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Tongue-Twisters for Glasnost

April 24, 1988

Patricia Ward Biederman's piece, "Teachers of Russian Are Spreading the Word About Their Language" (Times, April 7), brought back memories of my attempts to acquire a smattering of Russian in the interests of glasnost.

My adventures began in New York City at the New School for Social Reserach and Columbia University and continued at Beverly Hills High School and UCLA Extension. My classmates and I were in agreement that while our Russian teachers were affable and patient and made learning fun, the language was, to put it mildly, a challenge.

I thought that French was supposed to be the exact language par excellence: that is to say, it was precision plus, besides being melodic. But Russian, I felt, was even more exact. For example, to use the verb ride , you had to know exactly how you were riding--on foot, by car or plane or some other vehicle. Decisions, decisions: It's still vivid how we struggled and all the numerous questions we had about grammar and pronunciation so unlike English.

But it was an experience we all seemed to enjoy: There were just a few dropouts in any of the classes. Of course our teachers were always encouraging, although I remember one who explained, in desperation: "Don't worry: Only the first 10 years are hard!"

SHERRY TERZIAN

Los Angeles

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