I love a good spy novel. In my mind, spy novels are a sub-genre (or at a related genre) of thrillers, another type of book I love. I also love Russia and anything Russia-related. So, as you can imagine, a spy/thriller involving Russia just about makes me swoon with delight. What makes it even more amazing is the occasional Russian word or phrase inserted here and there, but don’t worry, this certainly isn’t required.
However, one thing that really, really cuts into my enjoyment of a good solid spy novel is factual inaccuracies. I specifically speak of those relating to Russia. One factual inaccuracy I often encounter is reference to the KGB in a modern (that is, post 1990s) context. Continue reading →
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about people, it is that they love to complain. I’m no exception – you should hear me in airports. I complain about anything and everything when I travel because just about everything seems to annoy me.
the scary monster that is grammar
One thing that people love to complain about when learning foreign languages is grammar. For some reason, grammar strikes fear into the hearts of many language learners and would-be language learners. The most common complaints I hear is that grammar is boring, hard, or (most often) both.
Instead of telling people to have a stiff upper lip (I feel so British after typing that!) and just learn grammar gradually, a new trend has sprung up in recent years in the language-learning communities of the internet. This trend can be summed up in two words: ignore grammar. These people advocate learning vocabulary and speaking with people – and completely ignoring the study of grammar. Continue reading →
I’ve been trying to decide all day whether I feel more American today or on Thanksgiving. I spent Thanksgiving of 2010 abroad and I felt so incredibly American. And even though I’m not abroad today, I’ve spent the day feeling incredibly American.
Being American is strange sometimes, though. Americans are the only people looked down upon for defending their country. I feel like if someone criticizes Germany or France, for example, and a native of either of those countries defends their country, people may still think that person’s defense is wrong or misguided, but forgive him or her because “oh, well she’s French” or “he was born in Germany, didn’t you know.”
Whereas if an American objects to anti-Americanism and defends the United States, that person is immediately labeled an “ugly American” who is obviously ignorant by virtue of being an American. A corollary of this is it is fashionable and regarded as okay to criticize the United States, but not any other country. Once I was studying with my friend J. (who is American, born and raised) and she kept making jabs at the US. Some were deserved, some not. And yet, when I made a jab at the British (I said their food was terrible, which it is!), she flipped out. “There’s nothing wrong with British food,” she said rudely. “I found it not to be to my liking,” I informed her. After all, I lived there for one academic year and got to experience all sorts of strange concoctions. I thought it was ridiculous (and frankly, stupid) that she would openly attack her own country, but no other countries.
I’m proud of being an American, so I am going to dedicate this post to what I love about living here and being American. Continue reading →
And by “yet another,” I mean on the internet as a whole, not this blog specifically.
So this is what happened. Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote a super-long article titled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. If you haven’t read the article, I’ll save you the time and give you the condensed version: she’s bitter that all her life, she planned to have a high-powered career (an excellent goal, in my opinion) but once she got there, she realized that there are only so many hours in a day and the more time you spend working, the less time you have to spend with your family. She thinks that American society needs an overhaul so that women can “have it all,” so to speak.
(Okay, so I skimmed in the middle and towards the end. Correct me if I misinterpreted Slaughter’s argument. But her argument is not the point here, as you’ll soon see.) Continue reading →
There are two things you will learn about in this post: I absolutely adore spy novels and I am incredibly jealous of author Christopher Reich.
I first saw Reich’s novel Rules of Vengeance last December when I was home for Christmas break. After all, how could I fail to notice a book with such a simple, yet fabulous cover? I was too cheap to buy it, though, and I forgot about it, until last night. Last night, I remembered that I have a $40 credit on my Amazon account, thanks to Amazon trade-ins (I got rid of three course books I despised when I traded them in), and I decided to buy Rules of Vengeance on my Kindle. (It was only $7.99!) Continue reading →
I saw this film yesterday and it was pretty good. In short (I don’t want to give anything away!), it is about a group of young people (I assumed they are recent college graduates) who embark on a European tour. After seeing Kiev for a bit, instead of heading to Moscow as planned, they decide to go to Pripyat, the city that was evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster, for a day. Unfortunately, they get stranded there and realize they are not alone.
