Верблюд стоит на трёх ногах
A few years ago I tried to learn Russian just using Rosetta Stone Russian to test how well it worked. I chose Russian because I hadn’t studied before and because I thought it would be an interesting and useful language learn. At that time I also needed to put together web pages in Russian from time to time, so I thought being able to at least read the language a bit would be handy.
I spent over six months studying every day and in all that time I didn’t learn any phrases like Здравствуйте (Hello), Как дела? (How are you?) or Спасибо (thank you), but I did learn colours, numbers, a variety or nouns like мальчик (boy), девушка (girl), лошадь (horse), слон (elephant) and самолет (aeroplane), and ‘useful’ phrases like, Лошадь не настоящая (The horse is not real), Тигр сидит на стене (The tiger is sitting on the wall), and Верблюд стоит на трёх ногах (The camel is standing on three legs).
Rosetta Stone is designed to teach you entirely through the language you’re learning using photos and recordings. It’s not always clear exactly what the photos are supposed to represent, and when you’re asked to match photos to written or spoken words and phrases, it’s possible to do so without really understanding the words and phrases. The choice of phrases may seem somewhat strange, though many language courses, especially older ones, use similar kinds of phrases to teach you vocabulary and to illustrate various grammatical constructions.
Last week I started learning Russian again using Language101.com, which provides online courses in French, German, Danish, Spanish, Irish, Canadian French and Russian. It uses a spaced repetition system (SRS) with recordings, and contains thousands of phrases for each language. Over the past few days I’ve learnt more practical and useful Russian phrases than I did in six months with Rosetta Stone, and I’ll be writing a review of the site soon.
I plan to focus mainly on Russian for the next two months using such courses as Language101.com, WikiTranslate.org, A Spoonful of Russian and Language Bridge. I’ll also listen Russian language radio every day (at the moment I’m listening to Радио Голос России).
One word I recognised while listening to Russian radio yesterday was верблюд (camel) – I think they were talking about camels in Tajikistan. I remembered it because of the phrase from Rosetta Stone. This got me thinking that while you would rarely use phrases like верблюд стоит на трёх ногах, unless you happened to live in a camel-infested Russian-speaking region, such as Tajikistan, that phrase is very memorable because it’s unusual and funny.
Perhaps that’s the point – learning phrases like this helps you to remember ordinary words like stand, three and legs, as well as camel, and it shows you how to put them together. The more unusual and funny or silly the phrase, the more likely you are to remember it. It works for me at least. So I plan to try constructing similarly unusual, funny, silly and ridiculous sentences in Russian and other languages to help me remember vocabulary and grammatical patterns. I might even make some videos like the ones on my YouTube channel featuring these phrases.
Do you have any suggestions for suitably silly phrases?
[Addendum] Here’s my Language101.com review.