1. When you first meet the Cyrillic alphabet and think, cool, I can do this.
2. In those early days, every little victory is thrilling. Like when you can finally read the word "bread" after puzzling over it for five minutes.
3. But you quickly realize that making sense of the alphabet is one thing, and actually speaking Russian is another.
4. "Pretend you've just been kicked in the stomach," your professor says, introducing the letter Ы.
5. After three weeks, you can finally pronounce "hello" correctly.
6. There's a Ш and a Щ? And a Ч?
7. But when you mix them up, native Russian speakers have no idea what you're trying to say.
8. Then there's the mysterious little мягкий знак, worming its way into otherwise simple words and working its dark magic.
9. Like David Sedaris in Me Talk Pretty One Day, you find yourself referring to a store that sells "couches, beds and tables" instead of мебель because the word is so damned hard to pronounce.
10. Your first attempts at simple translations are totally, hopelessly wrong, because Russian grammar.
11. Just when you've mastered one case, you discover there are five others to learn.
12. You are pleasing to me? I feel myself badly?
13. You have to remember that a television is male, a newspaper is female and a radio is genderqueer.
14. Then you meet the verbs of motion.
15. Your instructor makes you describe a merry little trip around an imagined city, full of opportunities to ехать, идти, выходить, обходить, переходить and заходить.
16. You find it impossible to read a native speaker's cursive handwriting.
17. You get used to speaking in imperatives, because otherwise you just sound weird.
18. You look down on your friends who study Spanish or French (while simultaneously envying them.)
19. Inevitably, you will tell someone you spent the afternoon pissing instead of writing.
20. Or talk about the value of a good circumcision when you meant to say "education."
21. When you've exhausted your Russian vocabulary, you throw an -овать on the end of an English verb and pray to the gods of cross-cultural communication.
22. When you get to Russia, you have to ask the bartender for a "Sprayt" or a "Long Aylend" in your most exaggerated accent to be understood.
23. How does the word смузи (smoothie) exist in Russian, while they insist on spelling my name Сьюзи (S-yooo-zie)?
24. But even if you hate it, you start introducing yourself with the Russian version of your name, because otherwise nobody will know what to call you.
25. Even if you've studied it for years, the Russian language will still find ways to throw you for a loop.
26. Like when someone points out you've been incorrectly placing the accent in a word you use ALL THE TIME.
27. Surprise! That ominous Cyrillic blob you've been trying to decipher is actually a cognate.
28. But despite all the headaches, you're glad you decided to stick with it.
29. Because they don't call it the great and mighty Russian language for nothing.
Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.
Contact Susie Armitage at email@example.com.
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