Thursday, October 07, 2004

Learning Russian through French from a German

Yesterday was my Russian class. First, I must introduce you to the joys of the French university system. It's run much more like a summer camp than an American university. Schedules don't come out until the week of classes and even then students have to watch the bulletin boards around campus to make sure their classes didn't switch rooms or times unexpectedly. Schedules are still made in a similar way to the one my mom told me about back in the days before Internet. An insane scramble from building to building to get the classes you need and a schedule that usually sucks.

Thankfully, I only had to do this for one class, second-year Russian. The first day of class we arrive to find that this time doesn't work for the professor and we have to organize a time between all of us that does work. Strangely, it turned out to be just a half-hour later on the same day, but it took us most of the class period to figure that out. The other crazy aspect of this class is that it's only one-hour per week, there are no textbooks (the French government has a law against forcing students to buy books) and somehow French students learn a language. 

The class consists of three of us students from Centre Oregon, and three French students. As far as I can tell so far, the class has basically no structure. The professor just chats with us. By that I mean she speaks rapid-fire Russian at us and expects responses. The worst is when she melanges French, Russian and sometimes English, forcing our already-tired brains to instantaneously look up words, spoken in a thick German accent, through a lexicon of three languages.

She started class yesterday by asking us to tell who we are. I said I was studying Journalism. She then asked me things like what I plan to do with my journalism degree and how old I was when I first wrote an article and what it was about. These are incredibly complicated subjects that require future and past tense, which I only covered briefly five months ago. In fact, Russian in general has been vastly put out of my mind for the last five months. So to dive back into it with no refresher is... troubling. And so, I thought, I must be in the wrong level.

Then she turns to the French students and asks stuff like, what's your major, where do you live, how old are you, etc. These questions, I can understand and respond to. The rest of the class goes like this. She continually starts asking questions with Jennifer, the other American, and me and ends with the French girl who's had six years of Russian and twenty minutes to prepare a response. By the end of class I'm really angry that this woman is not helping me at all by asking questions she must know are ridiculously, advanced for my level and just frustrating me. I'm seriously considering taking private classes from a flier I found at the bookstore. It's gotta be better, right?

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