On the streets of Nizhny Novgorod

with 16 Comments
Nizhny_cable_cars
Cable cars that run between Nizhny Novgorod and the suburb of Bor.

People say that speaking is the best way to make progress in a foreign language, but sometimes my brain gets tired or there’s no one to speak with. That’s when I turn to my favorite standby- reading what’s around me.

 

Here are some signs and labels that I used for practice in Nizhny Novgorod. Can you understand all of them?

park_ride
Sign at a rope park.
pest_control
On a lamp post near campus.
Russia_love_graffiti
In front of an apartment building.
RUssian_anti_alcohol
In the park.
Russian_autoparts
Near an old rocket factory.
Russian_bricks
At the Kremlin.
Russian_church_no_smoking
Near local churches.
Russian_drinking_age
At a street cafe.
Russian_love_story
Plastered all over the streets of downtown.
Russian_lunch
Lunch! 😉
Russian_sausages
Only in Russia…
Russian_student_cafe
The student cafeteria.
Russian_stuff
Snacks + souvenirs.
server
In the university’s computer lab.
door
At the Kremlin again.
drinking_water
On the grounds of the Kremlin.
electric_vitamins
Local landmark that supposedly sends a small electrical current through your body.
ferris_wheel_rules_Russia
Riding the Ferris wheel!
flagship_center
Downtown Nizhny Novgorod. Sign closeup below ↓
flagship_sign
One of my new words- флагманский.
fresh_cold_homemade_beer
Available, well, everywhere.
Nizhny_Novgorod_souvenir_store
My advice: skip the museum, head to the souvenir store.
Nizhny_Novgorod_statue_sign
At a local (and slightly terrifying) statue.

 

By always always always reading what’s around, I constantly pick up new words. It’s harder to do this from the states, of course, but the internet helps 🙂 What’s your strategy for acquiring new vocaulary?

 

Mini Russian / English cheat sheet

да, выдерживает = yes, it’ll support (you)

уничтожение = extermination

прочти это = read the whole thing

караульное помещение = guardhouse

флагманский = flagship

художественные промыслы = arts and crafts

взбираться = climb

 

 

Street Russian Project index

Drinks

Housing

Holidays

Job Vocab 1

Restaurants 1

Restaurants 2

Restaurants 3

Staying Healthy

Sweets and Snacks

16 Responses

  1. Natalie K.
    | Reply

    Да, все понимаю))) Спасибо большое за хорошие фотки Родины!

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Я рада, что тебе понравилось, Наталия 🙂 У тебя очень хороший русский!

    • Lyttenburgh
      | Reply

      Да, все понимаю))) Спасибо большое за хорошие фотки Родины!

      “Родины”? Natalie – Russia is not your native country, I believe.

      • Mikhail
        |

        Yes, that sounds amusing. But I would not reproach Natalie for that. She uses the word as a proper name, which gives another meaning to it and allows us to look at the subject at a slightly different angle.

      • Lyttenburgh
        |

        OR – Natalie just blindly translated “Motherland/Mother country” (a standard Western/Anglophonic way to refere to Russia) into Russian not realizing what kind of mistake she is making by that.

        Natalie (and others)! We, Russians, don’t use some “standard” phrases you might think we use. E.g. we don’t use “nazdorofye!” as a “salut! equivalent. We also don’t use the term “Mother Russia”. Yes, “Родина” is (f), as opposend to, say, German’s “Faterland” (m). But we, Russians, are of opinion that every single individual has his/her own Country Of Birth and use the same word to refere to it – i.e. “Rodina”.

