Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 9

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* NOTE *

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

Welcome to Episode 9. You may have noticed that in the last episode we heard a bunch of phrases that I never actually translated for you. All these…

Ты работаешь в кинотеатре?

Нет. Майкл работает в кинотеатре.

I didn’t translate because we were simply listening for our verb patterns:




The verbs, though, that we heard were all in the top ten most commonly used verbs in Russian…in any language, really. And today, we’re going to work with four of them. Can you translate them?

(vege chopping sounds)

Привет, Полина. Что ты делаешь?

Я делаю салат.

“Hi Polina. What are doing?”

“I’m making a salad.”

Hmmm..the same verb—делать can translate as doing and making? Yup. If I walk into my son’s room and I see he’s stacking all his furniture against the wall, building a fort or something, I’d yell…Андрей! Что ты делаешь!

Andrei, what are you doing?

He says: Я делаю форт.

I’m making a fort.

Later, if he’s at the table drawing a picture and putting sprinkles on it and such, I’d ask again:

Ей Андрей, что ты делаешь?

What are you making?

Я делаю картинку маме.

I’m making a picture for mom.

The translation just depends on context. Imagine I’m putting together little William’s birthday present. A bicycle. He wants to come into the room, but Andrei stops him. Listen..

Папа делает тебе сюрприз.

Dad is making a surprise for you.

Ask your friend,who has flour and sugar and butter all over the place…Are you making a cake?

How about this next one? Again, one of the most common verbs in any language…

(sound of soda can)

Таня, хочешь колу? Есть Пепси, Спрайт, Кок.

Нет, спасибо. Я не хочу колу.

Do you want a cola? (soda)

No. I don’t want.

I’m trying to feed our kids, when my wife calls. I tell her…

Андрюша не хочет суп.

А что он хочет?

Andrusha doesn’t want soup.

So, what does he want?

Try to say: I don’t want pizza.

– – –

You’re eating potato chips when a friend walks in. Jiggle the bag and ask, with one word: Want?

– – –

Let’s do some review, now, from the last episode. Ask a friend, “You wouldn’t happen to know where my telephone is?” Literally: You don’t know where my telephone is?

– – –

Ok, now let’s review what we’ve worked on so far in today’s episode. Can you translate the gist of the following phrases?

– – –

So far so good? Let’s try two more verbs…again, we heard them in the last episode, now we’ll take a closer look. Imagine you friend calls and asks if you’re up for basketball. But that afternoon, you sprained your ankle. So you say..

Я не могу играть. Нога болит.

I can’t play. My leg hurts.

Someone calls asking to speak to your roommate But he’s in the shower. So you say…

Он не может говорить.

He can’t talk.

Your mom’s about to head to the store and you’re feeling thirsty for something sweet. So you ask…

Мама, ты можешь купить мне лимонад?

Mom, can you buy me lemonade?

Let’s try those again. I can. You can. He can.

Я могу. Ты можешь. Он может.

And our last verb. Remember, in one of the first episodes, we listened to my 3 yr old son William using a construction? Well, here’s what he said…translated into Russian. Listen…

Я люблю….Маму. /…папу. /…бабушку. /…дедушку. /…Андрюшу

I love Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa and Andryusha.

And why all those “u”endings? Mamu, Papu, Babushku? Because loving something counts as doing something to it

Here’s the “you” form of the verb. Imagine that, while your significant other is away, you remodel their room with bookshelves stacked with books. You explain…

Я знаю, что ты любишь читать.

I know, that you love to read.

And the he/she form. Listen…

Папа любит смотреть бейсбол.

Dad loves to watch baseball.

Let’s hear those again…I love, you love, he loves…

Я люблю, ты любишь, он любит

So now…let’s put all four of those verbs together. Again, just try to get the gist of these phrases. At a minimum, try to get, like, “he wants” or “Grandma loves”…Ready?

<<tip of the day>>

A lot of people have been writing in, asking about additional listening practice. Obviously, Russian songs are a great place to start. What I would do is Google “famous Russian singers” and then click on whoever interests you. In fact, in the next episode—the USR Midterm—I’ll be playing cuts from a variety of Russian and Ukrainian singers.

So, songs are one source. The other obvious choice is Russian movies…which I don’t really recommend. Oh, it’s a popular suggestion online, on sites like reddit and Quora…”Watch Russian movies with subtitles.”

I appreciate that they’re trying to help, but it’s a thoughtless suggestion. Russian movies, written, acted, directed by Russians…use an extremely challenging register of Russian speech. Moreover, they’re talking about things—aspects of life in Russia—which would be alien to you. Do you know what ZAGs and Ovir are? What a podval looks like…to say nothing of a cherdak. Do you know what it’s like to shop in the центральный рынок…the old ones, where the stands are barely ten feet wide and the alleys crammed with shoppers who rode in from the celo? It’s just…it’s too much.

Instead, I recommend watching dubbed cartoons. Peppa Pig. Robocar Poli. Super Wings. Peppa Pig is great because each episode is so short. Five minutes…maybe seven? But more importantly, it deals with things we understand well. Going to the store. Cooking dinner. Going to the playground. A trip to the lake. And to really get your money’s worth, watch the episode in English first, then the same one in Russian. And don’t bother with the closed captioning to read along…its ability to transcribe is laughably bad. Just relax, and listen.

You could also watch feature-length cartoons dubbed into Russian. Toy Story, Frozen, Tangled, Lion King…whatever. Choose whichever you’ve seen and know well, and then search for the Russian dubbed version. We do quite a bit of that in my Russian Accelerator podcast, and it’s fascinating. Whoever Disney and Pixar are using for translating the scripts…they’re geniuses Really, amazingly good work. Because especially trying to translate songs? So so hard. And they always nail it.