This week has been a fairly busy week. Last Saturday/Sunday, while in Yaroslav, a fellow student and I went out for drinks with our Resident Director. Tom (the RD), is a great guy. He is a tremendous resource on how to get things done and how to live a decent life in Russia. Ontop of that, he is incredibly personable.
Tom suggested (as I had heard before) that we spend as much time speaking to Russians as is possible. Additionally, he pointed out that everytime that we speak English (while in Russia) we are wasting our time and money. This was a good reminder.
To further this point, during our weekly group meeting, Tom announced that our teachers would begin to strictly enforce the Russian-only rule on school premises from 0900-1420. Ontop of that, Tom has quit sending us notices/text messages, etc in English. They are now only in Russian.
All of this, hopefully, will help me reach my goal of more than a 1 point gain in language proficency during my year in Russia.
On Wednesday I met with my Russian language tutor. This tutor is a free, optional part of the ACTR program. The tutors are usually students working on the college degrees in the area of teaching Russian to foreigners. My tutor is a really helpful and nice Rusisan girl finishing her degrees in Foreign Languages (namely German and English).
On Thursday evening I went out with a Russian friend for a few hours. We (as is the normal activity here) walked for a couple of hours, before going to a cafe. The temptaion to speak English is tremendous. A lot of the Russian you meet, such as my friend, have been studying English for twelve or more years. Though if you resist the desire to speak English, and speak only Russian, the pay-off is tremendous.
I woke up at the unnatural time of 0430 this moring. And, seeing that the sun had not yet risen, I studied grammar. I didn't feel in the mood to do the prefixed verbs of motion from class. So I considered where my continuing weak points lie in Russian. I realized that I still fail to appropriately use the cases (which are crtitical). This lead me to take out my copy of Schaum's Guide to Russian Grammar and to begin reading. I went to Chapter 2: Nouns, and dug-in. I got through most of the cases before I finally took a break to come to the internet cafe (at 0930).
My greatest regret in my previous two years of studying Russian, is that I had never paid close attention to the declentions, or to the appropriate case endings. I had always skipped over the third declention nouns (as they are more rare than first or second declention nouns).
The best advice that I could give to current students of Russians is to learn the cases as you cover them in class. It is hard to really have them solid. It takes a good deal of work (or it takes me a good deal of work atleast). But it will save you so much time and aggrevation later.
Other than that, I feel that I probably have another couple of hours of studying before I rest.
Hope all is well,