Learn Russian with Star Wars! Chat with Daria of @Real Russian Club (1)
Hello, Steve here again, Steve Kaufmann.
And today I have the pleasure of speaking with an online teacher of
Russian, Daria of Real Russian club.
Remember if you enjoy these videos, please subscribe, click
on the bell for notifications.
If you follow me on a podcast service, please leave a review.
Daria, I'm going to ask you to introduce yourself and then I have a number of
questions that I would like to ask.
...I want to start with the word that horrifies all the beginners in Russian.
Uh, so yeah, I'm a teacher.
You said I'm an online teacher about also, I am a teacher at
the university at CU Boulder.
Uh, so I teach offline, I teach online and I try to find this balance to find
this perfect way of learning Russian for people who learn with teacher,
with a teacher, for people who learn, um, by themselves, on their own.
So that's, that's pretty much what I try to do.
We will leave a link to your YouTube channel in the description box.
Um, so there was a very famous Hungarian polyglot Kato Lomb or Lomb Kato who said,
who had a formula for language learning, which essentially was that it's a, it's a
function of the motivation of the learner, the time put in divided by inhibition,
frustration, difficulty and everything that reduces the level of motivation.
So my first question is how do you, what do you do to increase the
motivation for people to learn Russian?
And what do you do to decrease the difficulties, real or imagined, that
are there in the Russian language?
Oh, first of all, I think the most important thing is to use the materials
that are interesting for students.
It's hard to do it online, but offline I always try to ask in
a very first, uh, how to say?
On the very first lesson, I try to ask some personal questions: what they
like, what they are interested in, like somebody, uh, can be interested
in um, you know, science, chemistry, somebody might like motorcycles.
If somebody is a fan of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings
or Star Wars or anything.
So at the very beginning, when people cannot deal with authentic Russian
materials as much, I try to use something they like uh, in Russian, for
example, we are going to use Star Wars characters in Russian, making dialogues
between, I don't know, Darth Vader and Yoda, completely made up of course.
Um, so something that would keep people engaged rather than using
random characters, like some Sylvia from Italy comes to Russia and
interacts or something like that.
So when it's something, uh, more funny, uh, it's a, it's just more engaging
and I encourage people when they learn on their own to do the same thing,
rather than using something that they don't care about like articles
about weather or something like that.
Use the same materials...
I, I just want to pick up on that because I think you make a very important point.
So many of these beginner books talk about, you know, Mario comes from the
Middle East, at the train station he's with, you know, customs, uh, he goes
to the bank, he goes to the doctor and all of these are totally uninteresting.
And typically the narrator is bored reading the story.
And so that's a very bad place to start.
And what you're suggesting is things that are not only of interest to your
learners, but also familiar to them.
I think it's very important to deal with material that is familiar.
And another problem, sometimes in language texts they go to the very esoteric,
cultural aspects of Korean or Japanese or Russian, whereas really they should
be beginning with, as you said, you know, Harry Potter or Star Wars or,
or something that is already familiar.
So we can go from the familiar to the less familiar because already the
language is of course not familiar.
I totally agree with what you said.
And you mentioned boring narrators, this is a huge problem because especially
those older books that have audio with them, it seems as if, as if some robots
were reading those texts, it is awful.
So in my podcasts, in my I'll do lessons, I always try to
use as many emotions as I can.
So when it's like whispering or yelling or...
so I try to be engaging because when it's an audio lesson, it's even more difficult
to, to keep your attention there because you don't see the person speaking.
So those, um, monotonous and boring readings, it's a very discouraging.
So yes, emotion...
I checked out your videos by the way, and they are excellent and they're
very lively and that's exactly what people need to motivate them.
And we learn better.
There's more resonance.
We learn better.
So because, uh, otherwise you'll just fall asleep after what?
10, 10 minutes into the, into the Russian.
Uh, so you have materials that are interesting, being more emotional
and, uh, uh, pleasure, first of all.
So as soon as you feel discouraged, as soon as you feel overwhelmed, you feel
that, uh, I'm not having any progress.
I am at this...
how to pronounce?
In Russian we say...
Yhe plateau, yeah.
And it's an inevitable, it's inevitable.
Uh, and a lot of people are so discouraged that they think that
this is the end and they just quit.
And in reality, it's just a milestone.
You need to overcome this point and you will maybe skyrocket on the next stage.
So it's very important to keep your motivation.
While on the subject of the plateau, uh, how do you deal with the experience
that I had with Russian, and that is that no matter how many times you look
at the declension table, no matter how many times you look at the endings in
the three different genders, for all the different cases, you can't remember them.