I enjoyed the film (there is Ukrainian spoken and I understood it!) though it did have some flaws. There could have been more character development – for example, two of the people traveling are brothers and one of them is living in Kiev, but we are never told why the one brother lives in Ukraine. There also could have been more backstory about what they find in Pripyat.
Overall, Chernobyl Diaries is an entertaining film, and if you like the horror genre, you’ll probably like it. An interest in Eastern Europe doesn’t hurt, either!
I am blogging while watching a movie on TV in a hotel, so I hope this post turns out to be coherent.
This article represents what is wrong with the world today. I cannot imagine why any child needs an iPad. You know, when I was younger, I didn’t have an iPad, or a computer for that matter. Yet I still turned out fine and managed to stay entertained. Here’s what I did when I was younger instead of using an iPad:
Ran around outside and played. My best friend lived next door to me so this was convenient.
Read. I’ve always heard that good writers read. This is probably true.
By the way, the movie I’m watching is The Day After Tomorrow. It’s really bad. For apocalyptic scenarios, I prefer 2012. At least it has some Russian spoken in it. The Day After Tomorrow has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever.
More Intelligent Life has an interesting series concerning what the best foreign language to learn is. The contenders are Arabic, Chinese, French, Latin, and Brazilian Portuguese. If we interpret “best” to mean “most useful,” and if I had to choose from only those languages mentioned, I would have to go with Brazilian Portuguese. To be honest, the best language to learn really varies depending on one’s situation.
This quote from Josie Delap’s article extolling the virtues of Arabic made me laugh:
When you understand how beautifully Arabic fits together – why the root meaning “west” leads to the words for “sunset” and “strange” – the sense of illumination is sublimely satisfying. No mere French subjunctive or Russian instrumental can do that.
Admittedly I cannot speak for French – as it has been much too long since I studied that language – but you’re wrong, Josie. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of learning the Russian case system.
Note: If you came here from HTLAL, please read my addendum here.
I hate fake polyglots. You may have heard of them – those people who say they speak five, ten, fifteen languages fluently and post video evidence on YouTube to prove it. The vast majority of people seem to take these videos at face value because most of us don’t speak multiple languages.
One of these alleged polyglots was even profiled in the New York Times. I found the link through a language-learning friend’s Twitter feed. Though I cannot judge his alleged fluency in most of his foreign languages, I was able to find this video of him speaking Russian. It annoys me that the article implies that he is fluent in Russian because he is most definitely not. He’s fluent in Russian in the way I’m fluent in French – that is to say, not at all.
The video on the main page of the article is worth watching, though. I think it’s interesting that researchers have found that many hyperpolyglots (people fluent, or allegedly fluent, in an insane amount of languages) are male, left-handed, and love arcane, in-depth study of grammar that would bore most other people. I’m not male, but I do fit the other two criteria.
There are very few people on the internet who actually have fluency in multiple languages. One is Jana Fadness, one of my favorite language bloggers ever and the other is Susanna Zaraysky. No doubt there are more people out there who actually possess the fluency they claim
It may seem like this post is motivated by jealousy, that I’m griping because I don’t speak multiple foreign languages. I’m really not because ultimately, I would rather speak one foreign language very well than many mediocre (or worse than mediocre) level.
According to Jennie over at the blog Jennie en France, this week is Foreign Language Week in the United States. Unfortunately, we Americans as a whole aren’t too keen on foreign languages. I took both Spanish and French in school and unfortunately did not learn either of them to a high level. I am currently learning Russian and loving every minute of it. But why should you learn a foreign language? Here are my reasons:
If you love reading, it opens up an entirely new batch of material to read.
It keeps your brain sharp, according to this study.
It helps you with your native language, like Goethe said: “Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”
When you learn a foreign language, you aren’t just learning the language; you learn about an entirely new culture and people.
You have more job opportunities. This may sound like silly advice coming from the person who has been in academia her whole life, but it’s what everybody tells me.
Are you learning a foreign language? What are your reasons for doing so?