I am super fortunate that I have some extra time on my hands now to do things around the house, explore my neighborhood, run errands, catch up on things I’ve been wanting to do that I haven’t done in a long time, such as uploading a year’s worth of photos onto a photo hosting website, and to learn a new language..or two.
The Embassy arranges for employees and their spouses to learn the local language if they wish, up to 4 hours of tutoring a week. I am fully taking advantage of this benefit!!! Here in Ukraine the two main languages spoken are Ukrainian and Russian. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been using the app DuoLingo to learn Ukrainian. It has helped me, but I figured that since there are quite a few countries where Russian is one of the languages spoken, it might be more useful to take Russian lessons than Ukrainian. Russian can be used for our time here, for when we travel to another Russian speaking country, or perhaps if we get a future post in another Russian speaking country.
Although at restaurants most menus have an English translation under each item, at food courts and food stands, the menu is usually in Ukrainian or Russian, with little to no English. It is a challenge to look at a menu and not know what the items are or how to pronounce them correctly.
In addition, the front desk attendants in our apartment building do not speak English, which is another motivating factor in learning Russian. I have had to use Google Translate to communicate.
My tutor and I meet twice a week for two hours at a time. We discuss situations that I might encounter on a daily basis and how to communicate with Ukrainians using Russian. I have learned a lot of vocabulary and phrases. My pronunciation is getting better each time.
I had to get a big notebook to take notes, as I am learning so much each time!! Our lessons are pretty free-form, as my tutor writes words and phrases based on our flow of conversation about everyday life.
I feel that I have learned more in my 4 weeks of Russian lessons than I have in 7 months of DuoLingo- not to discount DuoLingo, because I have learned a lot, but the tutoring lessons have been so practical!! Not only am I learning the language, but we discuss cultural differences and nuances as well. It has definitely been a productive use of my time, and I highly recommend it to anyone going to a post where they do not speak the language.