A friend of mine emailed me today with a few personal updates. Also in the email was this:
Since you study Russian, I was wondering what actually attracts you to it and to the people and the country. I can imagine someone studying a language on a purely theoretical basis, but it makes more sense if you actually admire or like the culture behind the language. Just thought of this while watching the news actually: Putin, Yeltsin, the protests, the riots in Estonia… It’s all very fascinating.
He also mentioned that the answer to that could prove to be an interesting blog post, and I agree, so here we are.
While I’d love to say that I have a solid reason for wanting to learn Russian – admiration of their culture, preference towards a communist state, plans of visiting Russia in the future – I’d be lying if I said I had such a reason. I began studying Russian right around the beginning of 2007, when I received a copy of The New Penguin Russian Course as an early Christmas gift. That doesn’t really help much in regards to why I started studying the language, though, because I specifically asked for that book as a gift. Now that I try to think back and remember of any particular thing that said “learn Russian!” to me, I’m coming with a bank.
I suppose it’s just a variety of things that led to my studying it. For one, I’m just a language geek in general, and enjoy learning languages. I’ve been studying German for about 4 years now, and felt that it was time that I try to add a second foreign language into the mix. I know one influencing factor was my interest in World War 2. Due to the Russians playing such a large role in the war, I was interested in learning more about them in general (because I knew next to nothing about them). I guess this desire to learn more about Russia and its peoples simply bled off into the language department. When I decided to learn Russian, it wasn’t a thought out, planned course of action, but more of a “hey, what the hell, why not?” thing.
While I hadn’t thought of this reason specifically, I’m glad I selected Russian. As I progress in my study of it, I’m finding that I enjoy the language, particularly how it sounds. I’m also glad that it’s a Slavic language, because by learning it, I’ll have given myself a good base to learn other Slavic languages, if I were so inclined. I don’t know how knowing it will help me professionally, or if it will at all, but I can’t help but think that knowing even the basics of a fairly difficult language will help me at some point, somehow.
When I get a decent base down for my Russian, I’ll probably start working on Spanish. For that language, I do have a reason: it’s practical for where I live. Spanish is the most often spoken foreign language in the U.S., and I’d say knowing some of it would help me career wise. If nothing else, it would let me communicate with all of the Mexicans who have appeared in my town during the past 5 years or so.
So, to give a short answer to my friend’s question: no particular reason. I just kind of decided to learn Russian. (Regarding politics though, communism doesn’t look too bad, on paper, anyway. It’s never actually worked like the theory prescribes, though, so we have no historical example to judge.)