Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 16

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

Welcome to Episode 16. Before you started this course, you probably encountered the phrase: My name is…For ex: My name is Steve. Меня зовут Стив. We’ve used it quite a bit in these podcasts, but I never actually broke that down for you.

Now, despite what you may have heard online, меня зовут does not translate as “My name is…”

Not even close. Yes, it is the Russian equivalent of that phrase. It’s indeed a way of telling someone your name. But the word меня does not mean “my”. And зовут doesn’t mean “name.”

When you say: Меня зовут….you’re literally saying: “Me they call….”

Here’s the important part…the topic, in fact, of this whole episode: “calling” someone—as in, they call me Mark—counts as doing something to someone. So, imagine you’re telling someone the names of people in your family.

Mom they call Linda.

Маму зовут Линда.

See how Mama changed to Mamu? How might you say: My sister they call Michele. (We’ll leave off the word “my” because it’s understood.)

Сестру зовут Мишель.

Сестра changed to сестру

Do you recall how to say ‘dog’ in Russian?


So try to say: The dog is called Fido.

Собаку зовут Файдо.

Again, we see that sobaka has changed to sobakU.

So far so good? Now here’s something interesting about Russian…something I’ve gone out of my way to avoid during this entire course. But we’re ready for it, now: When we do something to a man his name will change.

For ex, take the names: Steve, Jeff, Marvin

Стив, Джеф, Марвин

The speaker will say: I know Steve. I saw Jeff. I love Marvin.

Listen to how their names change.

Я знаю Стива. Я увидела Джефа. Я люблю Марвина.

Did you hear those ‘a’s at the end? Стива, Джефа, Марвина?

Your turn. Try to say…”I know Anton.”

Я знаю Антона.

I saw Maxim.

Я увидел Максима.

She loves Greg.

Она любит Грега.

That doesn’t happen to masculine objects, right? I love your phone: Я люблю твой телефон.

No change. The phone’s not alive. And actually, it goes beyond people. Any masculine creature that is animate will change. So, not plants. They’re alive, but don’t move about on their own.

But a giraffe is animate…Жираф

I saw a giraffe.

Я увидела жирафа.

Let’s say you’re in a rock band and before a big gig, the guitarist falls ill. гитарист is the word for guitarist. So you say, Hey…I know a guitarist.

Я знаю гитариста.

So, jumping back to when we were naming the people in our family. Now we point to a picture of our brother and say: My brother they call Erik. (Again, we leave off ‘my’. It’s understood.)

Брата зовут Эрик.

Брат becomes брата because calling him counts as doing something to him.

Let that sink in as we review some main points from the last episode. Can you translate the following phrases?

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We got our grammar point out of the way, next up is our official new word for the lesson.


So, you’ve got a train to catch. Meanwhile, your mom says, “Don’t go yet. Aunt Yana wanted to say goodbye.” But you look at your watch and shake your head…

Мама…Я не могу ждать.

So you pick up your suitcase and step outside, then Mom tugs your coat from behind. She’s pointing to Yana’s car pulling up.

Жди, жди! Видишь? Яна приехала.

So, he said: Я не могу ждать.

I can not wait…as in, I’m unable to wait. So what kind of word is it?

ждать is a verb infinitive. We hear that T+soft sign. And what was mom saying as Yana pulled up?

Жди! is the command form. She was saying, Wait!

Let’s say you go to a restaurant and they tell you it’ll be an hour before you get a table. Tell your friend: I don’t want to wait.

Я не хочу ждать.

Imagine you’re in a cafe and you still haven’t gotten your food. Listen as the speaker tells the waitress…Девушка…

I’m waiting for my salad.

Я жду салат.

My brother is waiting for his soup.

Мой брат ждёт суп.

And you, Darina. You’re waiting for pizza, yes?

А ты, Дарина…Ты ждёшь пиццу, да?

Let’s hear those again: I’m waiting…You’re waiting…He’s waiting…

Я жду, ты ждёшь, он ждёт

Since ‘waiting for something’ counts as doing something to it, we notice that the feminine word ‘pizza’ changed to ‘pizzu.’ Whereas things like soup and salad didn’t change because they’re inanimate masculine nouns. But how would you say: I’m waiting for Jeff.

Я жду Джефа.

The word for a client in Russian is a cognate. Listen: клиент

Ask your friend: Are you waiting for a client?

Ты ждёшь клиента?

No. I’m waiting for Yana.

Нет. Я жду Яну.

Out of curiosity…Can you guess what the past tense might be? How would a guy say:

I was waiting and waiting…

Я ждал и ждал…

How would a woman say that?

Я ждала и ждала..

Before the break…this is just for fun…the name for this pattern is the Animate Accusative.

You don’t have to learn it. Heck, forget I even told you. You guys know I loathe grammar terms.

But this one’s fun to toss around. So the next time you’re hanging with some friends and they ask what you’ve been up to, just say…”Eh, same old stuff. Just getting a handle on Russian’s animate accusative rule. What about you?” Then look at your watch and say, For me it’s time…

Мне пора.


I’m sure you’ve noticed…since the midterm episode, we’ve been doing more and more speaking. Compare that to the early episodes, where almost all we did was listen. It’s because our model through all of this has been my kids, and the way they so efficiently are learning three totally different languages. At first, they listened, picking up the patterns. Like….’Whenever someone says Я there’s a word that ends either with an L sound, or an U. Я ждал…or…Я жду. Я смотрел….or…Я смотрю. Again, they had little idea what the things meant, but they were categorizing like crazy. That’s some kind of action. That’s some kind of location. клиент must be a person, because it changed to клиента and so on.

But then came their first trials at speaking. As I write, William is far ahead of his sister Sophia who still mostly listens quietly. But she’s on the verge now. Words are starting to come.

As they are with us. So let them flow. Use all the Russian you know. Please don’t worry about making mistakes. My kids sure don’t. Heck, I’m a native speaker of English and I make mistakes. We all do. Who hasn’t said: There’s lot of cars in the garage.

That’s wrong. It should be: There ARE lots of cars…not There is…

Don’t let the fear of mistakes stop you from practicing your Russian, okay?

And if you’re looking for a course that will help you with that…that will do all the work for you, and turn you into a confident conversational Russian speaker, then I hope you check out Russian Accelerator. It’s my premium course…All video, with over a dozen native speakers. Videos that really clarify the meaning of things. It’s all there, in ninety lessons. Plus a podcast I made exclusively for Russian Accelerator members.

You’ve come this far, and we’ve got a few more episodes left. But after that, I hope you’ll join my Accelerator course. I think you’ll love it.


Alright…let’s do our Russian Immersion section. So, Irina comes into the mall and sees me sitting on a bench…

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In today’s tip I mentioned how, as we progress in the language, we inevitably begin speaking more and more…just as kids do. So for today’s final, let’s practice some of our recent vocab.

Try to say the following phrases….

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If you got most of those, you’re doing awesome. Keep up the great work and I’ll see you in the next episode.