Заниматься/заняться (часть первая)

February 27th, 2012

One of the most flexible verbs in the Russian language is заниматься/заняться. In it's most generic sense, one can translate it as “to be occupied [with something].” Today we will discuss it in the sense of “to study.” It conjugates like this:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive заниматься заняться
Past занимался
Present занимаюсь
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду заниматься
будешь заниматься
будет заниматься
будем заниматься
будете заниматься
будут заниматься
Imperative занимайся

In the sense of “to study” the verb is used for advanced studies:

— Ты работаешь или учишься?
— Учусь в университете.
— А чем ты занимаешься?
— Занимаюсь химией.
“Are you working or do you go to school?”
“I'm going to the university.”
“And what are you studying?”
“I'm studying chemistry.”
— Чем ты занимался в университетe?
— Я занимался татарским языком.
— Правда? Это язык с достоинством. А русский и английский языки — это яызки мирового угнетения.
— А Французский?
— Французский — язык бывших угнетателей.
— А китайский?
— Китайский - язык будущих угнетателей.
— А эскимоский?
— Знаешь, через пять тысяч лет я думаю, что даже эскимосы будут нас угнетать.
— У тебя... уникальный взгляд.
“What was your major?”
“I studied Tatar.”
“Really? Now that's a noble language. Whereas Russian and English are the languages of worldwide oppression.”
“What about French?”
“French is the language of people who used to be oppressors.”
“And Chinese?”
“Chinese is the language of future oppressors.”
“And what about Eskimo?”
“You know, five thousand years from now I think that even the Eskimos will be oppressing us.”
“You have really... unique opinions.”

The perfective of the verb can mean “to start studying”:

Когда моя мама вышла на пенсию, она занялась испанским языком. My mother started studying Spanish when she retired.
— Через два года я займусь уйгурским языком.
— Правда? Почему?
— Я хочу предотвратить их превращение в следующую расу мирового угнетения.
— Тебе нужна девушка, чтобы отвлечь тебя от этих идиотских идей.
“Two years from now I'm going to start studying Uighur.”
“Really? Why?”
“I want to prevent them from becoming the next race of world oppression.”
“You need a girlfriend to distract you from these idiotic ideas.”


February 24th, 2012

A majorly important verb in Russian is договариваться/­договориться. It means ‘to come to an agreement about doing something.’ It conjugates like this:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive договариваться договориться
Past договаривался
Present договариваюсь
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду договариваться
будешь договариваться
будет договариваться
будем договариваться
будете договариваться
будут договариваться
Imperative договаривайся

The verb is first of all used to say you agree with the plans that have been discussed. In that context one uses it almost exclusively in the plural:

— Давай встретимся завтра в три часа перед «Кольцом».
— Договорились.
“Let's meet tomorrow at three o’clock in front of Koltso Mall.”
— Давайте созвонимся завтра. Потом решим, на какой фильм пойти.
— Договорились.
“Let’s make phone contact tomorrow. Then we’ll decide what film to go to.”

Almost every conversation about making plans includes the word that way. The verb can also be used in the sense of “to make plans”:

— Таня, как нам завтра добраться до аэропорта?
— Я уже договорилась с соседом. Он нас довезёт.
“Tanya, how will we get to the airport tomorrow?”
“I’ve already made plans with our neighbor. He’ll take us there.”
Давай точно договоримся, где встретиться завтра. Let’s make firm plans about where to meet tomorrow.
Клингоны и Ромуланцы договорились напасть на Объединённую федерацию планет. The Klingons and the Romulans have made plans to attack the United Federation of Planets.


February 23rd, 2012

The Russian word for lecture is:


Лекция is a на word; that is, you must use the preposition на with it if you are attending a lecture or going to a lecture:

Я вчера была на очень интересной лекции. Yesterday I was at a very interesting lecture.
Я вчера ходила на очень интересную лекцию. Yesterday I went to a very interesting lecture.

If you go to a place using на, you come back from it using с + genitive:

— Откуда ты идёшь?
— С очень интересной лекции.
“Where are you coming from?”
“From a really interesting lecture.”

There is a BIG difference between Russian and American lectures. If you attend a lecture in Russia, the lecturer often just sits there in front of the listeners and reads his notes. In the US that would be a recipe or failure. In the US a good lecturer must stand up, and either lecture entirely without notes or with just occasional references to his notes. In the US the lecturer must be emotionally engaging, or else he won't be given an honorarium again to speak. In Russia, no.

Now to American readers those comments immediately condemn the Russian system. That's because they are lazy-ass Americans. Generally the Russian system has produced better educated people than the American system over the last sixty years (though I think the Russian system is now decaying). The truth is this: if you are addicted to entertainment, you will probably be less productive in terms of scientific production than the people from less ‘friendly’ systems. So get off your tush and go do your homework!

Shady_arc responds:

As one of those studied in Moscow State University, I actively object your impression of Russian lectures. It is just that there is a lot of bad lecturers who, well, do what they can for the laughable increase in payment they get (I heard, no more than $1000 for a semester of weekly/twice a week course of lectures). A failure is still a failure, US or Russia, though in my 6 years I have never seen a sitting lecturer, not even once. Russian students, even the most promising ones, don't think twice before skipping a class or two (or half of them). Bad lecturers just make things easier for you: you simply sleep at home instead of sleeping at his lecture. And hope the lecturer isn't too pround of himself to get even with you on exam. Good students know very well that they WILL get away with skipping most of the classes they find bad: a rare professor will treat a student badly for missing classes if that student is obviously above the level of 90% of the others and knows the subject.

