Sunday, October 19, 2008

The padej (падеж) breakthrough

I think I may have the key to the mystery right here. I was forced.

One of my classmates has an excellent book in Russian and English that explains lots of Russian grammatical concepts and it includes some lucid stuff about that mysterious padej or “падеж.” I spelled it out this time because I wanted everybody to marvel over that last letter. It's not really named after a beetle, but the zhook's name starts with this six-legged beauty. The handwritten version is even fancier. Anyway, I’ve wanted the book for more than a week but my classmate can’t seem to describe where he bought it and the University bookstore has just the Russian-only version.

Last night I started doing my homework and realized that I had a big problem. Whereas all previous homework assignments were focused on a single padej at a time, this one required me to choose the right padej for the context. Oops. I still didn’t have more than a clue about that.

Let me digress to tell you something about padejs. When you want one, you want it right freakin’ now.* There you are, halfway into a sentence and suddenly you need to transform a noun into an adjective. This is a very big deal, and you don’t want to be flipping back and forth between page 136 and page 264 and then some other book trying to figure out which conjugation you want to attempt. You really need a unified chart with a few cogent examples and maybe a couple of footnotes.

Tatiana, my main teacher, attempted to give me such a chart, but it misses so many subtleties that I’d turn in a miserable homework assignment and I hate to do that on a Monday. So I went to what Tatiana says is the biggest bookstore in Minsk. It may be, but it didn’t have a single one of the books I had on my list, let alone the book with the tables I’ve been lusting after. I attempted to buy the little Падеж book they had. It was in Russian only, and would have taken a long time to read, but at least it had everything in one place. Unfortunately, I managed to come home with a different little book and was unwilling to go back today.

Instead I did another web search, this time using one word in Russian and one word in English (“падеж table”). This achieved the desired result: articles in Russian and English with tables in them. In fact, one of my hits led me to an online grammar course that I like so well I downloaded all six padej pages. If you want to see it, go to http://www.linguarus.com/ru/program/grammar/1/d/ and then click through “next topic” five times to see the rest of them.

I’ve been studying up. Now I get to attempt my homework.

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* For the benefit of any readers who may not be native to the English language, I would translate that phrase as прямо же сейчас. Unfortunately, this particular construction causes my overly-Russified step daughter’s brain to backfire, blasting strange sounds out of her nose and mouth. If you are Russian, I hope you were not drinking a glass of milk when you read it.

2 comments:

  1. Did you ever find out the books name? I need help in Russian!!!

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  2. I didn't ever find out the name of the book I mentioned above, but I can recommend a book I bought in the USA. It's called Master the Basics Russian by Natalia Lusin. ISBN 0-8120-9164-7. I still refer to it sometimes. There's also a handy book called Basic Russian in Tables and Diagrams by E.V. Ross, which has less on падежи but lots of other good stuff. It's out of print (at least in the West), but very useful if you can find it. ISBN 5-86547-369-7.

    Probably the most useful book for me was in Russian. As a result, it would have been hard to use without a teacher or at least a friend to set up the drills and exercises. It's called Мои Друзья падежи, by Булкова, Захаренко and Красных. ISBN 978-5-88337-033-4. After I did enough of the exercises, I finally began to get a feel for this business.

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