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Oksana: Всем привет!
Erik: Erik here. All about, Lesson 3, Five tips to avoid common mistakes. Hello, and welcome to RussianPOD101.com, the fastest, easiest and most fun way to learn Russian!
Oksana: I'm Oksana, and thanks again for being here with us for this All About lesson.
Erik: In this lesson we’ll give you 5 top tips on ways to avoid common mistakes when speaking Russian.
Oksana: These tips will be particularly useful for beginners, but as even people who speak Russian fluently sometimes make this type of mistakes, hopefully, everyone will benefit from this lesson!
Erik: Yes, good advice is good advice for everyone! What’s the first tip?
Oksana: Well, we’re going to start with Cases. You must learn your Cases.
Erik: Can you briefly explain what a Case is?
Oksana: Well, it's a grammatical term that is used to indicate a change in the ending of a noun, adjective or pronoun. The choice of the case depends on the grammatical function of the word in the sentence.
Erik: And as all nouns, pronouns and adjectives have different endings in different cases, you have to remember lots of endings as well as to learn when to use each case.
Oksana: That sums it all up perfectly!
Erik: Yes it does, so what’s the tip about Cases?
Oksana: The tip is simply to learn your Cases and do so from the very beginning.
Erik: Why are Cases so important?
Oksana: Well, there are no cases in English, nouns and adjectives always stay the same no matter what their function and position in the sentence is.
Erik: And in Russian?
Oksana: In Russian, the endings of nouns and adjectives change depending on their function.
Erik: Given that it’s a totally new concept, do many beginners get it wrong?
Oksana: Absolutely but that’s to be expected. Mistakes are GREAT!
Erik: They are? Not when I was at school they weren’t. Mistakes were very bad!
Oksana: Well, the good thing about mistakes is that we can learn from them.
Erik: That’s very true! What mistakes do beginners make with Cases?
Oksana: When you start to learn any language and listen to native speaker`s talk, you try and pick up words that you’re familiar with because you can’t possibly grasp the whole sentence.
Erik: And how does that lead to mistakes?
Oksana: Because you’re learning ‘by ear’ this can lead to getting in the habit of speaking without any Cases meaning you don’t change the endings of nouns and adjectives.
Erik: So will a native Russian speaker understand you if you speak like this?
Oksana: They might, but it can be confusing. More importantly it’s a bad habit, and once you start a habit it’s really difficult to change when learning a language.
Erik: That’s very true. So it’s important to put that extra effort in the beginning. What examples can you give us to help us learn them?
Oksana: OK, correct case endings give speakers clues about what is being said. For example, in Russian you say, ‘У меня есть кошка’ - I have a cat.
Erik: I do have a cat actually! His name is ...
Oksana: Pay attention, Erik! So in that sentence, ‘У меня есть кошка’, ‘кошка’ doesn't change. However, if you want to say, ‘I don’t have a cat’, the sentence will sound like, ‘У меня нет кошки’.
Erik: How would it sound to a native speaker if I said, for example, “У меня нет кошка”?
Oksana: They’ll be confused because it isn’t clear whether you HAVE a cat or DON’T have a cat. The first part of the sentence tells them you don’t, and the second part tells them you do!
Erik: So, not learning the cases can really lead to confusion.
Oksana: Not only is there that confusion, if it isn’t right it can have a different meaning. Maybe you didn’t mean, ‘a cat’ at all, but a strange masculine noun, ‘кошк’ or neuter noun, ‘кошко’? ‘Кошко’ sounds very much like, ‘окошко’ which means window, so maybe you actually don’t have a window?
Erik: OK so let me just summarise. Learn the Cases and get into good habits right from the start.
Oksana: Absolutely. What’s the next tip?
Erik: Watch your stress. In Russian learning which syllable to accentuate is terribly important, isn’t it. What’s the rule? Is it like the penultimate syllable like in Italian or something like that?
Oksana: There is no rule!
Erik: None at all?
Oksana: No. It's just something you have to learn for each word. Sometimes even Russian native speakers are not sure how to stress a word correctly so don’t think it’s just you. Russian speaker or not, you have to learn it.
Erik: Can the meaning of a word change if you get it wrong?
Oksana: Oh yes! The word, ‘писать’ is a good example. With the stress on the last syllable it means, ‘to write’, but when the first syllable is stressed it means, ‘to pee’!
Erik: Wow, that’s quite a contrast! Useful if you need the toilet!
Oksana: I think we can find better ways of asking where the toilet is, Erik.
Erik: You’re right, that’s a bad habit I nearly started!