      • Katherine
        |

        All this talk about Родина reminds me of that awesome ДДТ song, Еду я на Родину. Have you guys heard it? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw0ughF_LFE

        My vote: it was a purposeful translation, not a mistranslation. Sometimes I’ll use the word to show affection toward Russia, and I think that’s what Natalie was doing too. Obviously I’m a foreigner and will always be, but I choose it to show endearment. It feels weird to use it to describe my own country of birth, even though that’s technically what the word means. Maybe it’s the way we learn Russian as foreigners- for those of us who study the language, it’s so linked with Russia that Родина can’t be anything else. It’s true that I haven’t really heard it used by many native speakers, but it’s such a fun word- there’s so much sentiment behind it!

  2. Valentina
    | Reply

    Класс! Я не была в Нижнем Новгороде, но у меня было несколько знакомых родом оттуда. Спасибо, было интересно. 🙂

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Thank you, Valentina! Your pictures of Cyprus are wonderful- hope to see more soon!

  3. Lyttenburgh
    | Reply

    Dear Katherine.

    “Sometimes I’ll use the word to show affection toward Russia, and I think that’s what Natalie was doing too… It feels weird to use it to describe my own country of birth, even though that’s technically what the word means… it’s so linked with Russia that Родина can’t be anything else. “

    Thought so. And, yes – technically it is wrong.

    “Obviously I’m a foreigner and will always be”

    Why you are so sure? 🙂 A lot of “foreigners” settled down and become thoroughly Russified in the past.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      It doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards now, but you’re right- who knows what will happen? 😉

  4. Mikhail
    | Reply

    Oh, I think this is a beginning of a beautiful cultural dispute, in which, strangely, I’m with Natalie and Katherine. I think Lyttenburgh is too harsh towards them. When a foreign word becomes known, at first it naturally sounds like a proper name. It is obviously distinct from everything one is accustomed to and is used accordingly, that is to denote a unique phenomenon. Generalization comes later, when a word gets firmly naturalized in a target language. For example in Russia we tend to use the term “Поднебесная” exclusively to denote China, which is technically wrong, because the corresponding Chinese term 天下 [tiānxià] (literally “what is under the sky”) is used in China first of all to denote “the world” and not only China. We fall into the same trap and perceive the word as a unique name.
    In a broader context, I believe that our language is organically connected with our thinking. Folks, has anyone of you heard about Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity) ? In other words, when we express some idea in one language, a more or less corresponding expression in another language does not necessarily
    mean exactly the same thing. Especially when we talk about something abstract. Very often you just cannot choose the exact equivalent to a word in a particular language, because there is none.
    I agree with Katherine and think that Natalie used the word “Родина” on purpose. Sometimes we might be puzzled by the way people from other countries use our own words, but we also should take into account their intuitive understanding of the matter. They literally “create” new meanings of words. But that’s how the human thinking works. We don’t “translate”, we re-create ideas taken from one language in another language.

    • Lyttenburgh
      | Reply

      “In other words, when we express some idea in one language, a more or less corresponding expression in another language does not necessarily mean exactly the same thing”

      Well, d’uh!

      “When a foreign word becomes known, at first it naturally sounds like a proper name. It is obviously distinct from everything one is accustomed to and is used accordingly, that is to denote a unique phenomenon. Generalization comes later, when a word gets firmly naturalized in a target language. For example in Russia we tend to use the term “Поднебесная” exclusively to denote China, which is technically wrong”

      The thing is – while “Поднебесная” is definitely is the word used to refere to China in Russia (as a “stand in” or “euphemism”, if you like) it’s not that often used by the general population. Yes, in books, articles, op-eds and on TV author/host might show off by using it, while trying to communicate to the audience. But I don’t believe that:

      a) A lot of ordinary Russians use it in the day to day life or even when talking about China.
      b) That Russians would use it while talking to Chinese.

      Yes, there are some legit “stand ins” that are well known to any Russian. Upon hearing “Великий и Могучий” most will understand that this refers to “русский язык”. When we say “Необъятная” – we are most likely refering to Russia utself (or our mother-in-law…). When you call someone “моя ненаглядная” its apparent that you have deep affection for her.

