Interesting Russian Books

While studying the Russian language, it’s impossible to avoid meeting with good old classics. Most of you probably have heard of, or even read, the great and sizeable «War and Peace» by Leo Tolstoy, and equally famous «Crime and Punishment» by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. You can also add Anton Chekhov and his witty short stories, as well as Mikhail Bulgakov’s devilish «Master and Margarita» to that list. These are the first names that come up whenever I ask a non-Russian person about Russian literature.

Don’t get me wrong, these authors are great. They are the true jewels on the crown of Russian culture, and their writing style and ideas have had a great influence not only on the contemporary writers, but on the Russian people as well. However, I have always found it a little puzzling that most of contemporary Russian books remain largely unnoticed on the world literature stage. Especially since a lot of people from my generation have grown up reading those books and they affected the way we see the world and how we interact with others. So, in order to gain a better understanding of what modern Russians are like, it’s highly recommended to get acquainted with the books they read. Not to mention that the books I’m going to talk about are all extremely well written and entertaining.

** Language Learning Note: Some of these books are available in adapted versions. Here is the main publisher of adapted Russian books for language learners. These are e-book version, but you can also buy them online at amazon.
1)  «Adventures of Erast Fandorin» by Boris Akunin. The series has been the detective classics for at least few decades now and still haven’t lost their popularity. Imagine something in the lines of James Bond meets Sherlock Holmes in 19th century Russia. Awesome, right? Many of the books are translated into English. Boris Akunin is a tremendously talented author, known for his elegant and witty writing style.

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2) «The Night Watch» series by Sergei Lukyanenko. The books have become very popular in Russia thanks to the movie adaptation of the same title which came out in the early 2000s. If urban fantasy is your thing, you’re going to love this. Meet Anton, an ordinary Russian guy, who one day finds out that there is much more to our world that meets the eye. By more I mean opposing supernatural organizations, the shifting balance between Light and Darkness, vampires, witches and sorcerers. Oh, and there is plenty of personal drama, good dialogue and fantastic plot twists.

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3) «The House, in which…» (or «The Gray House») by Myriam Petrosyan. The book tells of a boarding school for disabled children and was published in Russian in 2009, becoming a bestseller. It was nominated for the Russian Booker Prize in 2010 and received several awards and nominations, among them the 2009 Russian Prize for the best book in Russian by an author living abroad. I read this book last autumn and still haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s rather challenging to try to explain the plot, and I think that it’s much better to let you see for yourself. The experience is simply incredible. The English translation will be coming out in April 2017.

Dom,_v_kotorom..._(2009_cover)

4) «The Roadside Picnic» by Strugatsky brothers. This short novel is a must read to all the lovers of science-fiction. In fact, many people are familiar with Andrey Tarkovsky’s movie Stalker, which is loosely based on this very novel. Despite being written more than 40 years ago, the story keeps firm position on the top of all-time favourite sci-fi list. If you enjoy the story, make sure to check out more of Strugatsky novels. I especially recommend «Monday begins on Saturday» and «Hard to be a God», all available in English.

Roadside-picnic-macmillan-cover

5) «Generation P» (translated to English as «Homo Zapiens» and «Babylon) by Viсtor Pelevin. A rather bold and controversial read, if you ask me, but very interesting. The book deals with such themes as heavy drug use, philosophy of consumerism and even Mesopotamian mythology, all taking place in the post-Soviet Russia. The narrative style is rather playful and at times straight out hilarious.

I could have added a lot more books to this list, but unfortunately, they haven’t been translated to English yet. Let’s hope it will be fixed in the nearest future. As for now, I’ll be very happy if one of the books I’ve mentioned above will pick your interest. After all, there is nothing like reading a good book for the first time. Enjoy!

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Challenge#4

Всем привет! ^_^

Наконец, Рождество и Новый год позади, и после долгих двух недель переедания мы можем вернуться к нормальной жизни.

Сегодня наше задание будет немного необычным. Мы будем писать отзыв на фильм или сериал. Честно говоря, я очень люблю кино и могу говорить на эту тему бесконечно. А вы? 🙂

Но прежде всего давайте посмотрим, какие слова обычно используют в отзывах:

Я посмотрел/ла – I saw/watched…(a movie, TV-show, etc.)
Просмотр
view (as in viewing the movie)
Жанр
genre
Сюжет –
plot
Режиссёр
director
Актёры
actors
Бюджет
budget
Спецэффекты
special effects
Мне понравилось/не понравилось…
I liked/disliked
Меня впечатлил/ла/ло
I was impressed by….
Меня разочаровал/ла/ло
I was disappointed by…
По-моему...-
in my opinion…
Я рекомендую
I recommend

1) А сейчас я хочу рассказать вам о своих впечатлениях после просмотра фильма “Звёздные войны: Пробуждение Силы”.

