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THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE STUDY           Russian, established around 1000 A.D.,  is a difficult language to  learn, being rated #2 in difficulty behind Chinese.  Though it is linked to  Western roots, its word cores are often very difficult to understand from a  historic structuring standpoint.  Though there are 33 letters/sound  symbols combined, they are pressed together and compacted in word  forms which often use prefixes (38 of these), making fine distinctions  between words the norm.  It also uses one of the most complex  declension systems in the world---English dropped its similar system 850 years ago.  Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, there has been much  less interest in studying Russian all over the world.  In Russia, interest in  studying foreign languages increased greatly after many controls for  study were removed in 1991.  Prior to then, students mainly learned to  read and write and speaking/listening were de-emphasized; German and  English were most important.  Now, students are able to study a much  wider range of languages, with the only limitation being the lack of skilled  teachers related to listening and speaking.  As well, being the 2nd most  difficult language works in reverse for Russians trying to speak ANY  foreign language because, like any native speakers  in any country, they  rarely learn the real complexities of their own grammar before trying a  foreign language.  Russian grammar is very complex, and many teachers  there believe that most students never really learn their own language  very well.  So often, it’s very difficult for Russians studying a foreign  language to relate their grammar to another language.  Many who try  decide that if direct grammatical links can’t be made, study isn’t possible.   Many can’t imagine that a language system other than Russian is even  possible.           Russian slang and swearing is less structured (predictably) but  even more complex from an analytical standpoint.  These two forms are  interjected far more often in relation to casual and literary language than  in Western languages, making translation more challenging.  Whereas  English has very few real swear words, Russian has thousands…cursing  is an art form.                Russians construct inference and implication in different ways  which are troublesome to interpret on both sides of translation.  In  Russian, tone and sound level are often vital, and the same words can be  installed into a sentence in many different orders which, along with  intonation, can change meaning.  Russian also has a wonderful feature of one word having the meaning of a phrase required in another language.   For example, the word  “Ahdnalyubka” means a female who loves only  one male in her entire life, regardless of circumstances. 
          Generally, Russians are highly analytical and usually critical of those  foreigners who speak Russian, regardless of level.  This, for Russians,  adds weight to the adage about “one can’t understand the people without  understanding their language.”  For Russians, their language is a form of  self-defense, a difficult communicative barrier to penetrate at many  different levels.  These attitudes, combined with the above comment about  poor native-speaker skills, paints a very contrasting picture about the  Russian language in general.  How did this happen?   The beginning of  modern Russian was the usage of Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837), the  country’s greatest poet.  Prior to him, Russian was mostly Church-based.   For the 30 years prior to Pushkin’s birth, French was the language of the  Russian Government and Court, simply because many words required  didn’t exist in Russian.  Pushkin bridged that gap and gave Russian soul  and life in the printed and spoken forms.  Russian soared, along with the  arts and crafts, for the entire 19th century until reaching full parity with other  languages by the 20,th  though many words developed were directly related to agrarian-evolved languages.  Russian even has its own word for ANY  word of foreign origin.  This swift progress has taken an evolutionary toll  on Russia’s heretofore illiterate masses---(*KEY*) meaning that for the last 110 years, the emphasis has been only on teaching them basic literacy  and nothing more.  Another problem with full individual language  development of the poorer masses has been that between 1918 and 1991, all subjects were viewed through a rose-colored prism of Socialist  perspective and restraint, which forced excessive rote memorizing and  minimized creative expression.   SAMIZDAT started a change in that trend  during the 1950’s, along with Shalikhov’s novel QUIET FLOWS THE  DOWN and Pasternak’s novel  DR. ZHIVAGO.  The bard Vladimir  Vysotsky, who in addition spoke French, was the 20th-century lesser-  equivalent of Pushkin, creative-language-wise.               Interestingly, the actual world-wide spread of portable-phones and  personal computers began EXACTLY with the demise of the USSR in  1991.  Many foreign words began streaming into Russian and there was  great resentment about this felt by many.  Here it is important to stress a  VITALLY important difference between English, especially, and Russian.   (*KEY*)  While English has always thrived on inputs from many other  languages, and is flexible in adapting to them, Russian is the exact  opposite.   When Putin became president, a movement began to stop him  from using so many words of foreign origin (he speaks several foreign  languages as well) in his public speaking.  This is one of the important  reasons why, as  the world grows closer and closer together, Russian has   fallen in stature as an important language.  It’s another contrast: For the  native speaker, Russian is wonderfully flexible but for the great majority of  foreigners, it is extraordinarily rigid and, realistically, mostly impenetrable.