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RUSSIAN LANGUAGE LESSONS  / 2.1 Предметы обучения

Olga's BlogAt the time of this project, Olga Dmitraschenko was a sixteen-year-old native Muscovite and incoming freshman to Moscow State University, one of Russia's most respected educational institutions. She served an internship with SRAS during the summer of 2006 as a research assistant on issues of popular culture. She stayed on afterwards with SRAS as the primary author of Olga's Blog, a series of language lessons based on modern Russian life and written in the language of Moscow's young, well-educated college students. The native Russian text has been glossed by the School of Russian and Asian Studies for vocabulary, cultural implications, grammar, and some youth slang.

Each month the SRAS newsletter features short language lessons. Sign up for updates!

Olga's Blog: Предметы обучения
Lesson 2, Part 1

Back to Lessons Table of Contents 

Note that all bold words and phrases have annotation below. Red words and phrases indicate the subject of this blog entry's grammer lesson. Asterisks indicate slang.

"Универ," a slang term for "University" is also the name of a popular sitcom in Russia about a group of college students. Episodes can be seen online for free here.

Привет всем! 

Сегодня я начну рассказывать вам про свои первые дни в МГУ. Американцам это может показаться необычным, ведь университеты в Америке и России разные и системы образования отличаются. Например, в Америке студенты могут сами выбирать из предметов, входящих в курс обучения. И поэтому, когда американские студенты приходят в МГУ на такие программы, как предлагает SRAS, им тоже дается выбор. Но в России же студенты почти всех вузов обязаны проходить определенные нормативные занятия. Вот такой беспредел* получается.

В универе* нам раздали расписание. У всех предметы были одинаковые. Вот, что у нас на первый семестр – информатика, английский язык, философия, история России, экономика, высшая математика, культурология, БЖД, введение в специальность.

Но зато на физкультуре можно было выбирать! Первое собрание по физкультуре проходило на открытом стадионе во время дождя. Тренер собрал у студентов медицинские справки (это отдельная история, расскажу ее позже) и раздал бланки, в которых нужно было отметить, в какой из 5 спортивных секций хочешь заниматься. Нам предложили степ, фитнес, легкая атлетика, футбол, плавание. Ни секунды не задумываясь я поставила галочку рядом с плаванием! Это офигительный* и интереснейший вид спорта. Но после нескольких занятий, тренер сказал, что готовит ребят к соревнованиям и у себя в группе оставил только мальчиков. Вот такая дискриминация, так что пришлось мне перейти на легкую атлетику. Но я совсем не жалею. Мы там бегаем, прыгаем в песок, делаем всякие упражнения. Все это очень весело и полезно.

Так, идем дальше о прогамме! Я думаю, может быть это даже хорошо, что все мы занимаемся по одной программе, это сближает и к пятому курсу, когда мы все получим степень специалиста, мы будем хорошо знать друг друга. И вообще, в МГУ очень много возможностей познакомиться с интересными новыми людьми. Второкурсники каждые два месяца организовывают для нас поездки. В прошлый раз мы ездили в Пансионат «Елочка» в Подмосковье. В одном из следующих блогов об этом тоже расскажу, но это уже не учеба, это отдых! Отдых будет потом - а пока у меня занятия и мне надо бежать! Наверное, у вас тоже есть учеба - бегите!



