Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Oksana: Здравствуйте!
Erik: Erik here! All about! Lesson 1. Five reasons why you should learn Russian! Hi my name’s Erik and I’m your friendly non-Russian guide as we learn all about the history of the Russian language.
Oksana: And I’m Oksana! I’m a Russian native and I’m here to help Erik out along the way.
Erik: Russian is one of the most widely spoken languages in Eurasia and it really has quite a history behind it. Doesn't it, Oksana?
Oksana: Yes it certainly has, some records even date back to the 10th century though it starts to get more accurate with much more solid information from the 14th century.
Erik: And as with most languages, its origins are a mixture of local dialects and words borrowed from languages of neighboring countries. How far back can we go?
Oksana: Pre-14th century records suggest that origins were Germanaic. Though we do know is that during the 14th century, known as the Kievan period, the main influences were Byzantine Greek and Old Church Slavonic.
Erik: Wow that’s a lot right there, and we’re still in the 14th century!
Oksana: I know! The language was quite stable for some time during what was known as the Moscow period up until the 17 century with Polish and German words meandering their way into Russian, as well as French which became increasingly influential.
Erik: Do you think it sounded much like the Russian we know today?
Oksana: It probably sounded familiar but it may have been quite difficult to understand.
Erik: Well, if you want confusing, during the 18th and 19th century, the French language influence was so great that the nobles actually spoke French fluently, even better than Russian!
Oksana: Really? What happened? Did they all move to Paris in search of warmer weather?
Erik: No, at least, I don’t think so! This was the period when a conscious effort was made to really modernize Russian and it became much more like the Russian we know and love today.
Oksana: I’m still fascinated by the French influence!
Erik: It was indeed quite prominent. Tolstoy’s books illustrates this really well and many of the letters in the book, ‘War and Peace’ were in French.
Oksana: ‘War and Peace’, is that huge book with like a million pages right?
Erik: I don’t think it’s a million but it is a long book yes.
Oksana: One of the biggest changes to Russian was during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Erik: How did it affect the language? Did they all go back to speaking French again?
Oksana: No Erik. However, many English words flooded into Russian and became part of everyday discourse.
Erik: You mean English words like they use in European languages? Like, ‘weekend’?
Oksana: Actually, yes. Though especially with the rise of the internet too, words such as ‘ноутбук’, ‘драйвер’, ‘чат’ became commonplace in Russian.
Erik: Драйвер? Like a bus driver? All right, I’m joking.
Oksana: The word for a bus driver had already existed in Russian, they didn’t need to borrow it from English! No, it was all more computer-related.
Erik: But was it all just about computers and stuff?
Oksana: Of course not! In addition to I.T. terminology, other English words from business and socialising also became part of everyday Russian, words like “бизнесмен” or “офис”.
Erik: With all these new words in the language, did it affect the media?
Oksana: Absolutely. Nowadays it’s difficult to talk about world events without mentioning the internet and many other common words.
Erik: Yes absolutely. The other thing is that those working in the media were no longer required to speak perfect Russian. This is very significant because during the Soviet times, if you did not speak absolutely correctly, you either lost your job or wouldn’t never have been employed in the first place.
Oksana: So it stands to reason that the media had to change too. I suppose it’s impossible to technically speak perfectly at the same time as using a whole host of foreign words.
Erik: But it wasn’t just the inclusion of foreign words was it?
Oksana: No it wasn’t, you’re right. This almost snowballed into a new approach of speaking Russian where once strict rules simply no longer applied.
Erik: Can you give an example?
Oksana: Yes. Take the word, “кофе" (coffee). In Russian, words that end in “е" are usually neuter, like моё полотенце (my towel) for example. However, “кофе” has always been considered as an exception and was masculine, мой кофе (my coffee). Nowadays «моё кофе» has become acceptable along with «мой кофе» even though many people still think it’s wrong and “bad Russian”.
Erik: Did everybody embrace this? I imagine purists and maybe academics wondering what was happening to their language?
Oksana: You’re right. It was older people too. The problem was that it wasn’t a gradual and progressive change like in the past. It was very sudden, almost happening before their very eyes.
Erik: That must have felt horrible for them and possibly still does. They probably felt like they were in a foreign country themselves.
Oksana: I know, it must has been so strange. Though that was then and now it’s just a way of life. What were once new words have been a new way of speaking now for many years now.
Erik: Yes, so we have new words and a new way of speaking altogether!
Oksana: Well, perhaps not a new way of speaking but it certainly is different.
Erik: OK, well, that makes Russian even more interesting, a mixture of so much history and culture now peppered with modern ways of expression!
Oksana: Which is a good reason to learn the language, and it isn’t the only one! Let’s look at the top 5 reasons to learn Russian!
Erik: OK, starting with number 5. Russian is extremely popular. Up to 160 million people speak it as their first language. It's the eighth most spoken language in the world, ahead Japanese, German, French and Italian. It is still spoken natively in all former Soviet republics, some of which are part of the EU now such as Latvia. In Eastern Ukraine, for example, people speak Russian rather than Ukrainian.
Oksana: And the 4th top reason to learn Russian - It’s exotic! Yes it does a different alphabet and writing system; however, these differences mean you start with a totally fresh and new foundation meaning you’re very unlikely to get it confused with other languages. Some Italians learning Spanish and vice versa find it difficult because of so many similarities. You don’t get that in Russian! It’s arguably easier to learn than other languages such as Arabic and Japanese.
Erik: The 3rd top reason to learn Russian - Traveling! Russia is a beautiful country and has always attracted tourists by its historical past and culture. Russian theatre and in particular ballet are world famous.
Oksana: The 2nd top reason to learn Russian - For Business. Since the former Soviet Union opened its borders to foreigners, lots of business people travel to Russia and particularly to Ukraine. Russia is surrounded by many countries it has commercial dealings with not to mention the online world.
Erik: And the top reason you should learn Russian - Love and romance, of course! Love makes the world go round as the saying goes. Lots of people learn Russian because they already have a Russian partner. Of course, many learn Russian because they want a Russian partner!
Oksana: So if you are hesitating about whether or not you should learn Russian, don't hesitate anymore, especially as Russianpod101 is here to help you and make learning fun.
Erik: That just about does it for today.
Erik: Don't forget that you can leave us a comment on this lesson.
Oksana: So if you have a question, or some feedback, please leave us a comment!
Erik: It's very easy to do. Just stop by RussianPod101.com,
Oksana: click on comments,
Erik: Enter your comment and name,
Oksana: and that's it.
Erik: No excuses. We're looking forward to hearing from you!
Oksana: Пока!
Erik: Bye!