Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scripture and Language

Every Sunday at church, Pastor Vova has people read various passages of Scripture. These are generally an Old Testament passage, a Gospel reading, a New Testament reading, and another passage in the Old Testament (like Psalms or other poetry-type books). He will announce the location of the passage first in Russian, then in English, so a few of us English-speakers can follow along. Last Sunday we read Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31.

In the Russian Bible, I hear that the organization of the books is very different (at least in the New Testament), and in the Old Testament, they've named 1 and 2 Chronicles (I think) as 3 and 4 Kings instead.

If you are ever interested in following the same Scripture passages as I am hearing/reading each week, visit this webpage:
Currently we are in the Season after Pentecost, and last Sunday was "Proper 23". This webpage lists the corresponding calendar dates, so that you can find the readings more easily.

They say that learning your third language is easier than learning your second. I sure hope that's the case with Russian!

Today I had my first formal Russian lesson with Masha, one of the teachers at KCA. The other day, she reviewed some basic vocabulary with me to see what I already knew.

Masha started first with the alphabet--always a good place to begin, right? :) She showed me a few of the letters in cursive, and what sets similar-looking ones apart from each other, so it doesn't look like a bunch of arcs. According to her, people write in cursive because it takes too long to write in print. I suppose I can see that, but I'm not looking forward to this practice. But, here goes!

Next Masha showed me the difference between word endings for masculine, feminine, neuter, and plural nouns. Conveniently enough, feminine words end in А or Я (ya), which is similar enough to Spanish for me to remember. That's about all that can help me there. It's pure memorization right now.

We then focused on the basic conjugation of verbs, primarily in "first conjugation"--these are verbs that end in -ять or -атъ. She quizzed me on the various endings for each pronoun (I, you familiar, he/she/it, we, you formal, they). "Second conjugation" verbs end in -еть, -ить, or -ютъ. They follow a different pattern for each pronoun, just as -ar verbs in Spanish have different endings than -er or -ir verbs.

There was a list of commonly-used regular verbs in first conjugation, and Masha had me read the verbs, and then see if I knew what they meant. I could read/sound out most of them, but about half of them, I had no idea what they were. (Such is my Russian understanding as I walk down the streets--I sound out words but I have no comprehension. That will change...

Russian homework:
*Practice writing letters in cursive
*Write personal pronouns for each verb conjugation
*Memorize verbs and meanings and conjugate them for various pronouns
*Practice a little each day

Scripture and Language:
I'm sure you've noticed before that in English, the Psalms don't exactly rhyme--primarily because they were translated from Hebrew to English, but also because they may have been written without a rhyming scheme.
On Sunday, when someone was reading from Psalms, it sounded to me like they had more of a rhythm and a rhyme. Turns out that this is because of the noun cases in Russian. Noun cases in Russian are the same type as those in Greek, as I understand it. The endings of nouns change based on whether an action is done FOR that object, FROM that object, etc. There are 6 noun cases: nominative, dative, accusative, genitive, and 2 more that I can't remember at the moment--currently I could not tell you what the difference is between those cases.

Psalm 22:1-15 in Russian--For a few of these lines, you can (if you have any skills of sounding out the Russian language) see where a few lines rhyme. Otherwise, if you can't read it, you are getting a taste of what it is like to look at signs and merchandise that you don't fully understand!

Hebrews 4:15-16
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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