My two new worlds

I have been studying English since 9-th class of the school… oh, sorry. Sooner. In the earlier childhood, before the school, I had been visiting the courses in the House of Pioneers, for about year or more.

But in the middle school I chose German, because my father knew it very well, and was even able to read Feuchtwanger in the original. However, his was little help for me: he had almost forgotten the language at the time. My school teacher of German was quite good, though, and until 9th class I was making progress in it, in spite of skipping a grade.

In the 9th class I moved to another school. There wasn’t German class, only English. I had to start from the very beginning, catching up my classmates for their 5-year gap. It was the time when i was forced to remember my completely forgotten childish experience in English, and I managed it. But with great difficulty.

I never liked the language. In early childhood, in late middle school, in high school and later — never. I could not understand and permanently confused articles, could not properly use tenses, could not develop more or less appropriate pronunciation.

My attitude to it changed only when I started to learn and memorize poems — Auden, Yeats, Tennison and especially Kipling. Only then I opened for myself the beautifulness of the expressions and believed that it is truly worth studying. My passion for poetry once even bailed me out — when I, having almost no money, made a bet with an Irishman in Havana that I could remember the whole poem “Sailing to Byzantium” by Yeats and won it — the prize was payment for the restaurant bill for both.

Now I’m memorizing two Kipling’s poems — “The ballad of the King’s jest” and “The Ballad of East and West”. It’s a difficult job, too. But I like it. Poetry is the only thing which persuades me that English is not only language for digital interfaces and economy books and touristic small talks in shops and hotels.

Another big discovery was the prose in English, too. It was fun and pride to read books by George Martin, Joan Rowling — and then Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and so far in the original language. Only then I understood how many grades of a meanings we missed when read books in translations.

Next to fiction were non-fiction books — little by little the number of books in my Kindle was growing, and now about 80% of my actual reading list consists of books in English. But now the percentage is decreasing — due to Spanish.

Spanish is a language that I’m really loving — since the first acquaintance. Unlike English. More Latin, more ancient, more expressive, more sophisticated and more sincere. Now I’m reading a lot in Spanish, listening and studying. Even the Harry Potter audiobooks I’m relistening in Spanish now — and they produce absolutely different feeling.

But the irony was that I could not find appropriate online courses and applications to study Spanish from Russian — and that’s why I was forced to learn Spanish… from English. There are much more tools for English-speaking people to learn Spanish, and this is easily explainable, just to take into account 35 million of people in the US whose native language is Spanish. Now my flash card application on IPad and Kindle’s built-in dictionary both are English-Spanish. When I encounter an unknown word in Spanish text, I go to the dictionary and in most cases find the meaning; only when the English version is also mysterious for me, I go to the Spanish-Russian or English-Russian dictionary.

So, now I’m standing before another challenge — the Spanish poetry. Jimenez, Lorca, Machado, Hernandez — and, especially for me, Miguel de Unamuno, who was not only great philosopher, but an excellent poet too.

It’s an unbelievable feeling of discovering a new world. But I hope that the opening of Spanish world will not close for me the English one, but they will only enrich one another. It’s quite interesting to watch the English world by the Spanish eyes, and vice versa. And both — by my own Russian, too.

Алексей Чадаев

Директор Института развития парламентаризма