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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Russian verbs of motion - Boris Shekhtman's way.

For those of you who haven't studied Russian, I suspect that you may not know about verbs of motion.

So let's get acquainted with them.

In English we have verbs like come, go, run and so forth.

If we want to indicate that we went somewhere then we can just say, " I went to school."

How do we know we used transport? Well, we can always indicate that, right? Not so in Russian. You use a specific verb which indicates that you are using transportation.

Did you do this regularly? There are specific verbs to indicate that something is done on a regular basis.

Did you actually reach your destination or not? No problem, Russian has a specific set of verbs to indicate this.

How about indicating that the action was (process) taking place without using some fancy shmancy -ing or other device to show this. Russian has sets of verbs just to show that the action is in process.

And this is just the beginning.

Few other languages have such an elaborate system of suppositions and information in their verbs of motion as does Russian.

So you cannot just say, " We went to Moscow." You must use a verb that will encapsulate everything about that experience that needs to be communicated. Every time you use a VOM in Russian you are telling the listener many, many things some of which you, as an English-speaker, may not even be aware of.

As you may imagine, this can present problems for non-native students of Russian.

It does.

There are several books on verbs of motion which attempt to help the learner. I have a few. They are not very helpful, in my opinion.

Enter Boris Shekhtman, the master teacher of Russian.

He has been guiding me in my Russian language studies since June, 2010 and I am very happy with the results.

After warning me about the pitfalls of VOM (verbs of motion) he spent time teaching me the bare essentials of one verb only. If you look at any text you will find that all of them are covered up front.

He asks me why I am using the verb that I do. I must explain in detail why and how I made the choice to use a specific verb. When I finish I really understand what formerly was not so clear.

Step by step the fundamentals have been covered. A lot of time was spent simply doing other things and then, here and there, incrementally working with aspects of VOM for this one verb only.

The verb was "to go".

It's major forms are : идти (ехать)(перейти-переехать) /// ходить (ездить) (переходить-переежать). The verbs with prefixes are simply examples. There are many prefixes that may be substituted for these; each will convey a different, specific meaning.

While the above may seem a bit complicated, Boris has vastly simplified it.

He revealed to me that there are no more than seven functions for all VOM.

When I began to approach Russian VOM in this fashion, everything fell neatly into place.

Today, several weeks after the concept was initially planted and allowed to take root over the intervening time, he announced that he was going to devote the final hour of our work to VOM. We did a pleasant but exhaustive review of everything using actual sentences that he had created to make sure I knew what I was doing.

At the end he told me that he was satisfied that I understood what he wanted me to understand.

He added that in the future we would address other VOM ( run, swim, etc.) but that they all follow the exact same patterns and would be a piece of cake.

From what I have seen and heard, this is probably the simplest and least stressful approach to teaching/ learning Russian VOM.

It works. I am now pretty consistently using the VOM correctly when I speak Russian which is very exciting.

Native-speakers don't realize how difficult this can be for a foreigner. They simply listen and respond.

And someday so,too, shall you when you learn Russian according to the method of Boris Shekhtman.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Boris Shekhtman. The method ( continued)

As promised, I am continuing my account of my experiences studying Russian with Boris Shekhtman.

At this point I have been meeting once a week for three hours with him for one-on-one tutoring. The lessons are very focused on my specific needs and idiosyncrasies in learning.

As Michel Thomas explained to me, if a student is having any problem learning, it is the responsibility of the teacher to remedy this. There are no bad students, just poor teachers. Boris, who had never heard of Michel before I mentioned him to him, told me exactly the same thing on our first meeting.

What has amazed me is that he truly lives this philosophy when it comes to our lessons together. He is never in a hurry to get me to go beyond where I am holding in anything. If I have a problem then he stops everything and makes sure that I understand what is going on and how to proceed. He does this by first of all making sure that I am fully aware of what has happened. I often will notice that there is something that I don't understand. He wants me to recognize this. Then he helps me to figure out the solution which is really wonderful.

If I don't get his method of teaching something he will switch into another mode of teaching until he figures out how I learn in such a situation. Then he will emphasize this mode of learning until, at some point, he realizes that something different is needed. That's when he reanalyzes what is happening and changes course accordingly.

Boris is a really inspiring example of a master teacher.

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