      Why? Because these are well established “troperific” adjectives, which have deep roots in history and tradition of both the language and the people. To quote from Mihkail Uspansky’s “Там, где нас нет”:

      “– Нетрудно сказать. Молодые у нас все как один добрые, а девицы – красные, мужи – доблестные, жены – верные, старцы – премудрые, старушки – сердобольные, дали – неоглядные, леса – непроходимые, дороги – прямоезжие, города – неприступные, нивы – хлебородные, реки – плавные, озера – бездонные, моря – синие, рыбки – золотые, силы – могучие, брови – соболиные, шеи – лебединые, птицы – вольные, звери – хищные, кони – быстрые, бунтари – пламенные, жеребцы – племенные, зерна – семенные, власти – временные, дела – правые, доходы – левые, уста – сахарные, глаза – зоркие, волки – сытые, овцы – целые… Да что говорить, все равно не поймешь…”

      “Родина” OTOH is a noun. As you have only one woman who gave birth to you – your mother – so you have only one Mother-country. Period. There is no room for interpretation.

      “Especially when we talk about something abstract.”

      But we are not talking about something abstract. katherine is currently living and studying in Russia, surrounded on all sides by Russians. She has to know language and understand it to communicate effectively. From what I gathered browsing this blog, Katherine wants to learn Russian language with all it’s rules and stuff. Also, probably, she’d like to avoid linguistic/cultural faux pas while doing that – but that’s my opinion. Learning incorrect definition of the word “Родина” (i.e. interchangable with “Russia” even when used by non-Russia) would be simply wrong.

      • Mikhail
        |

        Lyttenburgh, brother,

        I, just like you, often feel infuriated when someone, especially a foreigner, distorts and maims our beautiful and mighty language! Holy rage fills my veins and only blood of those infidels can soothe my soul! However, I want to ask you. Is it just aliens, who are to blame? Aren’t many of our countrymen also not only guilty of these sinful deeds, but even surpass damn basurmans in that infamy? Their speech is primitive and unsophisticated. They pollute the language with slang, swear words, and even with foreign words, which is far worse! That’s why I propose to severely punish all the perpetrators guilty of any linguistic heresy. Well, OK, demanding their blood is an excess. It doesn’t fit in well with Spirit of Enlightenment we, both me and you, represent. First, it would be good to introduce into civil code penalties for violation of linguistic purity of our language, great and mighty. And sums of fines for foreigners should be doubled. Next, revolutionary linguistic tribunals must be established in every locality, whose task would be to oversee compliance with the regulations. I fear only that the first victim of our righteous zeal will be authorities themselves. Remember late Chernomyrdin renowned for his “eloquence”? Doesn’t matter, let them repent. People of future generations will be thankful for our efforts.
        Furthermore, you have touched upon a very important subject: all alternative meanings of words most definitely must be thoroughly eradicated and banished from the language once and for all. Because alternative paths of thought produce only confusion and are the primary source of spiritual instability, which in turn leads to moral degradation. George Orwell brilliantly described this phenomenon in his Notes on Newspeak.
        I believe if only small part of these measures will be implemented peace and prosperity will reign over our country.
        Only one thought clouds my mind and shadows my joy: what if I too be banned from using English until I attain that level of proficiency I ardently advocate? You too, my friend, risk being punished by our English-speaking spiritual brothers for your frivolous usage of English grammar and vocabulary.
        So wouldn’t it be better just to leave the things as they are and let the language itself to deal with all those issues? As to specific usage of Russian words by our English-speaking friends I think we should forgive them and try to understand their motives.
        What do you think?

  5. Katherine
    | Reply

    Дорогие Lyttenburgh и Mikhail,

    Thanks for the good conversation 🙂 Now on to read about the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis!

  6. Lyttenburgh
    | Reply

    2Mikhail

    “Lyttenburgh, brother,
    I, just like you, often feel infuriated when someone, especially a foreigner, distorts and maims our beautiful and mighty language!”

