I had an exchange on Facebook with Brandon Hayes who was asking about the advanced Russian Accelerator course, as well as what life is like in Ukraine. I thought this would be an interesting read for many of you, so I’m posting it here:
Q & A with Brandon Hayes
Brandon: Wow. you live in Ukraine…I didn’t know. Where in Ukraine do you live? What do you enjoy most about Ukraine?
For five years I lived in warm and sunny Sevastopol, Ukraine on the southern tip of the Crimean Peninsula. It’s a gorgeous Black Sea town. Currently, though, my wife and I are living in a town on the opposite end of the country. A small city named Lutsk, in Western Ukraine. Lutsk is her hometown and we moved here to spend quality time with her parents, and for me to get a better understanding of this part of the country.
What do I enjoy most about Ukraine? I think I like the way of life that it imposes on me. I don’t have a car here. Imagine that….six years and no driving. I like walking, and don’t mind having to walk to a grocery store and carry it all home…and up four flights of stairs. Sometimes the harder way is better for you. I love that I essentially speak only Russian…though recently I’ve been purposely speaking lots of English to my wife, so she could improve her English. Here in Lutsk I love that her folks have a dacha – a farm, essentially – where we get out-of-the-ground fresh, and totally chemical free produce. I eat well here. And as a bonus, I love how easy it is to travel to Europe from here.
There’s no insightful comparison that I can give. Bigger cities have better shopping, I suppose. They tend to have quite a few nice malls. Better dining choices, things like that. And the very biggest cities have metro systems (i.e. subways), which are always nice.
Brandon: And my last question is…at what point in your learning of the Russian and Ukraine language did you just feel comfortable enough to be a good speaker of Russian. I mean to the point where you could give instructions, express deep emotions, tell stories, tell jokes, argue and be convincing and just be yourself?
I’d say that level of fluency came after about my second full year or so. When you’re learning a language, there’s this critical point you reach where suddenly, everything you know reinforces everything else. It’s also the point where you start to learn new Russian words **entirely** from the context of how they’re used in Russian. That’s when you have that kind of deep connection in Russian. Also around that point is when you no longer think at all in English, or do any translating, but are thinking entirely in Russian instead. I’ll have entire conversations now, and when I recall them the next day, I honestly can’t remember if they were in Russian or English. Why? Because it’s all in what I call “brain speak”. The brain ultimately organizes the info in its own imagery.
You asked about some of our advanced students, Brandon. And yes, by the time they finish our ‘Russian Accelerator 2: Intermediate to Advanced’ course, they, too, find themselves thinking in Russian, and expressing all the things you asked about.