Category Archives: Postaday2011

A Question about the Russian Future by Shannon


IMG_2070

One viewer on the youtube channel, a lady called Shannon, wrote to me the following question:

Hello,

Could you please tell me the English equivalent for the Russian simple and compound future tense.

I think I’ve understood both past tenses, but the future tense is something I’m still struggling to get my head around.

Regards,
Shannon

The problem is that they are not really tenses, they are aspects of a single future tense.

Now in English we have aspects, but we don’t always use a verb to show the aspects, sometimes we use other words in the sentence.

Let’s take the example of “yest’/s’yest”. If I say in Russian “Ya s’yem ves’ …” then the expected word afterwards might be “tort” – I will eat the whole cake.

If a Russian says “Ya budu yest’ ves’…” then the rest of the sentence that suggests itself is “den’ ” – I will eat all day.

In this case in English if you can replace “eat” with “eat up” then you know that it’s a perfective aspect. In English it’s not incorrect to say “I will eat the whole cake”, or you can also stress the perfective nature of that action (although it won’t have a very perfecting effect on the figure) by saying “I will eat the cake up”.

Contrast that with the second sentence. “I will eat all day”. You can’t say “I will eat up all day”, it becomes meaningless. You can, of course say something like “All day long tomorrow, I’ll be eating up my fussy children’s left-overs” – in Russian this repetitive future performance of a perfective action would call for bringing in the iterative suffix. “Budu doyedyvat’ “sounds a little clumsy but would give that kind of meaning. The “yv” part of that verb being the iterative suffix.

So in the case of a sentence where in English we could use a simple verb or a phrasal verb, especially a phrasal verb where the sense involves finishing something (eat up, do in, beat up, bring in, etc) we can get a good idea of whether to use a perfective or imperfective future aspect in Russian by asking us where the phrasal verb is just as good if not better than the simple verb, as in the above “eat the cake up”

What about cases where you don’t have a phrasal verb indicating completion to hand? Well, sometimes there are aspectival pairs in English that we don’t even realise are aspectival pairs because this is almost subliminal in our language and not explicit as in Slavonic. So I could give you two sentences:

1. I will fish all day tomorrow

2. I will catch many fish tomorrow.

Which is future imperfective? That’s right, the first. Budu lovit ryby ves’ den’ zavtra. The second is perfective. Tomorrow I will not just fish I will catch many fish. Poymu mnogo ryb, zavtra.

how about this one:

1. He will speak to me about the changes this afternoon.

2. He will tell me about the changes this afternoon.

In which of these am I expressing subliminally that I’m not necessarily expecting complete information? That’s right, the first. In the second, I expect the transmission of complete facts, not just blah-blah. So speak and tell are an aspectival pair.

And sure enough, you find the same in govorit’/skazat’ in Russian. You never hear “on budet skazat” – the closest is if you make it iterative “on budet skazyvat mne raznye veshchi” He will be telling me various things. He will, in other word, repeatedly perform the perfective action of transferring orally various complete pieces of information. He will speak to me about the changes – on budet govorit’ so mnoy o peremenakh means that I’m focussing menatlly on the fact that he is going through the motions of informing me, regardless of whether any actual units of meaningful information, any ‘whole story’ is transferred to me in the process. “On skazhet mne o peremenakh posle obeda” on the other hand means that I’m expecting to hear the whole caboodle from him after lunch.

One of the best ways to understand this is by looking at what we mean in English when we differentiate “until” and “by”. Most languages have a single word for this pair, and in Slavic it’s aspect which gives away which one is needed. Russians and Poles say “do”, German’s have “bis”, but we have two words and we can’t understand why foreigners are always muddling up “until” and “by”.

So you’ll hear Slavs saying “I need you to write the report until Thursday”. At this, you might say “what happens after that, then, does someone else take over?” This sentence in English contains no markers that getting it done before then is required – on the contrary the marker in “until” rather means just keep on going up to a certain time point, and finishing doesn’t enter into it.

So Thursday comes and you are asked for the report, and you hand in a huge 100 page opus and immediately the boss asks “Where’s the Executive Summary?” And so you say “There’s no Executive Summary – how can there be one if the report isn’t finished?” “But I asked you to write the report until Thursday!” “I did! I was writing it all the time, only taking short breaks for food and sleep. That’s why the thing is 100 pages long. but you didn’t tell me it had to be done BY Thursday!”

The boss doesn’t understand this, as to him “until” and “by” are synonyms and not markers of aspect, and promptly sacks the Employee for over-correct use of English.

So you can see from this example that if he had really meant “until”, in Russian he would have used a future imperfective. “Budete pisat’ …” For the meaning “by” he would have used a Russian future perfective “Napishite”.

