Whether at school, play, or at the market, we are always acquiring language. Each of us has improved in our Russian, and all of us have different methods.
Lyle already spoke Russian fluently before arriving in St. P, but, there’s always more to learn. He’s written about Ludmilla, our tutor, who has helped him hone his speaking, writing, and reading abilities. They often discuss politics, news articles, and current events. Lyle’s challenges have been to teach in Russian and learn how to phrase ideas so they are understood from a cultural perspective.
I (Diana) arrived with a foundation in Russian being able to read Cyrillic, to understand most of a casual conversation, and usually to make myself understood. Of course passive knowledge usually exceeds verbal ability, and my gap between these two is wide. Ludmilla has taught me all the cases and verb aspects I did not know and gives me the freedom to try new vocabulary. We laugh a lot during my lessons, and I am always grateful for her when I leave a lesson. I understand much better, but am still slower to speak. Over the summer I plan to intensively review my notebook (a completely full composition book).
Because we homeschool her, Lydia, 9, does not have the constant exposure to Russian that the boys do at their school. Once school started, her playground friends were not as available. Church, her bi-weekly art class, and visitors were the only consistent Russian venues for her. But this has not stopped her from amazing us with her abilities. Just yesterday she met a lady at the playground, who she remembered meeting last fall. Lydia was so excited that she understood and could carry on a conversation about a variety of topics with her! Lydia answers the phone and, on occasion, deciphers something faster than I do. Last fall she could only answer very minimally at best. God gifted Lydia with a compulsion to be with people, and this gift has served her well in language acquisition.
The boys. Of course little ones tend to pick up language easily. Simon and Kerith were pretty quiet at school until late fall when the teacher realized they were starting to understand well. Kerith, she thought, got a kick out of speaking Russian. Kerith studied with a tutor at school as well, and now he works with one intensively 2 hours each day during June. He’s a quick study and can read as well as speak. Both he and Lydia consistently use a computer language program called Rosetta Stone.
One particular benchmark was when Simon started to babble in Russian during playtime by himself. He talks in made-up sounds, words, and phrases, just like all kids do when learning to talk, but this time, Simon was clearly babbling in Russian. Lyle and I would hide ourselves outside his room door and bite our cheeks from laughing at the transformation occurring right in front of us. Simon’s intonation is flawless; he sounds like a Russian 4-year-old!
So, we all progress, reach a plateau, and then progress some more. It’s exciting to think about our language abilities a year from now.