Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 13

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* NOTE *

All phrases intended for translating/listening practice have been deleted.

Welcome to Episode 13. So, you’re visiting a Russian family. Dedushka has been in the kitchen, preparing something. Finally he comes out carrying a tray of little meat slices, and he tells you: Попробуй.

Not hungry, you wave it off. So dedushka turns to you, Melissa, and again offers…

Мелисса, пожалуйста…попробуй.

Hmm….What could that mean: попробуй

Well, we know this form of the word: Хочешь попробовать?

So, попробуй is what’s known as the command form. Dedushka is commanding us to try the meat.

Listen to just the ending of the word: –буй

In these podcasts we’ve heard at least one other command form…just briefly. In that episode of Sam and Cat, Cat made a big breakfast and tells Sam: “Смотри!” It’s a command to “Look!”

Let’s have you try those. Hold out a food item and tell your friend: Try it!


Next, you’re about to demonstrate something for your friend. Tell them: “Watch!”


Imagine, now, that Melissa is in the kitchen making something for her Russian hosts. So she comes out with a tray of veges and hummus, and offers it to Babushka. Listen to what Melissa says: Бабушка, попробуйте.

Michael, too, was making crackers and Cheeze Whiz. And he holds the tray to dedushka. Listen…

Дедушка, попробуйте.

Listen to that ending again…уйте

Hmm. Why does grandma get to say just попробуй to us, but we have to say попробуйте to her?

I’ll tell you why: Respect.

Lots of languages use different word forms depending on the person you’re speaking with. In Japanese, for example, speakers must often use a totally different word to express the exact same idea, depending on how respectful they need to be. We have to do this in English, too, of course, but we do it with tone and with an added Sir or Ma’am. Like…”Hey, Billy, wanna try some cake?”

vs “Mr. President, would you like to try some cake?”

Russian shows respect via the word ending.

You’re turn. Offer your vege platter to my boy Andrusha….

Андрюша, попробуй.

Now offer it to Vladimir Ivanovich…

Владимир Иванович, попробуйте.

You’re at the beach when you see some dolphins. Tap little Sophia on her shoulder and say:

Sophia, look!

София, смотри! Дельфины.

Then take Babushka’s hand and point for her…Grandma, look. Dolphins.

Бабушка, смотрите! Дельфины.

Seemingly random quiz here. How would a guy say: I gave the T-shirt to Fred.

Я дал футболку Фреду.

And a woman would phrase that…

Я дала футболку Фреду.

That was from Episode 6, of course. Well, let’s learn the command form of that verb.

Listen as our speaker asks Jim to give him various things…

Джим, дай мне…книгу. / …воду / …ключ

Here they are again: Jim, give to me the book…give to me the water…give to me the key

So the word was “дай”

It sounds very much like the English word “die” doesn’t it? Let’s listen to a few more.

Маша, дай мне…фотоаппарат. / …телефон / …нож

Masha, give me the camera (lit: foto-apparatus), give me the phone, give me the knife.

So, the million ruble question: What do you think the formal version would be? Like:

Vladimir Mixailovich, give me the key, please.

Hit pause and think about it.

Think you got it?

Here, listen…

Владимир Михайлович, дайте мне ключ, пожалуйста.

So the word was: Дайте.

For this next exercise, instead of the idea of “formal” vs “informal” speech, let’s think of the division as Friend vs Stranger. That is, we can speak informally with friends, but need to speak respectfully with strangers. So try to translate the following phrases, and say out loud: Friend or Stranger. Ready?

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<<tip of the day>>

Today’s tip is simple: Get into the habit of playing with the language…playing with the Russian you know. By playing, I mean using without trying to express a real truth. We learned in the previous episode a construction that’s perfect for playing. Do you remember it? Try to say: I have a dog.

У меня есть собака.

Now, here’s what I might do. What my kids would do. I’ll demonstrate in English…I have a dog. Do you have a dog? Does George have a dog? No. George has a cat. Do you have a cat?

With just that one simple construction, you could play for a long time. I wasn’t trying to make sense, or say true things. It was just speaking for the fun of it. Here’s the same kind of thing in Russian….

У меня есть собака. У тебя есть собака? У Джорджа есть собака? Нет. У Джорджа есть кошка. У тебя есть кошка?

It’s another parallel with learning guitar. I remember learning something called ‘two hand tapping’ when I was just getting started. Eddie Van Halen was the master of this…(demo)

Anyway, the original phrase I learned was these three notes. And immediately I played with it. (demo) I didn’t care if I was making “musical sense” or not. It didn’t even seem like practice. That’s really important. It was fun.

That’s what we want to do with our Russian. Have fun with it. Not all the time. But some times.

<<end tip>>

Ok, let’s do our Russian Immersion section now.

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Ok…on to our final. Try to translate the gist of these phrases:

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How’d you do? Keep those emails coming, and I’ll see you in the next episode.