Я очень люблю “Звёздные войны”, поэтому нового фильма ждала с нетерпением. По-моему, это один из самых крутых фильмов в жанрах “фантастика” и “фэнтези”. Я слышала, что у фильма есть новый режиссер и очень большой бюждет. Мне было интересно посмотреть, что получится. И результат меня не разочаровал. 

Фильм получился динамичным и интересным, с хорошими шутками и правдоподнобной драмой. Спецэффекты впечатляют!

Актеры замечательно сыграли свои роли. Мне особенно понравился нестандартный антагонист. Также было очень приятно увидеть персонажей оригинальной трилогии.

Правда, одна вещь меня разочаровала: сюжет этого фильма слишком уж похож на “Звездные войны: Новая Надежда”. Надеюсь, следующий фильм удивит нас необычным сюжетом.

Я рекомендую этот фильм всем, кто любит подобный жанр, да и просто тем, кто любит хорошо провести время. 

2) А какой фильм вы посмотрели недавно? Напишите небольшой отзыв о нем.

* Более продвинутым ученикам предлагаю посмотреть и написать отзыв на первый эпизод русского комедийного сериала “Как я стал русским”. Вы можете это сделать вот здесь.

Успехов! 🙂

How to read in your target language

There are many ways of improving your language skills, and reading in target language is definitely one of them. It’s a perfect chance to expand your vocabulary, while at the same time experiencing the beauty of original storytelling. After all, certain things will always be lost in translation.  Some people claim they don’t like to read, but it’s very possible they just haven’t found their book yet. Here are some tips on how to choose a perfect book in your target language and make your reading experience as fun and useful as it can be.

Selecting the book – quickly skim a couple of pages to make sure you can understand at least half the words present. Be aware of your level, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. For instance, being a beginner with little or no previous reading experience, you could aim for adapted books or children books that mostly consist of short and simple sentences. That will boost your confidence and help you to distinguish the basic sentence structures. However, once you’ve reached intermediate level, you could try your luck with something a bit more tough, but infinitely more enjoyable.

General tips – Read aloud to practice pronunciation and intonation. Not only it will develop your acting skills, but it will also make your speech flow more naturally in a normal conversation. It’s a good idea to have an audio narration of the book you’re reading, as it will help you avoid some pronunciation mistakes.

How to read and what to do with unknown words

1 – Read a section

2 – When you come across unknown words, try to understand their meaning from the context

3 – If  you fail to understand the meaning or need to check your wild guess, look up the word in the dictionary and establish some emotional connection with it (e.g.: игла – needle -pinch yourself- ouch!)

4 -Another thing you can do if you are being stalked by a certain word, write the stubborn thing down. As you do it, include the context you saw it in. A graphic illustration can also be of help, but don’t get carried away – it’s reading we’re after, not painting! Maybe include 2 or 3 examples of the said word. The more often you notice it, the more likely you will remember it.

5 – Go over your list of words before you read next time.

How to use reading to improve grammar

Focus on a specific grammar rule you want to learn. For example, genitive case in Russian – notice where this occurs and the context it is used. Reward yourself every time you get it right with an affectionate pat on the shoulder. You can also use this technique for recognizing specific constructions such as esli bi…, etc. Works every time!

Now, for those of you who’re interested in Russian books I recommend this site: http://loveread.ws/
The site has a great collection of Russian books or those translated to Russian, all of them presented online. Fiction, non-fiction, novels, psychology, thrillers, erotic stories – you name it.  No registration is required. The search button is at the bottom right and is called “Поиск по сайту”.

Hope I was of some help. Thank you and see you soon on our next challenge! 🙂

Recipes in Russian

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, it is very important when learning a language to interact with it as much as possible. If you like to cook and do it often, why not use recipes (рецепты) that are written in Russian? You will learn the names of different ingredients, as well as verbs like “to pour”, ” to add”, and many others that can be useful in other situations. This is the website I often use to find recipes. There are different categories (категории) in which you can search:

  • You can choose the dish you want to cook. Luckily, the site offers pictures, so that shouldn’t be a problem. For example, you find yourself obliged to cook a tasty dessert. Press on the picture of those delicious pancakes that says “выпечка и десерты” (pastry and desserts) and feast your eyes on thousands of mouthwatering options.
  • You can choose the”кухня“, a cuisine. Which cuisine do you prefer? (Какую кухню вы предпочитаете)? Китайскую (Chinese), мексиканскую (Mexican), индийскую (Indian)? А, может, русскую (Russian)?
  • You can also find a recipe based on your diet or preference (предпочтения): vegetarian food (вегетарианская еда), menu for children (детское меню), low-fat food (низкокалорийная еда).
  • Or maybe you already have a main ingredient (ингредиенты) and don’t know what to do with it? Это не проблема! Simply type in the name of the ingredient into the search window, and you’ll get many interesting suggestion
ПРИЯТНОГО АППЕТИТА! (Bon appetit!)

