been learning? Well, we debated a lot on this one. We looked at Muzzy, but heard a lot of bad reviews. Sitting our kids in front of tv so they can watch something in a foreign language over and over and over and over isn't exactly something we go "woo hoo, let's do that!" about. So we asked around. A good friend recommended A free site that teaches you with simple phrases, sounded out by someone speaking them as well as written in front of you.
So far we've learned the phrases: "hello/hi," "Good Morning," "Good Afternoon," "Goodbye," "No," "Yes," and "Excuse Me."

I say that we've learned them because we realized something. We couldn't expect Shannon to just magically learn a foreign language by clicking through some cards on the computer and hearing someone speak them to him. He needed to hear them during the day and be able to say them during the day. WE had to learn it all as well. The family that learns together ..... speaks Russian together ~ or something like that.
Submersion is the key. Of course, trying to submerse yourself in a foreign language without a fluent speaker living in the house with you, or around you constantly, is kinda like trying to learn to scuba dive (or at least snorkel) in a bathtub. You get the hang of it, the general idea of it, but it is a much slower process than just being tossed out there to the big blue sea.

And, of course, they still are learning proper English. Or American. And they're still learning manners and etiquette. AND we're Southern. That might not sound like it adds up to anything, but you haven't heard "Da ma'am" (yes ma'am) and "Nyet sir" (no sir) spoken with a slight Southern twang before. This was very evident when my step-mother tried helping us with pronunciation and I had to tell her "that IS what they're saying."
And Shannon, being the big brother that he is, has decided Tristan must also learn proper Russian. The main one is "Yzveeneete" which means "excuse me." Potty humor is naturally something hysterical to the boys, so we have lots of opportunities to use this phrase daily. If Tristan burps Shannon will quickly say "what do you say?" to which Tristan replies "Excuse me." (Point needed here - Tristan will say this on his own, without prompting, but Shannon likes to prompt and boss) Shannon will then look at Tristan and say "In Russian."

And so it goes that we all learn a little Rooskie Yazik. When we've gotten these phrases really downpat, we'll move add another set. No rush, just learning to scuba dive in the tub, we're not likely to find sharks.



Carole and Chewy said...

So glad you liked Byki and it appears you've started with a more useful list than we did - unless a bear runs in fornt of us, we can all yell 'el oso' together, and point.

Carrie and Justin said...

Knowing where you live, you stand a fair enough chance of a bear running in front of you! ;)