We speak to Antonia, a real Rosetta Stone user who has learned Russian. Discover his incredible language journey and find out what makes it the perfect Valentine's Day story.
What did your study plan look like when you practiced Russian? How many times did you practice in a week? How long did each session last?
At the beginning of the process, my schedule was very intense. I work one to two hours every day, more on the weekends. Having Andrei in my life was definitely a boost! He lived in Milwaukee for the first year and a half of our relationship while I was in Chicago, so we only saw each other on the weekends. I remember being excited to show him the new phrases I had learned and challenging myself more and more because of it.
After you and Andrei met, did you introduce him to Rosetta Stone? What did you think? He also started learning a second language?
Andrei had never heard of Rosetta Stone until we met, but he was very impressed to find that he had learned all the Russian he had through this program. He started using it to learn Spanish!
How did Andrei help you with Russian lessons? What were some tips you gave?
Andrei mainly helps me with grammar. The difficult thing about Russian is that each word changes depending on usage. So the Russian word for car, "машина", changes slightly when you say "I drive the car". Instead of "Я вedу (I drive) машина" it says "Я вedу машин".j.” This was a new grammar rule for you to learn as a native English speaker, so it's pretty common for you to make mistakes. There are also sounds that we just don't make in the English language. There is a letter "ц" which is essentially atSound that is quite difficult for non-Russian speakers. The funny thing is that it's in Andrei's last name, so my whole family has a hard time pronouncing his name!
What was the funniest Russian faux pas you've experienced?
Well, it wasn't really a misstep I made, it was one my dad made. My father wanted to say a phrase in Russian during his toast at our wedding, and we taught him to say "To the family!" The sentence is "За семью!" That sounds likede sem-yoo. My dad wrote it down and toasted it very sweetly and heartily at our wedding reception and then said, "Well, some of you might know what that means: 'Засуну! (To-pronto-to!)'". It was just a minor slip, a minor mispronunciation, but he managed to say an entirely different phrase in Russian that essentially meant "Put it on!". Needless to say, it got quite a few looks from people who understood Russian My poor father would have been embarrassed if he knew what he announced to all our family and friends so we didn't tell him for a couple of months.
After meeting your husband, what made you decide to continue your education?
She really wanted to get to know Andrei's father Boris better. Boris didn't speak English (although he understood some) and came to visit us for 4-6 weeks every year. In the weeks leading up to his visit, he practiced day and night so that he could actually converse in Russian. I never got to the point where I felt comfortable discussing really difficult ideas/concepts (life's big questions), but he and I were able to have happy days together. Boris died exactly a year ago and I still regret not practicing more often and becoming very fluent before he died. He was a fascinating and wonderful man and I wish I had known him better.
Now my motivation to become fluent comes from my daughter. I really want him to learn Russian naturally and I know it's important for him to hear Russian spoken at home, not just by Andrei, but also conversational Russian.
How does learning a new language enrich your everyday life?
I think it's similar to how travel enriches your life. It exposes you to a larger world where there are different ways to communicate and experience life. I think there's a certain level of uneasiness that comes with learning a new language and traveling to a new place: you're not in your element and you have to adapt. It's a really wonderful opportunity to grow.
In my personal experience, learning a new language has completely changed my life. I met my future husband, started a new family on the other side of the world and had a daughter who will be the citizen of two countries. We have a unique and cross-cultural family and I wouldn't have it any other way.
“I think there's a certain uneasiness about both learning a new language and traveling to a new place: you're not in your element and you have to adapt. It's a really wonderful opportunity to grow."
Have you ever traveled to Russia? If so, what was it like using your language skills in an immersion experience? How did people react?
Yes! I've been to Russia twice now. The first time I went to Russia was just before I started my studies. He had saved up for a big trip and wanted to go to another country. Andrei's father (whom I had already met by then) offered me to live in his apartment in Moscow and he could show me the city. I accepted the offer to explore a new country AND have the opportunity to speak Russian every day. I was there for two weeks and Boris took me all over Moscow and the Russian countryside. I loved. I was nervous speaking Russian to strangers but once I started speaking everyone was so happy that I took the time to learn that they were genuinely warm and helpful. And it was wonderful to meet Andrei's sister and her husband and their entire extended family. When I went to Russia the second time, I traveled with Andrei, and it was a honeymoon. This trip was wonderful for all the new reasons. I got to see Andrei where he grew up, in the middle of his family, and it was really beautiful.
"I was nervous speaking Russian to strangers but as soon as I started speaking everyone was so happy that I took the time to learn that they were genuinely warm and helpful."
Why do you think Russian is an important language to learn today?
Russia has such a rich history and is a wonderful place to visit. But to be honest, I'm not sure I would have even thought about learning Russian if I hadn't read Dostoyevsky. I just marveled at his writing and thought how wonderful it would be to read his work in his native language. I started learning Russian on a whim, but it completely changed my life and now I can't imagine my life without it. I believe that learning a language is a way of embracing the unknown. Russian turned out to be the unknown I embraced.
What tips do you have for English speakers learning Russian?
Use the Rosetta Stone! I know it's a shameless plug, but there are many language learning tools I've tried and Rosetta Stone beats them all. The main reason is that Russian has some sounds that are really difficult to make and Rosetta Stone requires you to pronounce words correctly before going to the next level (by using a headset with a microphone). That was invaluable to me. I remember once I said the phrase "I'm cold" to Andrei, and he looked at me and said: "You said that like a Russian!" That was the best compliment he could have given me, and that's what everyone who learns a new language really strives for.
"I remember once saying the line 'I'm cold' to Andrei and he looked at me and said, 'You said that like a Russian!' It was the nicest compliment he could have given me, and it is what all people are that learning a new language really strives for.”
Do you speak any other languages besides Russian and English?
I know a little Italian and less French. I'm sure you would know more if you used Rosetta Stone for these languages too 😉
How do you teach your daughter Russian now? Does he talk to you regularly?Relatives in Russian?
We speak Russian whenever possible and Andrei really tries to only speak Russian with Evie. I even occasionally sit her on my lap while I'm making Rosetta Stone and she thinks it's a game.
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