The tests and exams are (were?) usually held twice a year, at the end of the semester, so for decades the students had become used to living a joyful life from September through December and from February till May. This is changing now, as institutes and professors try to introduce more often, smaller tests over the course of the semester, and also control attendance. However, 5 years ago when I was in late years, still many did not attend regularly. I'd say... of all ~180 people that were in our stream (half of the students of our year: they share rougly the same lectures on common disciplines) about 40-80 were found on good lectures. For bad lectures it may fall to as low as 10-25 - basically, just a senior student (more often girl than not :) ) of each group.

There are always several good lecturers who make even quantum theory quite engaging and understandable. Also, there were many professional, though a bit boring lecturers. Still, they covered their subject, so you didn't even need the textbook much if you had carefully noted their, er, performance. Worst of all, there were indeed lecturers who are in this, probably, just for an increase to their salary. Students don't choose their teachers, so it is a matter of luck.

Personally, I did encounter a lecturer who knew what he did, yet made his subject pretty confusing. I did encounter a lecturer who was the authour of the book we used in out studies, and his lectures were so much more boring and primitive than his textbook: he even used slides instead of writing on the blackboard on his own. I attended classes of a teacher who, given the opinions I heard, was pretty good in the past; but, hell, by the time being he was so old he could barely speak intelligibly. That was the only time I was really ashamed for my university.

Note also, that in Russia (don't know how it is in US) the important general courses come in two parts, lectures by lecturers (~180 students in a large auditorium... theoretically) and classes (seminars) for small groups covering more practical skills, like discussing philosophy in more detail or soving some matrix equations. A group is 15-25 students. As a rule, these two types of classes are taught by different people, unless you are lucky/unlucky enough to be in the group whose classes are conducted by the same person who gives lectures. This also gives a different perspective, as, well... think of mathematics: solving equations is different from proving why they are solved this way, but still, the material for theoretical lectures and classes partially intersects. You may get bad lectures but good classes or vice versa. And when you prepare for the exam, you'll most probably need textbooks, anyway.

Don responds: Shady, thanks for your most excellent response to my blog entry. I'm adding your commentary to the main entry of the blog article instead of to the comment section so that others can see it promptly.

I have to agree with you, partially at least. My only study time in Russia proper was in 1986 at МГУ, and indeed the lecturers there were both competent and interesting. Of them I have no complaint.

On the other hand, the first class I had in Russian literature that was actually taught in Russian (as opposed to English language lectures on Russian literature) was taught by a Russian in the US, and he used precisely that methodology I have described. He sat in class, read his notes, and had us copy them down in our notebooks. I'm sure that the other students despised that approach. Myself, I took the lecture for what it was and in fact memorized the notes word for word, which made the instructor quite happy with my final exam of the first semester. By current US standards the class was an abomination in terms of methodology. In terms of my personal learning, I still remember his definition of литературный язык, still appreciate Krylov's fables and Lomonosov's poem on the use of glass.

Nowadays the greatest pedagogical abomination in the United States has got to be the misuse of PowerPoint. For a student-side discussion of this see Carolyn Works's blog entry (mirror)


February 22nd, 2012

One of the verbs that means ‘to fall in love’ is:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive влюбляться влюбиться
Past влюблялся
Present влюбляюсь
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду влюбляться
будешь влюбляться
будет влюбляться
будем влюбляться
будете влюбляться
будут влюбляться
Imperative влюбляйся

Note that the verb is complemented by a prepositional phrase with в followed by the accusative case.

Антон влюбился в Анну. Anton fell in love with Anna.
Анна влюбилась в Антона. Anna fell in love with Anton

Although the verb is mostly used in the past tense, it can be used in other tenses as well.

— Не поверишь, но я вчера влюбилась!
— Верю. Ты ведь влюбляешься каждые два дня.
“You're not going to believe this, but I've fallen in love!”
“I believe it. You fall in love every other day.”
— Я существо чистого разума. Я и разумом подберу себе подходящую жену.
— Помяни моё слово. Как только ты в девушку влюбишься, и ты потеряешь голову, как каждый мужчина.
“I am a creature of pure intellect, and it's by means of my intellect that I shall choose an appropriate wife for myself.”
“Mark my words: as soon as you fall in love with a girl, you'll be head over heels just like any other man.”

You may recall that we previously said that полюбить can also mean ‘to fall in love.’ That leaves us with the question of when to use which verb. Actually, you can start some pretty interesting arguments among Russians about which is the more serious emotion, полюбить or влюбиться. Nonetheless, I can give you one guideline, if you suddenly fall head over heels in love with a person, then влюбиться is the verb you use to describe it, not полюбить.


February 21st, 2012

One of the verbs that means to love is:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive любить полюбить
Past любил
Present люблю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду любить
будешь любить
будет любить
будем любить
будете любить
будут любить
Imperative люби(те) полюби(те)

When you use the imperfective, it means the subject has an established liking for the direct object, and it can be translated as like or love:

Моя бабушка любила шоколад. My grandmother loved chocolate.
— Ты любишь кофе?
— Да, люблю.
“Do you like coffee?”
“Yes, I do.”

The verb can also be complemented by the infinitive:

Мой брат любит кататься на лыжах. My brother loves downhill skiing.
Я люблю играть на гитаре. I love to play the guitar.

The prefix по- often adds the idea of ‘start to,’ and that applies to this verb. In English the equivalent of ‘start to love’ is ‘fall in love with’:

В прошлом году я так полюбил Казань. Last year I simply fell in love with Kazan.
По-моему, ты полюбишь Париж. Город такой замечательный. I think you will fall in love with Paris. The city is so amazing.