Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 15

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* NOTE *

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

Welcome to Ep15. Straight to business today. How would you translate the following phrase:

Папа дал мне ключ.

Dad gave me the key.

So that little word мне translates as “to me.” We’ve heard it a lot throughout the course, but I’d like, now, to work specifically with it in some cool new constructions. Listen to these four short phrases…

Мне холодно.

Мне интересно.

Мне нравится твоя гитара.

Мне пора.

Let’s hear that first one again…Мне холодно.

Холодно translates as cold. Maybe you know the word холодильник which is a refrigerator. Anyway, the phrase: мне холодно translates literally as: To me….cold.

In English, we’d phrase it as either: I’m cold…or: It’s cold in here….but we might use the same construction as Russian. Your roommate says: “Are you crazy? It’s hot in here.” And you say: “It’s cold to me.”

Then we heard: Мне интересно.

You’re in a museum with some friends, in the ancient pottery wing, and they all leave. “It’s boring.” And you tell them: А мне интересно.

Well, to me it’s interesting.

Next one: Your friend made a guitar in wood-shop. Not the prettiest one ever made, but you encourage him…Мне нравится твоя гитара.

Literally: TO ME is pleasing your guitar.

Of course, in normal English we’d say: ‘I like your guitar.” But you have to think the way Russians do. Literally: The guitar is pleasing to me.

And here you might call out…Wait! Why didn’t гитара change to гитару? Doesn’t liking it count as doing something to it? No. Not in the literal Russian version. That’s why I’m making such a huge point about that…about thinking and translating literally. In Russian, things are pleasing to us.

It’s the guitar that is doing the action…pleasing me. Yes, in Russian, loving something…that counts as doing something. So…I love the guitar. Я люблю гитару.

But not liking. Russians don’t really have the verb ‘like.’ Things are pleasing to us. We’ll come back to that in a minute. The last phrase we heard was: Мне пора

You’re with a friend and realize you’re late for a meeting. Glance at your watch, then pack up your things, explaining: Мне пора.

Literally just: For me…it’s time. (For me it’s time to go, or to leave.”

Let’s listen to those again in slightly longer phrases. Can you translate?

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So that whole liking vs loving issue. Let’s work with that. Because if you get that down, you’ll really be thinking the way Russians do. Try to say the following in Russian:

Pizza? I love pizza!

Пицца? Я люблю пиццу!

I’m doing the action…loving the pizza.

I like your T-shirt.

Мне нравится твоя футболка.

The T shirt is doing the action…pleasing me.

Nina? I love Nina!

Нина? Я люблю Нину!

I’m doing the action. I’m loving Nina.

I like your car.

Мне нравится твоя машина.

The car is doing the action….it’s pleasing me.

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Speaking of music…the basic form of the word is feminine. Listen: музыка

I like music.

Мне нравится музыка.

Whereas I love music.

А я люблю музыку.

Now here’s where it gets cool. You can use these new constructions with all those forms we learned way back in Episode 6. Remember that “recipient ending” stuff? Try to say…

I told Alina no.

Я сказала Алине нет. Lit: I said TO ALINA…no.

I told George no.

Я сказал Джорджу нет. I said TO GEORGE

In Paris, I bought Mom chocolate.

В Париже я купила маме шоколад. I bought FOR MOM

Dad bought Maxim a new Toyota.

Папа купил Максиму новую Тойоту. Dad bought FOR MAXIM

Джорджу and Алине…To George, and To Alina…those are the same recipient forms as мне.

So how would you translate the following phrases?

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Another flashback, this time to Episode 8, and those clips from SAM & CAT. Remember these…

Кто тебе сказал что я работаю телохранителем?!

Кто тебе дал эту информацию?

Кто тебе сказал?

Who told you? Literally: Who said TO YOU?

Кто тебе дал?

Who gave it to you?

тебе is the recipient form of “ты”…And of course, it rhymes with the “to me” version

Мне? Тебе.

Ask a friend: Do you like borscht?

Тебе нравится борщ?

Are you cold?

Тебе холодно?

Or, if you’re surprised that they’re wearing only a T shirt and shorts, you might ask:

You’re not cold? Lit…what? TO YOU not cold?

Тебе не холодно?

You’re watching a show about Indonesian grubworms…and your roommate leaves to his room.

You ask: It’s not interesting to you?

Тебе не интересно?

Andrusha, it’s time for you to sleep.

Андрюша, тебе пора спать.

So in this next exercise, what I’d like you to try to do is guess the basic, dictionary form of the final word. Ready?

Я люблю твою майку.

We’re doing the action…loving the майку…so it must be a feminine noun

майка…твоя майка

Кларе нравится твоя кукла.

твоя кукла is doing the action, so it’s already in its basic form

Я люблю Галину.

I am doing the action…so the woman’s name must be Galina

Есть суп в холодильнике.

There’s soup in the refrigerator. The basic form of refrigerator is: холодильник

Толику не нравится каша

The kasha is doing the action…it’s not pleasing Tolik. So it’s already in its basic form

Кто купил тебе эту игрушку?

Buying something counts as doing something to it, so игрушка must be a feminine noun.

That’s a challenging exercise, so if you did well, you should feel very good about your progress. And if it was hard, no problem. I think if you listen to the whole episode again, you’ll do better with it the second time. Alright, on to our Russian Immersion section. Listen to the speakers, and answer when prompted…

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Hey…What do you think ему translates as? Note that it rhymes with кому…and Марку. Because it has that recipient marker. It simply means, “to him.” So she was asking, “Is he cold?” Lit: TO HIM cold? Ему холодно?

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I got an email the other day from a listener about reading Russian. Hey Mark, Loving your podcast. I think I’m ready for your Accelerator course, but I don’t know how to read Russian..or if I need to.

That’s a great question. The short answer is: No, you don’t need to read Russian to speak it. My kids speak Russian and English great, but trust me, they can’t read a letter yet. So it’s pretty obvious you don’t need to read to be able to speak. But….

…If you want to read Russian, that’s great. And it’s actually much easier than you’d think. In fact, I have a free app you can get, called Russian Alphabet Mastery – 3 Hour Cyrillic. Free on iTunes and Google Play. Also comes with my Russian Accelerator course. It’s a great app because as you learn each letter, I show you photos of signs that you can then read and understand.

Anyway, I hope that answers that very common question. You don’t need to read in order to speak.

But if you want to, you can learn it in a few fun days. Again, the app is called: Russian Alphabet Mastery – 3 Hour Cyrillic

I think you’ll really enjoy it.


Alright….time for our final exam.

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Great job, guys! Maybe I’ll see you in my Russian Alphabet Mastery app. And if not, I’ll see you in the next episode!