Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Russian Teacher

I couldn’t ask for a better language instructor than Raisa Dmitrievna. She taught Russian to foreign students at Kharkov National University and co-authored the textbook I'm using. It's a new experience for me. Many of her students were Arabic, so I often find myself reading exercises like this: "My name is Achmed. I am from Lebanon. My grandparents live in the village." Sometimes, I imagine this as a kind of post-9/11 sensitivity training seminar, wherein I learn that Arabic people are no different than me. Then I suffer a setback and hear a familiar voice in my ear: “My name is Achmed. I am Evil Doer. I come from an Evil Place. I am on the internets now. It can be Evil too.”

I met Raisa Dmitrievna through a Peace Corps Volunteer who has since left town and have since been seeing her three times a week for about two hours a day. At least in my presence, she has never spoken more than two words in English in a row (she maxed out with "Buckingham Palace" a few weeks ago). And becuase I still have trouble getting many Russian words to peacefully assemble together, we often have to reach for a third language to understand each other: French. "'D'accord?'" she might say. "You know 'd'accord?'" "Agreed?" "Da, 'agreed!'" I know even less French than Russian, so when I'm not writing, I'm doing my homework for Raisa Dmitrievna.

1 Comment:

Susan said...

Alright, that Achmed the Evil-Doer schtick just made me snort mineral water through my nose. I hope that's therapeutic for the sinuses, somehow.