Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 14

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* NOTE *

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

Welcome to Episode 14. Today we’re going to listen to a slew of clips from Russian cartoons. Before getting to that, though, let’s review the previous episode with my little boy William. Bear in mind, at this recording, he’d just turned three…

“William can you say in Russian things like Give me…”

Ummm…Дай мне!

Иди сюда!




Не делай!

That was unscripted and unprompted, which is why he used some commands we haven’t learned. Let me re-play and hit pause. So…Дай мне we know. Try to say: Give me the key.

Дай мне ключ.

Next he said…Иди сюди.

That makes me smile because it’s probably the most common command a child will hear. But it didn’t occur to me to show you guys. What does it mean? Well…If your kid is in the next room and you need him to come to you, you’d call out:

Уильям, иди сюда!

Or this example. Andrei goes to Mom and tells her…..

Мама, София играет на балконе.

Mom, Sophia is playing on the balcony.

Since Sophia should not be playing there, Mama calls out…

София, иди сюда!

Sophia, come here! Literally: walk….to here

Back to the recording….Hmm…That one was hard to hear, actually. He said: Смотри!

Look! (That’s a hard one for for him to pronounce.)

Next one: Кушай! I’m laughing again…That’s another one kids hear all the time. What does it mean? Imagine your kid is sitting in front of his untouched dinner. You instruct him: Уильям, кушай!

Often at our table, Andrei will be too busy playing with his Lego and has to be prodded:

Андрюша, пожалуйста…Кушай.

Кушай is a command to children to eat. Not something you use with adults, except maybe grandma might say it at the family dinner table.

Back to William’s recording…Делай!

That one we can get. Because you know this: Что ты делаешь?

What are you doing?

So, “Делай!” is the command form. “Do it!”

And finally William said: “Не делай!” – “Don’t do that!”

That’s also funny. He realized that he hears the Don’t do that version a whole lot more often.

Don’t draw on the walls, don’t eat with your hands. Don’t take Sophia’s toys.

Not vital, but if you want to learn one of those new commands, make it:

Иди сюда.

Come here.

Even just иди is useful. It means: Go or Walk, depending on the situation. Imagine you’re out with a Russian friend. He needs to run to the bank, so he sends you on ahead. For ex: Go to the library…

Иди в библиотеку.

Go to the garage.

Иди в гараж.

Go to the store.

Иди в магазин.

On to today’s lesson. Again, this is going to be mostly listening practice. So, in this first clip can you spot the command? The two main characters are Krotik (a mole) and Hoho (a panda). Listen as Krotik says the command twice.

Давай Хохо…лево, право…давай.

Hoho the Panda is training for a race. So the command was: давай…Which means, Let’s go. Let’s do it. Come on! (A command of encouragement, usually.)

See if you can spot it in this next clip. A fireman is saving his friend Edgar from a dangling truck…

Давай, Эдгар, прыгай!

He said two commands, actually: Come on, Edgar, jump!

Listen for it in this next one, too. A fox is bullying a hedgehog, rooting through his bag…

Всё вкусное оставишь мне. Давай!

All tasty things leave for me. Do it!

Now, what would be the formal version of that?

Hit pause. Think it over…


So, later, the fox is commanding the wise old monkey to push something…

Давайте…Давайте, Давайте!

See how he used the respectful version. Do it! Do it, do it!

Next, let’s listen for a verb we learned back in Episode 8. A woman sees her friend Milo at night, going up in an air balloon, and she asks him…

Что ты делаешь Майло?

What are you doing, Milo?

Same episode, a man sees Cody, his younger brother, hiding and asks the kid….

Коди, что ты делаешь?

Cody, what are you doing?

Quick explanation before getting to the next clip. Imagine we’re sitting in a pizzeria, and I say:

Я хочу пиццу.

I want pizza.

Nothing new there. But if I’m at your house and I say, “You know, on Tuesday, я был в пиццерии и я хотел пиццу.”

….what do you think that means? Я был…I was in a pizzeria and I wanted pizza. Past tense.

Try to say: I wanted to try the cake.

Я хотел попробовать торт.

How would a woman say: I wanted to watch basketball.

Я хотела смотреть баскетбол.

With that in mind…Let’s go back to that show with the panda. Hoho wants to know why Krotik is acting weird. Krotik explains…

Я хотел сделать сюрприз.

How would you translate that? Listen again…

I wanted to do a surprise. He used the perfective, сделать, because he wanted to do one surprise and finish doing it. And HoHo responds…

Я тоже люблю делать сюрпризы.

I also love to do (in general) surprises.

He used the imperfective, делать, because he loves to make surprises in general.

– – –

We talked about the two forms of commands. Like: Offering cake to a friend…


Then offering it to your boss: Попробуйте.

So, that formal version…Попробуйте…is what you use when talking to two or more people.

They could be my three year old twins. Doesn’t matter. Kids or friends….two or more, you need the formal version. So, if I’m pointing out something for my friends Yana and Oleg…”Look!”

I’d have to use: “Смотрите!”