I hope that helps you get a grip on the idea. If it has, then that is a milestone on your journey towards knowing Russian.

The teleological significance of the Egyptian unrest


Joseph made ruler in Egypt

Walking in Memphis?

In many respects, the life of Christ depicted in the Gospels echos the history of the people Israel. Once of the aspects strongly identifying the person of God the Son with Israel is that in his very youth he is taken to escape disaster from Israel into Egypt, echoing the escape of Joseph’s family into Egypt to escape the famine in Israel. Later on other Pharaohs appear who do not know Joseph, and it culminates in the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, who oppresses the Hebrews and is forced in the end to let them go home. In the same way regime change – in the case of Jesus’ life the removal of Herod – enables Christ’s family to return to Israel from Egypt.

In the Bible, Zechariah 14.2 to be precise, you will read a prophecy of all nations gathering against Israel to fight. This verse has remained in every copy of the Bible ever printed, even through the hundreds of years when there was no Israel and atheists would have used it as another one of their “proof texts” against the veracity of scripture. The most savage enemies of the state of Israel are the Islamic States, with a notable exception in Egypt. The regime change now occasioned against Hosni Mubarrak, whatever his faults may be, is this a symbol that the final battle is now coming? The most influential Arab state that had been keeping peace with Israel is now in turmoil, and some other states, like Iran, are claiming that the unrest has an Islamic revolutionary character and are calling on Egypt to wipe Israel out. So now all the surrounding nations would be hostile, and a situation emerges where the prophesy of Zechariah 14.2, which many people believe to be an end times prophesy.

What does Jesus Christ say about this time in Matthew 24?

1And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

2And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. Read the rest of this entry

Who is this mystery customer?


Countries where the Russian language is spoken.

The Russian Linguation

The following review can still be read for Derek Offord’s “Using Russian – A Guide to Contemporary Usage” on Amazon.co.uk (not the American Amazon and I really don’t understand why they don’t carry these reviews over, when I want to write for only the UK or only the US I shall forget about the internet altogether!) As it was way back in 2001 I seem to have lost the accreditation for the review along the way. At first it was under my name, but at some stage they must have had a technical blip and the older reviews became “A Customer”. but it’s mine, well enough. I don’t know if my style has changed much in ten years.

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is essential reading for those doing a Russian degree.
28 Sep 2001
By A Customer

This review is from: Using Russian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (Paperback)

I bought Using Russian when I was browsing in a bookshop for another language, as I already speak Russian, but when I looked at a few pages it immediately appealed as an excellent update to the way the language has developed since I did my degree. Sections in the book refer to different problems that face the English speaker in particular, such as faux amis. There are also sections on homonyms and other confusing aspects and they act rather like a checklist of what you need to have got right in your head in order not to make too many ‘howlers’ in translations or in conversation.

One particular plus in this book and as I found out in the whole series of ‘Using’ books that this is part of is the focus on register. If there is one thing that separates the wheat from the chaff among language students. it is the understanding and application of the idea of register, and this applies to Russian perhaps more than most European languages, as this is a language in which not only the vocabulary, but also the syntax, grammar and phonetics are all subject to complex nuances. This book was not available when I needed it. Now that it is I urge you to make use of it. It is the book about Russian that I would have liked to have written myself. If I thought there was demand for it, I’d offer to do a sister volume for Polish.

In any event it made me go out and by the sister volumes already in existence for French, German and Spanish. They are of a similar quality to this volume, the weakest is probably the German one, the Spanish one I would put as second favorite. It can be read cover to cover, or simply dipped into as a work of reference.

It is not material for learning the language from scratch, but would be a very useful second step after completing any of the standard self-instruction books such as the Colloquial series, the Teach yourself series or the Linguaphone course.

Either A-level or degree level students of the Language will profit from it and find it enjoyable because of its good presentation and readable style.

Review of Hotel Centralny, Kedzierzyn-Kozle, for Google.


Kedzierzyn-Kozle - aleje JPII

Kedzierzyn-Kozle on a good day.

(Published to Google Hotpot earlier this evening, and it also gives me my post for the day here. I think that’s fair.)

I’m sitting here writing this actually in the hotel room having found it on the road in Google on my Android phone when I discovered that the place I was really supposed to be going was unexpectedly booked up.

I had a bit of a nightmare getting here from where the GPS said it would be only 9 km. The main bridge in Kedzierzyn-Kozle was shut, the next bridge up on the Oder per the GPS turned out to be some seasonal ferry that wasn’t there, and when I finally found the new road that wasn’t on even google maps and still isn’t, it turned out that there had been a nasty accident so I got caught in the road over the middle of the Odra waiting for the emergency services to do their bit. Read the rest of this entry

ICMTSU – #4 Pyramid Selling


Retouched versions of this picture from the ge...

