This week I am adding another another piece to the minimalist Russian language tool kit. Where will it end? Well frankly, it’s hard to say exactly which tools are enough to cover every given situation. So, honestly, I don’t know. We are just picking up words and phrases which may come into service on your Trans-Siberian trip, no matter your destination or points of call along the way.
I started with merely politeness in mind, in a token attempt to redress the appalling state of affairs where us Brits (and other English speaking nations) generally have little to no interest or ability in conversing in any other language. Worse still, some of us seem to think that everyone should be able to address us in English at the drop of a hat, and equally; understand us when we reply in loud pidgin-English (with optional mime/gesticulations) by way of return. It’s an international embarrassment and a lamentable situation in equal measure.
What makes it (somehow) worse is that our mono-linguality is not a conscious act of spite, but something that generally isn’t even on our miscalibrated radars. It rarely occurs to us to even think of such things. Duh!
Meanwhile, I find myself having conversations with folk from other lands who, by the time they are in their twenties and thirties have moved on from their native tongue, gained a passable grasp of English, and in some cases are already moving on to their third (or even) fourth language. Shocking.
So, appropriately (and coincidentally) enough, here is the word of the week; it is:
This is both Russian for ‘SORRY’ and ‘EXCUSE/PARDON ME’, and is said with the emphasis on the ‘NEE’ component. It is apologetic in nature and will fit when either stepping on someone’s foot or interrupting their flow with a request for assistance. Now, once again I have presented the word phonetically in the most simplistic form I can manage for English speakers. You will also see it written like this (and I’ll explain why):
The tricky part is the ‘TEH’ at the end of the word. There is a flow between the ‘T’ and the ‘H’ that gives a little more animation than those three letters may indicate to the native, English-speaking mind.
The rest of the word is Anglo-friendly enough. So we have:
IZ as in ‘LIZ’. Yes the correct ‘S’ is more towards a ‘Z’.
VIN as in VINTAGE
NEE as in ‘KNEE’ – remember that this component is emphasised.
And finally that sharp CH sound:
Hear the phrase pronounced in this video by someone who seems to be an expert in the language.
Now you are equipped to apologise all across the largest land mass in the Northern hemisphere. Get to it.
(Photo by trolleway)