Russian Words You Should Обязательно (Obligatorily) Know

On Tuesday, I got pizza with my friend Meagan and her parents.  I’d forgotten what real crust tasted like, and, let me tell you, it was glorious.  We’d been carrying on some casual small talk, when Meagan’s dad asked me if I liked apple products.  I responded: “Of course!  I’m drinking яблочный сок right now!”

Numerous things are wrong with this situation.

1. I can’t just assume that everyone understands Russian.  (Яблочный сок means apple juice, by the way.)
2. He wasn’t actually referring to apple foods at all.  He was talking about computers, which just goes to show how incredibly out of touch with the 21st century I’ve been here.

There are times, though, when Russian words just work better than the English translation.  Even in an entirely English conversation between two Americans, there are some words that you can’t help but say in Russian.

-Бывает (bweevaet)– A response that essentially means “It happens,” but you use it in very specific cases (though nearly all the time) in Russia.  For example: (A)- The 6 bus was late today. (B)-Бывает.   It demonstrates acceptance of an unpleasant or strange situation.  Since unpleasant/strange situations pretty much characterize our very lives here, you can imagine how often we use it.

-Двор (dvor)– It means courtyard, but courtyard sounds too pretty.  When I imagine courtyards, I envision flowers and terraces.  Дворs are more like enclosed parking lots, home to urban wildlife slash friends (pidgeons, kittens, etc).

-Продукты (produkti)– I spent a long time trying to translate this, even enlisting the help of my aforementioned friend’s parents.  Apparently, it’s a corner store, though we’ve entertained such translations as package stores and convenient store.  They sell alcohol, ice cream, snacks, sometimes fruit, and other everyday essentials.  My friend’s parents couldn’t find anything to their liking at any of the nearby продуктыs. The next day, I told my friend Steph this.  We were both at a loss: how could a продукты not satisfy your needs?

-Маршрyтка (marshrutka, but the second r is barely audible)– As I’ve mentioned before, маршруткаs are like communal taxi cabs.  They have pre-defined routes, and people just flag one down as they would a personal taxi cab.  But don’t just assume they will follow their pre-determined route: that would be far too logical.  Always verbally confirm your destination with your driver just to make sure.  Also, don’t expect seatbelts, enough seating, or a properly licensed driver.

-Бáбушка (bábuska)– So technically this means grandma, but all Americans use it to refer to any old lady.  In Russia, they comprise a subculture of their own, complete with a sense of entitlement that you won’t find anywhere else.  My business is бабушка’s business- where I sit (don’t sit so close to the river, your things will fall in), what I wear (you’re wearing a skirt, you’ll freeze), and how I wear it (when you’re on the bus, you shouldn’t wear your backpack on your back, that’s why I ran into you).  To my defense on that last one, the bus was empty and she just plowed into me.  But when you’re dealing with бабушкаs, it’s always your fault.

-Вообще (vobshe)– In general.  This word is so ingrained in my vocabulary, that it has literally affected how I speak English.  I’ve nearly eradicated the words overall, usually, and even generally from my vernacular.  I just say “in general” all the time.

I’m going to try really hard to speak like a normal human being when I get home, but bear with me if I relapse.  It’s so hard to undo an entire semester, and in a lot of ways, I’m hoping I won’t have to.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *