The trial continues. OK, I’ve created a couple of hatchet-job approximations of ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ in Russian and now it’s time for another courteous essential: ‘PLEASE’. Before we get into that, it’s worth saying a few (choice) words about what I’m trying to do here – and why it should only be considered as an extra to some ‘proper’ study. There are some web resources for beginners – this site for example. But as I learn Russian, it strikes me that there is no real substitute for getting into the audio as soon as possible. So, at the most basic (and sometimes frustrating) level, this becomes ‘listen and repeat’ parrot fashion, with hopefully a good degree of understanding thrown in.
This way, you can start ‘riffing’ with the language, i.e. making your own connections and sentences, using the language rather than just being an echo chamber. This helps build confidence and the motivation to do more, as well as improving the ability to actually speak the language in a meaningful way. Again, in my experience. That’s the point really; it’s all about what works for the individual. So this little series is part prompt and taster, part short-cut to smooth over the crevasses that I found tricky as a beginner. By extension, you hopefully won’t. That’s the intention. Nothing more. In that regard, I am using the simplest phonetic approximations.
Incidentally, here are a few side lessons that I have learnt along the way (they weren’t in ‘the manual’):
- I will speak an entire course 100 times over and still be a beginner.
- I have stubbornly tried to master every sentence and lesson before moving on, therefore creating an absolute log-jam that is slowing the process down.
- Answering back to a pre-defined audio track is nothing like having a real-world conversation.
- After much practice, I still know very little, but I do know something.
- I need to incorporate a whole range of learning styles: reading, writing, recorded audio and actual conversation in order to “get there”.
So: “PLEASE” in Russian, and in the simplest phonetic form that I can find, is:
You can find several more complex variations, but the above (courtesy of ‘Mikey’ on Yahoo Answers) is a great trade-off between form and difficulty. The sticking point (and the probable reason why there are various complex permutations) is the ‘JA’ component. It’s not JAM without the ‘M’, although each component is spoken sharply and with the emphasis on ‘JAL’. Rather, it is a sound that us English speakers use very rarely.
Think of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor or the act of adding glamour to an item of clothing by ‘zhooshing’ it up – and you’ve got it! It’s that ZH sound, or with apologies to Ms Gabor: ‘ZSAL’ with a very clipped ‘A’ as in ‘PAN’. In terms of meter, PUH-JAL-STAH would match the English ‘ELECTRIC’. That’s as much as I can convey in writing, but look into it, listen to it and the more subtle sculpting of the word will be revealed. For instance:
PUH-JAL-U-STAH would be more accurate, but that clipped U is under-emphasised compared to the other components. Not silent, but quiet nonetheless.
Also, importantly ‘PUH-JAL-STAH’ has a dual use within the Russian language. It not only means ‘PLEASE’, but also equates (very) frequently with our ‘YOU’RE WELCOME’. It’s a part of standard politeness, so you will hear it (and use it?) frequently. Maybe when making a booking for your Trans-Siberian experience!
More diverse digressions next week.
Next time: A few choice words #4 – Thank you
(Photo by archer10 (Dennis))