I had some self confidence for my linguistic knowledge. If it's Latin originated
language, I could guess the meaning of the words and could make basic conversation.
Or if it's in "Kanji", Chinese character, I could communicate
in writing. And for English, I must be more comfortable.
However it's not enough to communicate with the people in the world. And
I knew it. For example in Arabic spoken country, every thing is in chaos
"So in which group Russian language is categorized to me? Whether
is the language easy to understand or in chaos? Definitely, it's the former
I thought it too easy. As long as I knew the conversion from Cyrillic to
Roman alphabet, it's very easy to guess the meaning of Russian words and
get start conversation with the people.
So two weeks before leaving for Ukraine, I bought a Russian language textbook
and got start a preparation. However Russian was much more difficult to
learn than I had thought. I couldn't figure out the meanings with simple
conversion from the Cyrillic to Roman. I came across unknown word in almost
For me "Book" should be written like "Libre" or "Libro".
But what's the "Kneega"? Where did it come from? I'll give you
another example. "Station" must be written as "Stazione"
"Gare" or "Terminal" usually. But "Vakzal"?
Where did it originate? I could guess what it said for the sign "Hotel"
but I could not for the "Gastinitza"
Of course there were some words in common to the Latin languages. "Magazin"
meant "Store" like French. "Douche" meant "Shower"
So as the last effort, I made a word book after 25 years absence. However
the most different point from the 25 years ago was a bad memory of mine.
My brain clearly got older. I cannot memorize the new words. Hard Disk
As a result, time's up. I had to leave without accomplishing it. Ukrainian
language include more English words than Russian. Even though it's very
tough job to get across my idea to the people."E.K.S.P.R.E.S.S"
I read the sign board aloud on the street corner. People looked at me like
a strange guy monologue something.
At a shopping center in Chernihiv, in north part of Ukraine, a madam asked
me in Russian "Are you Korean?" "No, I'm Japanese"
Well, this is all contents which I can insure for my terrible Russian.
Then her long story was started. She told me something in intensive tone.
"Soviet Communist Party ..... Brezhnev ...." I recognized some
words. Suddenly, she rolled up her sleeve and showed me a bruise on her
forearm. I thought the madam might be telling the very long biography.
But I couldn't follow what she said. I stared at her quickly moving mouth
with full concentration.
Half an hour later, I opened my mouth. It's a limit of my concentration.
"Ah ... That's very interesting story. Thanks very much" But
to tell the truth, I didn't understand at all. Only thing what I knew from
the conversation was the fact she had whiskers around the mouth. I was
What I learned from it was the lesson "hire a translator if you don't
speak the language". I had been tried to solve the problem by myself.
However if I could hear the real voice of local people with it, the translate
fee must be expenditure worth to pay.
" Sign board" Chernihiv , Ukraine 2009