 

Вежливость (Politeness)

Я нашла интересную статью о том, что думают британцы о русских туристах. Теперь я понимаю, почему стюардессы в самолётах смотрели на меня странно, когда я спросила: “Вэр из зэ тойлет?”

Вы можете прочитать статью здесь.

А вот некоторые слова из статьи:

  • вежливость – politeness
  • грубо/грубость – rudeness
  • приветствия –  greetings
  • жаловаться – to complain
  • ведут себя – behave themselves
  • оправдываться – to make excuses
  • нахамить – to be rude
  • приемлемо – acceptable

Ответьте на вопросы:

  • Какие правила вежливости приняты в вашей стране?
  • Может ли быть “слишком” вежливым?
  • Что вы думаете о русских?

How to be polite “the Russian way”

Greetings, my dear readers!

I’ve recently come across a very interesting article on how other people see Russian tourists and Russians in general. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t that surprised to learn that we’re often seen as “mean”,”rude” or even “completely nuts”. But what is it about us that makes people use such unbecoming titles? I have a few theories that I’d like to share:

  •  First thing to mention is our intonation. I mean, of course, every single language in the world has its own unique rhythm and sound. However, the problem is that Russian intonation can actually trick foreign listeners into thinking that we’re being angry about something. For instance, when I talk to my students, I make sure to smile a lot and keep my voice light and slightly higher than normal. I do it for a very good reason, because a few times that I tried to use my normal voice, my students thought I were tired and in a bad mood.
  • The next thing is smiling. As you may already know, in Russia it’s not okay to flash smiles at everyone. Many people actually feel threatened by a sudden display of friendliness from a stranger. If you try to approach them on the street and start a casual conversation, they’ll probably think you’re trying to sell them something and will make a hasty departure. Even at the shops, salespeople will not act as if they’re happy to see you, but instead will stick to a dry professional tone. The customers, in turn, will act equally grim. That’s why when I enter the shops in Australia, the salespeople often ask me if everything’s alright, because they’re probably thinking I’m not so pleased with the service.
  • Finally, some Russian tourists can actually act rude. Simple as that. That is, of course, if they drank too much vodka 🙂

The moral is simple: if you ever find yourself in Russia, you don’t have to worry about etiquette too much. Don’t apologize too often, don’t smile, look displeased and you will blend in just fine. Also, it would be good to remember these phrases:

Chto vam nado?” – What do you want?!

Muzhchina/zhenchina, podvintes!” – Man/woman, move away!

Vy mozhete idti/ehat’ bistreye?” – Can you walk/drive faster?

Sleduyushiy!” – Next! (often used in a commanding tone by the doctor/cashier/server)

Rasschitivayemsya!” – Pay up! (usually used by a shuttle bus driver before he starts the bus)

Tiho!” – Quiet! (can be used in variety of social  situations)

If you can read Russian, check out this post for more information.

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Шпаргалки

Многие русские студенты хотя бы один раз за свою жизнь использовали шпаргалки (cheat sheets, cribs) на экзамене. За последние 10 лет их методы усовершенствовались (improved). Кто-то использует старомодный способ с линейкой (ruler), на которой написаны ответы, кто-то предпочитает высокие технологии (high tech): смартфоны, айпады и тому подобное. На фотографии вы можете видеть фрагмент из советского фильма “Операция Ы и другие приключения Шурика”, где студент использует очень хитрую (cunning) шпаргалку. Как вы думаете, какую? 🙂

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Здесь вы можете прочитать интересную статью о шпаргалках.

Вот некоторые полезные слова из статьи:

  • Списывание – cheating
  • Бороться – to fight
  • Неизлечимо – incurable
  • Списать/Списывать – to cheat
  • Незаслуженно – undeservedly
  • Это в корне неправильно – it’s absolutely wrong
  • Стыд – shame
  • Равнодушно – indifferently

А вот сама статья:

http://www.bbc.com/russian/blogs/2015/06/150624_blog_strana_russia_exams_cheating

Ответьте на вопросы:

  • Кто автор статьи?
  • Как люди относятся (treat) к шпаргалкам в Европе и в России?
  • О какой странной ситуации на экзамене рассказывает автор?
  • А вы когда-нибудь использовали шпаргалки на экзамене?