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There’s a series of ads in the St. Petersburg metro announcing “Let’s speak Russian PROPERLY!” followed by a number of words which are often mispronounced. Russian can be difficult to learn NOT because it has a different alphabet (so stop asking me that question already, random people) but because it has a “highly synthetic morphology” – the endings of verbs, nouns, and adjectives change for things like gender, number, and syntactic function. This is a pain to learn, but even once you get a grasp of all the rules, the stress of the word can shift when a different ending is applied, and although there supposedly are rules for this, there are only like four super nerdy linguists who actually know them. Knowing where the dictionary-correct stress in a word falls is difficult not only for Russian-as-a-second-language learners, but even some native speakers who don’t come from intelligentsia families. Fortunately, one woman has taken it upon herself to correct us all. I present Lyudmila Verbitskaya, “one of the authors of the book Let’s Speak Properly, rector of St. Petersburg State University, and distinguished citizen of St. Petersburg”:


click to enlarge

I’m all for speaking languages properly when possible, and I certainly cringe when I hear native English speakers consistently making dumb mistakes, but something about these posters and their assertion that “a problem demanding the participation of all residents of Russia and especially Saint Petersburg is the preservation of the Russian literary language” is just… annoying. Annoying like your high school grammar teacher was annoying even if you were a good student of grammar, because of her self-righteousness. I mean, look at this close-up – didn’t you have a teacher just like her that you couldn’t stand?



About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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August 2007
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