If you want pyramids this year, try South America.

Despite the latest travel “advisories”, whatever that horrible concocted word means, warning people to watch their asses in the land of the Pharoahs, a typical one being on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website of HM Government:

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Travel Summary and Safety and Security section. We advise against all but essential travel to Cairo (all four governorates, including Giza), Alexandria, Luxor and Suez.  The nationwide curfew has been extended from 1500-0800 local time. We recommend that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means where it is safe to do so.  British nationals in other areas of Egypt where there are demonstrations should follow the advice below and stay indoors wherever possible.

and all the scenes in the news of upheaval and revolution going on over there, the selling of “dream holidays” in Egypt by travel agents in the Czech Republic, Poland and other places continues unabated.

Yesterday’s “Hospodarske Noviny” reported that as other countries are doing their best to evacuate their nationals, Czech travel companies are still chartering tourist flights into these destinations. Polish TV news a few days ago reported how some tourists are intentionally trying to get into the areas which have the hottest riots, just as thrill seeking, and advised against people doing so. Maybe they are seeking some practical experience in civil unrest so as to be one jump ahead when it all kicks off over here?

Maybe learning how to turn up the front nozzle of a water cannon so that it only shoots into the air is a valuable survival skill in the decade we have just embarked on. Maybe it’s a handy thing to learn how to dance in front of a tank and get out of the way at the last second if you can’t manage to face it down? With additional activities like flag-burning, molotov-cocktail throwing (alcohol-free ones for the kids) food-hoarding and embassy wall scaling, as well as optional extras like looting and pillaging and dropping bricks from bridges, a holiday in Egypt right now could be the ultimate adventure holiday. Great for corporate teambuilding, I should say.

Or is the new football hooliganism? Will coaches adorned with scarves containing scores of chanting skinheads start turning up at revolutionary hotspots in North Africa? Will motorway service stations turn them away? Will these unrests become like a syndicated event with huge sponsorships and advertising revenues? Will Putin try and snatch “Revolution 2024″ from under London’s nose so that he can catch the spend that will become associated with it? Will protestors be asked to show a particular brand of bottled water on their shirts?

In any event, it seems that now more than ever these so-called “last minute” holidays may indeed live up to their inherent promise, in the case of some holidaymakers.

DND – End of January


Shōgun (novel)

Image via Wikipedia

OK, I got to the end of January making a post each day so at least one month of the resolution has been achieved.

However, instead of driving views, the regular postings seem to be actually diminishing the daily views, and my stats have actually shown less in January than they did in December, in the time before daily posts.

Is the readership telling me that less is more? By all means let’s have your comments on whether you welcome the Postaday challenge being followed by this vlog, whether you’d prefer less width but more quality, or whether you don’t care either way.

I wanted to say just a couple more things to you today as we come to the end of January. Firstly, this is the month in which I have piloted a couple of new ideas, mainly ones that I planned to do, some that came along unplanned and I will just re-write my plan to include them as I would have done if I had known about them earlier.

One planned thing I piloted was to listen to the Michel Thomas Method Greek Course, which I have nearly completed 6 CDs of.  It is very good, as have been all of the new courses made by MT acolytes.

One unplanned thing was that I discovered the website http://www.readthekanji.com – it is a very well constructed staged repetition system including all the cards and materials and all the research done, really the ultimate resource for learning Japanese and once you get the hang of it very addictive. I am seeing how far you can go with the free sample – it’s given me a good twenty hours’ worth of drilling so far, and I don’t think I’m even a half way through what you can get on the free trial so that seems very fair – I already made up my mind to buy a proper annual sub as they really do deserve it, but in the mean time I just wanted to see what happens if you just keep going until the JLPT 4 vocab is all at 100%.

It seems to be fairly close to Ebbinghaus compliant as far as the repetition algorithm is concerned. I’m not sure if there is a bit of supermemo style code in there or not.

So I am quite happy to admit that it is a good alternative to the gold list method for Japanese. The only advantage that the Goldlist might have here is that you don’t get your hand in, you type Romaji and the Java interface magically turns all the answers into Hiragana. Sometimes you have to watch out to make a double n for “n”, and care needs to be taken over some of the bya, cha, etc characters (the ones with the small soft vowel following) as the way I was expecting to write them different from the way the programme accepts them, but you can always see the right answer if you get it wrong the once.

So January seems to be a good month for piloting. Now is the last day and after three months of not using my car I also got it back today and paid a huge amount for the repair. But I will need to drive it tomorrow, and I needed to get it working.