Vocabulary and Cultural Annotations

    Selected Programs Abroad:
    Беспредел: slang term referring to "non-observance of rules" (несоблюдение правил). Olga is making a light joke based on the irony of the situation that foreigners are often given more choice than Russians in Russian educational institutions. More on this subject in point three below.
  2. Универ: slang term for "university" (университет). Shortened terms in Russian such as this one most often indicate an affinity for the object of the original term.
  3. Предметы были одинаковые: the subjects were identical. Russian degree programs are most often highly regimented. Students are assigned to a group and take all their prescribed classes together for the duration of their program (it's similar to the way many junior high schools function in America). As Olga will describe later, this has its benefits and drawbacks. While choice is nice and can foster creativity, studying with the same group means you know many of your future colleagues very well at the end of your program. The personal contacts this represents can be even more valuable than the education itself (a fact that holds true in Russia as well as America).  
  4. Информатика: Information Technology. Essentially, this class covers how to use computers, libraries, the Internet, and other research techniques. Notice the word is a composite noun – formed from combining the words "информация" and "техника."
  5. Культурология: Cultural Studies. This is a relatively new field that combines a wide range of concepts from fields such as sociology, anthropology, rhetoric, philosophy, and political economy to study the culture of a group as a whole.
  6. БЖД: Life Safety (Безопасность Жизнедеятельности) a subject that studies natural disasters, accidents, terrorism, self-defense, and how to react to extreme situations.
  7. Введение в специальность: "Introduction to the Specialty." Essentially, this is Foreign Policy 101.  Note, however, that none of Olga's classes list indexical numbers.  Because the programs are assigned, there is little need for Russian universities to give such indexes.
  8. Степ: Step Aerobics.
  9. Фитнес: "Fitness" in Russian combines essentially anything that might be found at a large fitness club (aerobics, body building, cross training, and most forms of sport).
  10. Легкая атлетика: "Light Fitness" includes most track and field events. It is worth mentioning, however, that sport has always been taken very seriously in Russia. Russians discern between more types of sport and physical activity then Americans do. The differences between these can often be extraordinarily subtle. Those who are especially interested in the subject are encouraged to research it further. Contact SRAS on ideas where to start.
  11. Офигительный: slang term meaning, essentially, "there's nothing like it." It's often used in place of more standard Russian words and phrases such as "необыкновенный," "поражающий," and "приятно удивляющий."
  12. Готовит к соревнованиям: to prepare for a competition. While Olga could have easily filed a complaint for her class being suddenly segregated based on sex, in Russia such occurrences are generally simply accepted as the decision of those in charge.
  13. Прыгаем в песок: the long jump.
  14. Степень специалиста: "specialist's degree." This is the recognized equivalent of an MA in the US. Russian degrees differ slightly, however, and actually include a level beyond Ph.D. called "Доктор наук." For more information, see this article from SRAS.
  15. Поездка: excursion.  As mentioned before, bonding within the group is seen as an important part of the students' educational experience. Thus, the university encourages this with frequent excursions. Students are expected to pay their own way for these, but they are most often quite inexpensive.
  16. Пансионат «Елочка»: The Fir Tree Rest Home. The Soviet Union had a serious of "Houses of Rest" (Дома отдыха) built for various social groups to take short vacations just outside of the city limits. These feature health, medical, and recreation facilities.  Most are privatized now, but still very inexpensive and enjoyable. 



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Grammar Focus
Use of the Imperative

The imperative mood is used to demand or require that an action be preformed. Obviously, the imperative can be seen as being quite powerful and using it with people with whom one feels one should be polite or with whom one does not have an established social relationship provides an excellent example of where grammar becomes mixed with cultural expectations. This is also a point with which students often have difficulty.

Russian, like English, has developed several ways of "softening" such demands to allot for such expectations.

In English, the imperative mood is most often formed by using the base form of the verb without stating the subject (eg. "Go to the store" or "Buy some milk").

Russian forms the imperative most by adding "ите" or "йте" to the verb root if giving a command to multiple subjects or to subject the speaker does not know on an informal basis. (Ходите в магазин; Дайте мне газету). If the subject is singular and known well, the final "те" is dropped from the above form (Ходи в магазин; Дай мне газету). The subject in Russian is also left unstated in the imperative. – Note: formation of the imperative is slightly more complex than this implies and will be covered in the next edition of Olga's Blog.

The first variant is perfectly acceptable in most social situations such as in restaurants and shops. Russians frequently add the word "пожалуйста" (please) to the end of the imperative or the words "Будьте добры" (the equivalent of the English "Would you be so kind as to") to the beginning of the imperative to soften the command.

Russians also replace imperfective verbs with perfective verbs in order to soften requests. For example  "Иди сюда!" (Come here!) can be often heard from Russians walking dogs and small children on city streets. "Пойдите сюда" (come here) can be heard in professional settings between colleagues. "Пойди сюда" is sometimes used between friends and lovers. In all cases, the grammar is correct and the meaning essentially the same, but the tone of the command is changed.

When to use these formations, beyond using the basic rules concerning number and familiarity of the audience, is largely a matter of stylistics.

However, students should also always remember that negative commands must always use the imperfective. Не ходите на этот фильм, он неинтересный. (Don't go to that film, it's not interesting.)

Note: Less commonly used formations of the imperative and their cultural implications will be covered in the third installment of this lesson.

Examples from Literature and the Press:

А вот моя дочка,-- ну пойди сюда. В. Набоков
Спасайте жизнь, бегите прочь отсюда! В. Шекспир
Успокойте же меня, приезжайте и скажите, что всё хорошо. А. Чехов


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