Throughout my life, I could always depend on Russian to be this secret language between my parents and I. It was nice knowing no one could understand us – especially in certain situations. Now English is our secret language, but I find myself still talking to strangers in English. I don’t mean to; I’m used to assuming everyone knows English. For example, I just ran into somebody by accident and quickly said, “Oh, sorry” to the guy. Then I realized he did not understand me. I am forced to use Russian. I can’t depend on my parents as translators.
Keeping up a conversation here is a struggle, not gonna lie. Although my listening skills are great, talking without any grammar mistakes is slow and painful. I feel stupid because I can’t express myself like I can in English. My new goal is to keep whoever I’m talking to in Russian from losing interest. I really don’t like it when people keep up in conversation not because they care but because they feel bad for me and are just trying to be polite. Usually when I speak Russian, the conversation is motivated by the desire to help me learn the language. Although that’s how it works in the class I took at Bowdoin, the real world is different. Most people want to get something out of conversation, not be practice for improving my Russian. Good conversation has always been one of my strengths and the language barrier makes me uncomforatable and awkward.
I’ve recently realized that I’ve nailed the basics of Russian and memorized certain phrases. My first impression is great, until the conversation starts. Then people realize I’m not actually fluent. These phrases mostly include my apologizing for not being able to speak well.
I’m still learning, and hopefully I’ll be more fluent by the end of the trip.