No, ME talk pretty.

Some people fear clowns and some people fear spiders but my biggest phobia, I am coming to realize, is going to a country where I don’t speak the language. The thing is, if you take ‘good at using words to communicate’ away from me, well, that is my entire personality right there. I don’t have any other skills. Except yoga, I guess, and karaoke, but those are of limited utility except in very specific situations.

Also I keep thinking about the time when, at 13, I had to try to explain to the mom of the host family I was staying with in Bordeaux that I was going to need to go to the pharmacie to buy les uhh comment dit-on “pads?” because it was only the second time in my life I’d ever menstruated and I didn’t yet know how to insert les tampons, which were the only produits d’hygiène féminine I’d been able to find under le sink. Êtes-vous là, Dieu? C’est moi, Emily. I still cringe when I remember this.

So I was determined not to show up in Russia completely 100% ignorant of Russian. However my chronic procrastinatory tendencies have led me to this pass where until very recently my only language training had consisted of spending a week hanging out with some delightful albeit condescending Russian children, who quickly gave up hope of teaching me anything complicated like how to count to three and started mocking me to my face. “Do you want to know how to say ‘computer’? (Exaggerated explainy-voice): компьютер. (Kompyooter.)” Oh. Thank you, little one. Hey, just wait til your Broca’s or is it Wernicke’s area gets a little bit less plastic and then get back to me, ok? It’s not so easy to pick up languages after your 12th or for that matter 26th birthday, you’ll find!

So then I got the Rosetta Stone thing, which I rush-ordered three weeks ago and then I guess I thought it would work by osmosis or something because it sat on my desk unopened until this week (I leave Friday). And while it is really fun — seriously, I finally understand why people play video games, advancing a level is so satisfying — I’m not sure that its full-immersion approach is actually best suited to my needs right now. I probably need to know how to say things like “I don’t speak Russian” and “Where is the subway?” but instead my conversation will consist of, like, “Man runs. Woman swims. (Or actually more likely ‘Women swims’ and ‘Man run.’) Girl drinks. Boy eats. Apple! What? Tea! Computer!”

17 comments to No, ME talk pretty.

  • owapapercut


  • emily

    Thanks but that should not be necessary since I am bringing my own this time.

  • Tim

    “Da” might come in handy, it means yes.

  • TC

    I have to give you credit for actually TRYING to learn the language of the place you are visiting rather than just assuming, “They’ll speak English….” I’ve never been out of U.S./Canada (frown), but I my biggest fear is not being able to read signs to get around.

    Just make sure you don’t say the wrong thing cause, you know, you don’t want to wind up with no hands, face or teeth floating in the Volga river.

    If nothing else, watch “Eastern Promises” on the plane and try to pick up Viggo’s accent….

  • Ha ha. “Tampon” means stamp in French. Not a stamp you mail, a stamp you make with an inkpad. As in if you’re trying to renew your carte de séjour and you don’t have the right tampon, you’re screwed, and proffering a Tampex won’t help your case.

    Can’t really help with Russian, but apparently “chut chut gulaboy” (SP!!), which literally translates as “a little bit blue,” is a charming Russian euphemism for “that guy is a flaming queer.”

    Have a great trip!

  • russia!

    i am so jealous–why and where are you going. you will love it–last time i was there nobody really spoke english except in moscow, but oh my geez it is an amazing place and the people will help you communicate with carafes of homemade vodka no worries at all!
    Яблоко! Что? Чай! Компьютер!

  • Well, is very helpful. It is humorous, but oh so true. There are some useful phrases also…

    (I know, since I live next to Russia with many Russians in our contry.)

  • Yeah, like you’re that great at using words to communicate in English.

  • April MAe June

    I was in love with a East German girl. Our schedules were difficult to synch – we saw each other just enough to fall in love, but could not get a whole night together. Finally we arranged to have a weekend when we could consummate our feelings.

    I’ll never forget when she called me in a deep funk the day we were supposed to take off together and anounced “I’ve got the Red Army.” It was a terribly sweet and apt euphemism.

  • I hope you’ll be able to shine a first hand light on the so-called drinking problem that’s supposedly plaguing Russia. If it’s something you notice. Apparently Moscow alone washes down two million bottles of vodka every day? That’s just nuts. Do tell!

  • Gay Blade

    Matias- go suck a c0ck.

  • arthur

    I have been living in Spain and France (with the wee bit trips to home on the East Coast) for some odd nine years and I will say this:

    I speak English pretty.

    I had made my living with my mouth (don’t go there) and when I was confronted with the reality that I could not do what I do best I was freed from…me. That is both good and bad and ultimately ok and liberating.

    Leek Soup:

    4 leeks
    2 potatoes
    1 litre of water
    salt and white pepper

    Chop and dice the leeks and potatoes. Boil covered for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Blend with a hand wand. Add water or reduce as necessary.

    Serve with a soft bread, like a brioche. Thin slices of dried duck breast is good too.

    Watch the first three episodes of HBO’s “True Blood”.

  • Don’t be such a little bitch, Gay Blade.

  • hedi

    i don’t speak russian- jaa njee gavarjuu po russki.

  • Julie

    I learned this from my russian friend (trying to be phonetic)…the number ‘4′ is too hard to pronounce:
    zd-rah-stay (hello)
    ah-deen (one)
    devah (two)
    t-ree (three)
    spuh-see-bah (thank you)

  • Alice

    You are REALLY REALLY good at karaoke, though. And everyone knows karaoke is the everyman’s diplomatic babel fish.

    Also Matias, your writing is shit.

  • Aw, that’s so CUTE, Alice! You actually left a little comment on my blog to prove you were there and read some of it and think it’s shit. Thank you for going the extra mile!

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