Monday, July 13, 2009

Language Skills

I have a hard enough time communicating in English. And things become even more interesting when a different language comes into play.

A good example of this seems to happen often working in Boston. I come into contact with a lot of non-English speakers. Not the issue of English not being the primary language but is spoken marginally, but that English is not spoken at all. And that is frustrating.

Many of the patients I see are Russian speakers. After all, we have a contract with a nursing facility where there are a considerable number of residents who speak Russian only. Plus, it’s not uncommon for us to encounter patients who speak either Spanish or Portuguese, and we see many folks who speak those languages.

For the most part I can communicate enough in Spanish where I can figure out what’s going on with a patient’s condition. I can’t do that in either Portuguese or Russian. And that can make things a little difficult.

So I’m taking some time to learn rudimentary Russian. I’m using the Byki software from Transparent Language to do this, and I’ve found that I like the package. First, it’s a free download – the first 14 steps come with it, and the buy the entire package is an additional $75.00, or something like that. Second, it is really well done. It’s instruction by immersion, and it seems to be effective. I only recently started working with it, but I feel like the very little I’ve learned so far is actually starting to stick.

I read somewhere that it takes approximately 700 hours for someone to learn a language through immersion. I’ve been tracking the amount of time I’ve spent so far, and I can see where that would be pretty accurate. And it’s possible it could take a bit more time than that just because the alphabet (Cyrillic as opposed to Latin) is different. But it’s coming along. Slowly.


Karen Brook Westhaver said...

Walt, that is just so cool (and so like you to go the extra mile+) about learning Russian so you can understand some of the population for whom you provide care. Of COURSE it makes *sense* that being able to understand pts would make your job easier + more successful. But how many people actually go to the trouble of learning enough of a different language for this purpose!? You just continue to amaze me, Walt. BTW, in knowing PJ is wanting to brush up on his Russian, I tried to download the free software but encountered issues. Oh well..if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Will do so when I have more time. Thanks for including the links in your post! Personally, I may be using this to try my hand at Hewbrew (can pronounce and know some meaning...but thirst for more) and get back some of my Greek (I wonder if they have Koinoi Greek, the language of much of the NT) which was basically just liturgical Greek when I was a kid. Anyway, SUPER post :-)

Walt Trachim said...

I have to say that even with software like this the process is slow. Russian is a very challenging language to learn. The biggest problem I'm having is with the Cyrillic - I have to look at it daily to get it to stick. And that's tough going, even for me...

Are Koinoi Greek and Attic Greek the same? If they aren't, then do you know how they are different?

Karen Brook Westhaver said...

No one really knows how to pronounce the Koinoi Greek, the ancient Greek of the NT. PJ has a Greek NT and learned Greek in Theology school...I believe *learned* professors have agreed upon a generally accepted pronounciation. PJ learned Cyrillic alphabet and became totally adept in reading/writing/speaking Russian with a St. Petersburg accent his first time around in the service. But you know that saying, if you don't use it, you lose it! He can still understand and speak somewhat...but would like it back.

Karen Brook Westhaver said...

Oops..forgot to answer the Greek question! As best I know, Attic Greek was considered the "elite" Greek, spoken in Athens etc. and Koine (sorry for earlier mis-spelling)was thought to be a corruption of Attic Greek. Basically Koine Greek means "common", as in of the common people rather than the more upper class Attic. I know there are other Greek dialects, too, but as far as I know, the Greek of the NT is Koine Greek...of the common people. And that pretty much exhausts my knowledge of differences in Greek. In Greek School, what we learned was just referred to as Liturgical Greek.

doshimaitri said...

The effort you are putting is really appreciative, and I would first like to congrulate you. Again the next thing in you is that your sincierity about your job,as you are trying to learn the Russian language so that you could be able to understand the patients properly whom you are looking after. I also like to say you Best of luck for learning Russian language. To learn and speak other languages is also a good exercise for mind and even there is no any age for learning any languages, either it may be helpful to you in many feilds. I believe that learning through Language Schools is also better choice for language immersion.