September 23rd, 2014

The Russian word белка means ‘squirrel’. It declines like so:


Here are some sample sentences.

Белка грызет семечки. Squirrel chews sunflower seeds.
Моя собака поймала белку.

My dog caught a squirrel.

Его любимое животное - это белка. His favorite animal is a squirrel.
Она часто говорит о белках. She often talks about squirrels.
Когда он вышел во двор, он был окружен белками. When he came out to the yard, he was surrounded by squirrels.

There are quite a few species of squirrels that live in Russia. There is even the Siberian flying squirrel, which is the only species of flying squirrel found in Europe. Ironically, Белка was also the name of one of the dogs that were launched into space on board of Sputnik 5 on August 19th, 1960. They were the first dogs in space. After circling the Earth in a space craft, they safely made it back down as national cosmonaut heroes of the former USSR. This year, a new cartoon was released about the two dogs, originally called “Belka and Strelka: Moon Adventures”. However, since not too many people outside of Russia are familiar with who they are, the title was changed to “Space Dogs”.


September 22nd, 2014

Sometimes when you study a foreign language, especially one as difficult as Russian, you just want to show off your new-found skills and knowledge, and for Russian one of the great words you can use for that purpose is достопримеча́тельности. It means ‘sights.’ That's right, sights. In English it’s one syllable. In Russian it’s eight syllables. Here is how it is pronounced:

When you are trying to learn to pronounce a polysyllabic monstrosity like that, there is a little trick that will help you get it right. If you would like to learn the trick, play this bit of audio:

In terms of declension достопримечательность is a standard third declension noun:


Although we usually translate it as ‘sights,’ you could also translate it as ‘attractions’ or ‘places of interest.’

Какие есть достопримечательности в Казани? What interestings sights are there in Kazan?
Самая интересная достопримечательность — мечеть Кул-Шариф. The most interesting sight is the Qol Sharif mosque.
В Норильске вообще нет достопримечательностей. Norilsk doesn't have any interesting sights.
— Какая самая интересная достопримечательность в Ванкувере?
— Около университета есть нудистский пляж.
— Разве это интересно?
— Да, там есть на что посмотреть.
“What’s the most interesting sight in Vancouver?”
“There’s a nude beach near the university.”
“You really think that’s interesting?”
“Yeah, there’s stuff worth looking at there.”

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September 11th, 2014

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New posts are expected to begin on Monday, September 22, 2014.

Кирпич, часть первая

April 2nd, 2014

The Russian word for brick is кирпич. It is an end-stressed noun, so it declines like this:


Generally speaking, if you are discussing the substance out of which something is made, then you usually use кирпич in the singular.

Музей построен из красного кирпича. The museum is made of red brick.
Вокруг дома стояла прочная стена из кирпича производства компании Аккрингтон. Around the house there was a sturdy wall of Accrington brick.

Of course, if you are counting the bricks the word can occur in the singular and the plural.

После торнадо все было разрушено. От нашего дома остался только один жалкий кирпич. After the tornado every was destroyed. Only one pitiful brick was left of our house.
Чтобы достроить стену, нужно еще только два кирпича. We only need two more bricks to finish the wall.
Я построил книжный шкаф из двадцати шести кирпичей и шести досок. I built a bookshelf from twenty-six bricks and six boards.

There is more to be said about this word, but that will have to wait till the next couple of entries.

Translating humor, part II

April 1st, 2014

Among the April 1st offerings on Facebook this morning is a picture from Баба і кіт that made me laugh out. Let's have a little translation contest.

  1. Read over Natasha's entry on крыса my entry on Translating humor, part I. (They are the two entries before this one.
  2. Come up with an English translation for the the two sentences above the picture that captures the humor of the picture.
  3. At the end of April I will make a completely subjective decision about which one I like best and send the author ten bucks as a reward.

Here's the picture.