What’s interesting is, if I just said: “Смотри!” they wouldn’t know who I’m talking to. Both might look, neither might look. So…Two or more, you’ve got to use the formal version.

With that in mind: Krotik is telling Hoho the Panda…

Хохо, ты очень любишь арбуз. Смотри…Вот арбузы.

арбуз is watermelon

Hoho, you really love watermelon Look, there’s the watermelons

He used смотри because it’s friend to friend. Later, the fox is showing the two of them how he paints with his tail, and says…


He’s talking to two friends. He has to use the formal version.

Another example. Imagine you accidentally step on your friend’s foot. You touch his shoulder perhaps, and then say: Ой, прости.

But accidentally bump a stranger out in public, we’d say…


Forgive me.

Again…with that in mind: In this next cartoon, the Mayor is acting strangely, looking all around for alien invaders, and the police chief tells him:

Простите, Мэр, но там никого нет.

Forgive me, Mayor, but there’s no one there.

Same episode, the boy Cody explains to his family why he was hiding

Простите, просто я был один.

Forgive me, simply, I was alone. He uses the formal version with his family? Yes, because he’s talking to all of them. If he was talking to just his dad, he would’ve said: Прости, Пап.

Two more before the break. How would you translate this?

У меня есть идея.

I have an idea. Lit: At me there is an idea. Listen again…

And this one?

Где ты был весь день, Кротик?

весь день translates as “all day.” Listen again…Where were you all day, Krotik?

<<tip of the day>>

Today’s tip is about imagery. As much as you’re able, try to associate an image in your mind with each new word or expression. For ex: Do you recall what Простите means? You accidentally bump someone on the street. Простите! Forgive me. To me, a good image for that is of someone stepping back, hands up. A universal apologetic stance.

How about this one…Do you recall when to use: Иди сюда!

To call over a friend or a child. Come here. So what would be a good image for that?

I envision a parent pointing to the ground in front of them, with their child across the room.

How about Давай! What did that mean? It’s usually a phrase of encouragement. It translates as Let’s go! Come on! Let’s do it! You’ll hear this a zillion times at any Russian soccer match. So a good image is of a fan in the stands, fists clenched, leaning over and imploring the guy with the ball…Давай!

Or this…Imagine a person holding out a forkful of some food. What will they tell you?

Попробуй. Try it. That’s a good image for that…the extended fork.

If you can consistently link the same image to a word or phrase, it will help you greatly to translate it on the spot. You’ll essentially see the answer. I’m pretty sure this is what’s going on in kids’ minds, too.

<< END TIP >>

Next let’s play: Spot the Infinitive. That’s all I want you to listen for: A verb infinitive. Ready?

Дедушка объезяна! Как научиться рисовать?

So an обезьяна is a monkey…this one is like the wise old monkey in Lion King.

Дедушка объезяна!

Grandpa monkey.

Как научиться рисовать?

How to learn *to draw?*

Technically there are two infinitives in a row there, but we’re after that last one… рисовать

After the monkey explains how he draws, Hoho tells him…

Дедушка, я попробую…

No infinitive there. He said: Grandpa, I will try…

Next they ask the fox, who says:

Как рисовать? So there’s our infinitive again…How to draw?

And when the fox shows them how, with his painted tail, Hoho says…

Ну-ка…Я попробую.

Well, uh…I’ll try!

Next they ask the turtle…who of course speaaaks verrry slowly…

Научиться рисовать?

I like that one because you can really hear the “Ть” soft-sign end

Ok…In this last round before the final, each phrase has an unfamiliar command.

See if you can spot it, and tell me if it’s formal or informal.


The Police chief answers the phone…

Служба спасения. ГоворИте.

Safety service. Talk. …FORMAL

Krotik is telling the Hedgehog…

Пожалуйста, не говори Хохо.

Please, don’t be telling Hoho…

The fox lowers his tail, trying to save Krotik…

Кротик, держи меня!

Krotik, hold on to me! INFORMAL

The Mayor is ranting to the Police Chief about supposed aliens…

Что? Они повсюду…Уходите!

What? They’re everywhere. Go! (Leave) FORMAL

Police Chief to his son Cody—сынок is a cutesy form of the word сын….son

Спасибо, сынок. Помоги нам найти Грама.

Thanks, Son. Help us to find Graham. INFORMAL

Krotik and Panda roll past the fox. Krotik says hi…

Привет, Лис!

…and the fox commands them…

Подождите меня!

Wait for me! FORMAL…because it’s his two friends

Later, the fox is yelling up a tree at the hedgehog…

А ну…Слезай!

Well! Climb down! INFORMAL

An engineer is explaining to a reporter how to use the satellite booth…

А потом просто слушайте

And then simply listen. FORMAL, because they’re colleagues

– – –

Ok, final exam. Let’s see how many of today’s new words and commands you recall. Since I barely even pointed them out, it’s no worry if you recall none of them. Next time you go through, you’ll recall a few more. Ready?

– – –

I hope you had fun with all that. See you in the next episode!