So I’ll pilot my own car, as well.

I also started reading Shogun this month, which tells the story of a pilot they called Pilot, or anjin-san, as they could not pronounce “Blackthorne“.

And “Lost” final series started to show on Polish TV – all in all a month full of pilots.

So it reminds me of the song by the group Pilot about January, from way back in 1975:

When I was 11 years of age, I thought that the lyrics “January, sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me” was all about how this dingiest month of the year seemed to go on forever.

Now that I am old I assume that the lyrics refer to a woman, but I still don’t fully understand whet the poet is getting at.

I think I’ll stick with my initial interpretation.

January is now nearly over, and a good thing too.  The days will be getting longer day by day and there are only four weeks of February to go until it’s March.

February and March are both quite capable of delivering challenging conditions in Poland, but we will have to see how we fare. November gave us one of the earliest starts to a really tough winter, so we are now I’d say just over half way there. We have to just grit our teeth and work hard and not notice, and soon Spring will be here. I’ll be able to go and use my terrace again and the pleasant days will be here again.

And I have to use every opportunity to walk and lose weight, which was the idea of not repairing the car in the first place, but now I have places to go that aren’t well served by trains.

Let’s see how it develops. Please give me feedback on whether to keep up with the daily postings.

Polish Poetry Homework (CUV)


Hot off the press today, not historic in any way, my helping Sophie get more motivated to learn the poetry for her Polish literature class led me to do an impromptu YouTube session with her reciting some from memory.

It may interest you to know that none of the poems were learned with this video in mind, or even recently, and the class test of them happened some time ago.

I don’t let Sophie read a poem more than once a day. I don’t let her read without trying to enjoy the poetry and understand something from it. Never read in order to memorise, but in order to enjoy. Then go back some time later, especially more that two weeks later in the end, and see what was memorised and what not. Just like the goldlist method, only without the writing out, only using recitation.

This method works with a child’s poetry syllabus if you get ahead and do the initial readings well ahead of the class, so that the child already really knows most of the and is at the most putting in the finishing touches while other children are in a panic trying to force the thing into their memory. This results inevitably in the child using the Polish school method having the poem in the short-term memory and the child using a staged repetition technique and taking a long-term view  will have a long-term memory of the poem.

So where you have continuous assessment, the benefit is reaped by people who simply won’t remember the poem once the year is finished. But children need to understand that education is for them to take something precious into their lives and is not just about marks and grades. A teacher might grade the cramming kids higher, but they simply won’t know much when my lower graded kid will remember more than any of the rest of them, and have a more pleasant time over it.

What if I pledge?


Folding the U.S. flag

It's time to fold our flags away and put them in the drawer. The only banner I will march under is that of Jesus Christ

I got into a discussion today on YouTube with someone who disagreed with pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States and said that people should not be forced to do that.

I said I agreed, that we should pledge allegiance to the human race and the whole planet.

He then got back to me and said that what he had in mind was that people should just be allowed to pledge allegiance to what they wanted, to their families, their own state if they wanted, to Nato if they felt strongly about that level, etc etc.

But here’s the rub with that one: what if I pledge allegiance to the ordinary man and woman, regardless of where they are born, but no-one pledges allegiance back to me, then it seems I’m on the losing end. So the only way to be fair is for everyone to pledge allegiance to everyone else. Nation of birth should be as irrelevant as star sign.

To war for a country should be as ludicrous as to war for Gemini or Sagitarius. Time and space are both dimensions so if we can be agreed, as most sensible people are, that the timing of your birth shouldn’t prejudge anything about you, and that all these star signs are just sillinesses, then why can’t we apply the same reasoning to space also? Why does the fact that you are born in this point on earth and not another give you a different status in the eyes of some people? Why will they pledge allegiance on to those born near them to go and fight against you? Is there any real sense in that?

We’re human beings, and when you go around the world, either by travelling physically or by using the social platforms that the internet affords, you can find people who are on your wavelength and who share your views and passions and priorities and likes and dislikes who look completely different to you in that they might be a so-called race, gender, generation, class, nationality, etc, from the ones you’d expect to have any similarity with.

You might find a partner for life in a nation which is supposed to be utterly unlike your own, and understand that person more closely than if she had been the girl next door when you were kids.

And you might find that your own family members, brothers and sisters you shared a table, a telly or even a bedroom with growing up are utterly different to you in outlook, priorities, likes and dislikes, personality traits…

So why even have nations? Why get so het up about them? If they are the cause for people to be segregated and given unfairly differing packets of rights, then we need to treat the nation state with the contempt it deserves, along with everything else that divides us.

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