You, you, maybe you can identify if you're reading from the context, you
can identify the meaning of that word.
But when you're speaking to try to get the uh, case ending, no matter how much
you study, it just seems so elusive.
How do you help your Russian learners improve in their use of cases?
Oh, first of all, I try to be very nice and especially in the first stages,
because I learned this mostly from my American students before I used to be
this harsh Russian person who corrects all mistakes, "you should be perfect!"
It was a long time ago, but that's how it started, unfortunately.
And then several people told me that I made them cry after I was
in my nice, I was in my nice stage.
I thought I was encouraging, but some people told me that they
were so frustrated even with minor corrections at the beginning that
they were crying and it turned my whole understanding of it upside down.
So after that, I am the nicest teacher ever at the beginning.
Of course, uh, I never correct.
Never correct people.
I'm happy when they say anything to me later when I hear them being
confident already, but when they make mistakes, I will correct them.
And then we will concentrate on grammatical aspects of that.
But at the beginning, it's important just to try because no harm done
if you mix those endings of cases.
It's very confusing.
Even for Russian people.
It's very confusing.
And we learn cases at Russian schools being native speakers
still for several years.
We'll learn those endings, those questions for the cases.
It's, it's a difficult thing.
We can't underestimate it.
So yeah, just slowly try...
I think that's a very important point that you just made.
There is a stage in our learning where we want to be corrected, but at the
early stages, we need encouragement.
We need encouragement to keep speaking and many mistakes do correct themselves.
Conversely many of the corrections that the teacher
makes have no effect whatsoever.
Uh, I know that, uh, in different languages, if I look at my sort of
lesson notes I get from my teacher, I make the same mistakes every week.
So it's, it's a gradual process, combination of reading the rules
and the teacher correcting you and self-correcting, but it certainly,
there's no quick solution to these things.
And you just have to hope that eventually the brain gets used to them.
But, uh, cases are a problem in Russian.
And how about the other difficulty in Russian, which is this whole
aspect of verbs, verbs of emotions.
Do you have any sort of secret in helping people with this?
For verbs, especially verbs of motion, verbs with prefixes I
have a special course for that.
I try again to put them into some funny context.
I create stories again, using Harry Potter or using some famous actors, uh, using,
uh, some popular, popular characters.
And I try to put those verbs into a funny context, funny mini story, and
then I will ask simple questions for every sentence, like ... and, uh,
for 20 minutes straight, just repeating the same stuff again and again.
And, um, since mostly those prefaces keep their meaning for most of the verbs after
10 mini stories like that, this is, this just gets somewhere deep in your memory.
And next time, just click and you use it naturally because you heard
it and repeated it so many times.
You just have the feeling of when you want to go out, you say ... so
it's just the point of practice and hearing the same thing again and
again, in the same situations, but with different different characters.
And, and there's no predicting when all of a sudden we start being able
to use some of these things correctly.
So sometimes it's a bit, it's the same as trying to remember words, certain
vocabulary items just never stick.
And we shouldn't allow ourselves to be frustrated and the same way
with grammar, we shouldn't allow ourselves to be frustrated at some
point it will probably click in.
And, uh, I think your, your approach of patience, repetition, but not
being too demanding of people.
It makes a lot of sense.
Um, one final note.
So I think, uh, if we...
today in the world, if we look at the most popular languages,
you know, languages that are...
that people are learning, obviously English is probably number one
because of its practical usefulness.
And then historically certain European languages like Spanish are popular.
And, uh, recently Korean and Japanese have become popular for reasons
related to pop culture and so forth.
I mean, I happen to be a fan of the 19th century.
So Russia, for me, it was very attractive.
Uh, and of course, Russia is an enormous country with, uh, not only, you're not
only sort of the original Slavic Russian people, but it's the whole influence
of central Asia and the Caucuses.
I mean, it's just a spectacular world, this whole Russian world thing.
What is most attractive to your students?
What brings them to Russian?
Oh today it's a very complicated question because unfortunately what
I notice in the past decade, uh, the interest to the Russian language
is, is decreasing unfortunately.
And, uh, more and more often each new semester, the university, I
see that it's some people that are interested in uh, military stuff.
So there people in uniforms sitting in class, I'm like, oh, okay.
It's not a good reason to learn Russian, but, uh, but unfortunate...
so this is one reason, I guess a lot of, uh, military people are
suddenly very interested in Russia.
Um, but peaceful people usually are interested in, um, literature.