‘But doesn’t Russian have a different alphabet!?’ – OurWarwick

‘But doesn’t Russian have a different alphabet!?’

Hello! I’m Catherine, I am 19 and I study modern language (advanced Spanish, beginners Italian and beginners Russian). Currently, it is week 4 of term two, meaning, as a friend of mine pointed out, I am nearly halfway through my first year of University. Shudders. How is it going so fast?

I gather that most people who actually read these blogs are prospective students, so I thought I would start with talking about the part of my degree people find the most interesting: attempting to learn Russian. Telling people I study Russian usually provokes one of three response: general disgust at their personal experiences of trying to speak another language; horror at the prospect of using a different alphabet; or confused remarks concerning my political views and opinions on Vladimir Putin. The truth is, I decided to learn Russian not out of self- hatred, a desire to change identity, or some form of political fanaticism, but simply because I could. Warwick offers four main languages you can study for your degree (French, German, Italian and Spanish) and several which you can add on to your main one (Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic).

Learning Russian is a slightly unconventional experience, especially in comparison to my affectionate memories of learning Spanish for my GCSEs. When I compare it to Italian, which I am also a beginner in, it could not be more different. Admittedly, the majority of people in my Italian class have a background in Romance languages (Spanish, French, Romanian and Latin), so I think, especially for me, it feels more like I am remembering Italian instead of starting from scratch. Russian is a bit different: not only have they got the alphabet (which isn’t as hard as it looks, I promise), but a mountain of grammar which doesn’t even exist in English (cases anyone?). Also, like any beginner language at university, it is an “accelerated course,” leaving little time to cry in between learning new tenses, and a lot of work accomplished in a week.

Anyway, despite all the complaining, which anyone who knows me will know it is a pastime I am particularly talented at, I have to admit, I am really enjoying Russian. The differences are challenging, but the teaching at Warwick is exceptional (at least in the School of Modern Languages) and there is nothing quite like understanding something you thought was previously incomprehensible. Likewise, even though there is way more work than you received at school, that is something that comes with any course, not just Russian. When I think that only 17 weeks ago, I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the alphabet (Cyrillic- is it said like kyrillic or syrillic?) and now I have conquered the present, past and future tense, I am pretty impressed. Besides, given I spend all my time in advanced Spanish discussing the human rights of indigenous people or whether art has the right to be political, I do really treasure the time of the week in Russian where I can simply talk about what I am having for dinner (for now).

PS. It is pronounced “syrillic”.

  • The Bear

    Awesome article


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