    “Brother”? By Allah, I will respond in kind!

    “Holy rage fills my veins and only blood of those infidels can soothe my soul!”

    Takbir! ☝

    “However, I want to ask you. Is it just aliens, who are to blame? Aren’t many of our countrymen also not only guilty of these sinful deeds, but even surpass damn basurmans in that infamy?”

    You are absolutely right! Walking the streets of the blessed Moskvabad I’m assaulted on all sides with primitive speech of various murtads, khabashits, harijits and other munafiqs! That’s why I’ve founded long time ago a “Cranberry Jihad” movement!

    I, the founder and press-secretary of our movement, Niqud ad-Din ibn Sallah al-Lytteni, call for the tireless fight against defilers of the Great And Mighty, no matter who or where they are! We, radically moderate jihadis of Islamism-hayamism, won’t rest till our will be done. Oh, and Kurdistan From One Sea to Another – just for lulz.

    Senator-sahib from wilayat Pindostan Jan abu-Mackeyni upon hearing about us, that we have “moderate” prefix, decided that we are thoroughly handshakable and could be used as a great asset for spreading freedoom and moacracy throught the wolrd promised to personally print for us two crates of USA dollars.

    A lot of kaffirs join us, when they learn that besides the Prophet we venerate the Poet and consider the “way of the grape-vine” to be one of the most holy ways to attaining enLYTTENment.

    “Their speech is primitive and unsophisticated. They pollute the language with slang, swear words, and even with foreign words, which is far worse! That’s why I propose to severely punish all the perpetrators guilty of any linguistic heresy.”

    To zindan, the whole lot of them, alhamdulillāh!

    “Well, OK, demanding their blood is an excess. It doesn’t fit in well with Spirit of Enlightenment we, both me and you, represent.”

    Speak to yourself. “Russo was wrong” ™

    “First, it would be good to introduce into civil code penalties for violation of linguistic purity of our language, great and mighty. And sums of fines for foreigners should be doubled.”

    No – all in accordance with (modified) Sharia law! Sinned with your tongue – get it shortened. Sinned with your message-typing fingers – get them shortened. Ma sha Allah!

    “Next, revolutionary linguistic tribunals must be established in every locality, whose task would be to oversee compliance with the regulations. I fear only that the first victim of our righteous zeal will be authorities themselves. Remember late Chernomyrdin renowned for his “eloquence”? Doesn’t matter, let them repent. People of future generations will be thankful for our efforts.”

    RaHmatullahi wa Barakatihuh! Why tribunal?! Any local imam (thoroughly following the “way of the grape-wine”) would suffice.

    “Furthermore, you have touched upon a very important subject: all alternative meanings of words most definitely must be thoroughly eradicated and banished from the language once and for all. Because alternative paths of thought produce only confusion and are the primary source of spiritual instability, which in turn leads to moral degradation. George Orwell brilliantly described this phenomenon in his Notes on Newspeak.”

    Gebril ar-Vali was kafir and murtad. I’m saddened to use this maxim to extol the virtue of unified definition of the words: “Thought begets Doubt. Doubt begets Heresy. Heresy begets Retribution” (c)

    “I believe if only small part of these measures will be implemented peace and prosperity will reign over our country.”

    Subhān Allāh! I will make dua for this come to happen!

    “Only one thought clouds my mind and shadows my joy: what if I too be banned from using English until I attain that level of proficiency I ardently advocate? You too, my friend, risk being punished by our English-speaking spiritual brothers for your frivolous usage of English grammar and vocabulary.”

    And where is the guarantee that these rafidits will adopt the similar measures? But if they are to embrace the Truth – by all means, I’d be glad to improve mine knowledge of their own New Speak!

    “As to specific usage of Russian words by our English-speaking friends I think we should forgive them and try to understand their motives.
    What do you think?”

    That you yourself is becoming “heretic understander” [nods]

    • Mikhail
      | Reply

      Yes, I do.

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