Ok, so it's been a little while since I've written about language learning, at least I think it has, but this subject is never far from my mind. Lately I've had some encouragement in my learning. But I am always amazed at how I can be encouraged in one aspect or one conversation and turn around and be completely lost in the next conversation that I have (and when I say completely lost, I mean COMPLETELY LOST, having absolutely no idea what is going on).
First one of the "Ups":
For example, my friend Luda has been a big help in my language learning. Most recently she said that I should start a Russian journal and use at least 5 new words that I am trying to learn as I write about my day. At the end of the day we will talk on the phone about my day, giving me a chance to then verbally practice these words. This will be a big help I think. I was actually able to talk ON THE PHONE for over 10 minutes! I told her about my day, then she told me about her day, and I was understandable and understood her! I feel quite excited about this accomplishment and look forward to continuing the practice.
And here's a couple of "Downs":
Then, I go to the store to buy groceries for a few days (hopefully) and the cashier says something to me that I can not begin to comprehend. Nope, not a clue. I can't even try to describe the situation by the context or her body language or anything.
I'm riding on the tramvai after my lesson the other day, and an older lady gets on and begins fussing at the conductor for not wiping off the wet seats. When she finished her scolding, she turned to me and began talking. Now the tramvai is not a quiet, restful way to travel. The tramvai is quite loud, which makes communication even in my own language a challenge. So this babushka is telling me something in Russian, and I'm trying to understand, but at last I have to pull out the old trusty phrases like, "I'm sorry, I don't understand because I am studying Russian. I've only been studying for about 5 months." Then she asks me where I came from, but because of all the traveling noise, I don't get it. On her 3rd try, I finally realize what she wants to know. "Oh, I'm from America; I'm an American." This revelation brought questions as to my opinion on what was going on in Kosovo! "Um, I don't know what to think. What do you think?", seemed the safest response. Then I was just able to sit and listen in complete lack of comprehension to her tell me what she thought about Kosovo. I also heard the word "parastroika" in there somewhere, too, but I have no idea why.
From the tramvai we went to the metro where I was briefly separated from the babushka. When she saw me again she linked arms with me and said something like "Ah, my American". Somehow we got separated in the crowd pushing and shoving to get on the escalator, but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.
Who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to understand a complete stranger while using a means of transportation that has the sound of a rumbling, squeaky herd of water buffalo; but I'm not holding my breath, and neither should you--but you should keep praying!