Our last piece “10 damn good reasons why you should NOT study French”, judging from the reactions online, was not well received. The PC thought police, which 24/7 patrols the dangerous dark corners of the net, got at us again for having committed a thought crime one more time. They probably did not read the text further than the title, but they were quick to jump to the comment section and dismiss the whole article as worthless. That’s probably what a good social media censor has to do to feel good about himself.
Just because we said it was not worth to study German and French (you are not allowed not like German or French apparently) they said we would soon be writing an article saying it is useless to learn any foreign language. They could not possibly have been more wrong. There are a lot of languages worth learning, actually I would dare to say that almost any language on earth is worth learning. Only because French and German are not worth your time and good will, it does not mean other languages are not. But what else would you expect from those who so firmly believe that countries like Germany and France represent the peak of human civilization? So to prove all the haters wrong once again (and haters are always wrong, and worse, they are so terribly boring and deprived of any sort of sense of humor), this time we decided to write about one language which is very worth learning: Russian.
I would actually dare to argue that it is not a language for everybody, because, like President Obama put it two years ago, apparently “Russia is on the wrong side of history”. If you are a young, progressive, hyperliberal, conformist alternative, feminist, social justice warrior kind of person probably you should think twice before learning Russian: Russia and its culture may simply not stand for the ideals of equality utopia on earth that you envision as the desirable future of our global village.
For those of you who would like to give Russian a chance, here is our list of why they should:
Reason no. 1
Let’s begin with the very basics: the alphabet. Sometimes people who do not know Russian get scared by the simple fact that it has “strange letters”. In fact, the alphabet is probably the easiest of the difficulties that Russian may pose; it will take maximum one week to get used to the “strange letters”. I personally find Russian calligraphy to be very beautiful and even a simple newspaper with Russian letters looks more beautiful to me.
Reason no. 2
The case system. For some people it is an unnecessary hassle. But it provides for unparalleled brain training, because every time you need to formulate a thought you will have to think about the grammatical role of every word in the sentence. It is not that I enjoy unnecessary difficulties, but it feels good when you master this game (it might take you years, however).
Reason no. 3
Russian is the lingua franca all across the former Soviet Union (except probably for the Baltic states, where there is still a certain animosity towards the former occupant, but even there you will find a lot of people who speak Russian-half of the population in Riga, the capital of Latvia, is ethnically Russian). So you will be able to speak Russian in Ukraine, where it is the native language of one third of the population (and the rest speaks it at an almost native level too) and in Belarus for example, where everybody speaks Russian anyway.
Reason no. 4
Nobody is going to walk away from you even if you are butchering their language. Rather, people will compliment you and appreciate your effort.
Reason no. 5
You will be able to read Dostoevskiy and Tolstoy in the original. And you will realize that the Russian classics still play a very important role in Russian contemporary culture.
Reason no. 6
Russian movies (and TV series). While American, even British, French or to a certain degree German and Italian movies are universally known and widespread, Russian cinema does not seem to enjoy a lot of international popularity. There are of course the occasional Hollywood-like blockbusters but many Russian films still seem to have something unique, a mixture of simplicity and authenticity which you will rarely find elsewhere.
Reason no. 7
Russian talk shows. When you turn on Russian TV and look at the serious and lively debates going on there, you will find it hard to believe that all Russian media are just Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlets, like the journalists in Europe and in the US, starving for attention and unconditional approval, constantly drum into our minds.
Reason no. 8
You will stop believing all the horror stories the media constantly tells about Russia.
Reason no. 9
You will listen to Putin talking and understand what he says. You will realize that ok, maybe he is not really a flawless champion of democracy and maybe he is some sort of tyrant, but certainly he is not a reincarnation of Hitler and Stalin combined who is hell bent on restoring the Soviet Union and killing all his opponents, like some people would like you to believe.
Reason no. 10
English is without doubt the leading language in scientific publications, but after it comes, surprise, surprise, Russian. The Soviet education system was great in the sciences, and while the quality of high education and research may have suffered after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is resurging.
A picture speaks more than a thousand words.