Oksana: So what is the tip number 3?
Erik: The third tip is to remember that verbs in Russian change depending on the person. In English you say:
- I work as a doctor.
- You work as a doctor.
In the present tense, the verb doesn’t change regardless of whether the subject is the first person ‘I’ or the second person ‘you’. How does that compare to Russian, Oksana?
Oksana: In Russian you use a different verb ending for, ‘I’ and, ‘you’ in the present tense.
- I work = Я работаю
- You work = Ты работаешь
It`s very common to English speakers to forget about it as in English the verb doesn’t change.
Erik: I can see how confusion can arise with the things so different from English.
Oksana: Also an English native speaker will tend to hear the ending, ‘-ешь’ in the question and tend to reply using ‘ешь’. For example:
- Где ты работаешь?
- Я работаешь в банке, when it should be, ‘Я работаю в банке’.
Erik: So there really is room for error. I’d say but use the language differences to your advantage. When you look at it as a new concept it can often be easier to learn as there is nothing to confuse it with.
Oksana: Great advice.
Erik: OK so tip number 4?
Oksana: Watch your gender!
Erik: Gender doesn’t exist in the English language. Take the past tense, it’s the same, no matter if the subject is a man, a woman or a number of people. For example:
- He finished writing the letter.
- She finished writing the letter.
- They finished writing the letter.
How does that compare to Russian?
Oksana: In Russian the ending of the verb in the past tense changes depending on the gender and the plurality, for example:
- Он закончил писать письмо - He finished writing the letter.
- Она закончила писать письмо - She finished writing the letter.
- Они закончили писать письмо - They finished writing the letter.
Erik: I see, there’s a pattern there. And a pronoun?
Oksana: Well, if the subject is, ‘я’ or ‘ты’, use the ending, ‘– л’ if the pronoun refers to a man, and ‘-ла’ if it refers to a woman.
Erik: Ok, can you give us some examples?
Oksana: Yes, absolutely. Talking about myself I would use the feminine form:
- Я была в Москве в прошлом году. - I was in Moscow last year.
Talking to you Erik, I would use the masculine form.
- Ты уже был в Италии? - Have you been to Italy yet?
Erik: Thank you very much Oksana. So, to avoid confusion practice getting it right from the start. Do Russians sometimes get this wrong too like having to learn which syllables to stress for unfamiliar words?
Oksana: Actually little Russian boys can get it wrong.
Erik: Really? How does that come about?
Oksana: Well, male non-native speakers that spend most of their time with a female, and vice versa can start using the wrong form in the past. For example, a man can say, ‘Я ходила в магазин’ just because he has heard it a lot and has gotten used to it, whereas he should actually say, ‘Я ходил в магазин’.
Erik: And little Russian boys do this too, do they?
Oksana: Yes, they can make the same mistake sometimes, again if they spend most of their time with females.
Erik: How interesting. At least it shows that the mistakes are natural.
Oksana: Oh yes, as I said earlier, mistakes are fine, you just have to learn from them immediately and move forward.
Erik. Excellent! So the last tip?
Oksana: Don’t try to translate, ‘it’.
Erik: Translate what?
Oksana: It.
Erik: But what is “it”?
Oksana: The word, ‘it’.
Erik: Oh, I see! What, never? Because in English you use the pronoun, ‘it’ to replace a noun when you are talking about a thing not a person, like:
- This is my favorite book. It’s very interesting.
Oksana: Which is fine, but in Russian the pronoun, ‘it’ doesn’t exist. It is replaced with, ‘he’ or, ‘she’ depending on their gender. That means, for example, that when you speak, you have to remember that “книга” (a book) is feminine, and that you should refer to it as, ‘она’ (she). So,
- Это моя любимая книга. Она очень интересная. - This is my favorite book. It’s very interesting
Erik: So this is another significant difference between Russian and English. Is there a common mistake for learners here?
Oksana: Yes, English speakers sometimes tend to forget this rule and look for the Russian word for ‘it’. ‘It is’ is sometimes translated as, ‘это’ in Russian, for example, ‘Это собака’, ‘It’s a dog’.
Erik: And we know that ‘это’ means, ‘this is’ rather than, ‘it. So, as Oksana has pointed out, you can see why it’s wrong to use ‘это’ to replace a noun. Ok, that just about does it for today. Do make a note of these RussianPod101 tips as it’ll really save you a lot of time and effort as you learn Russian. Premium members, don't forget to subscribe to the Premium Feed.
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Oksana: Всем пока!