It was in 1994. In our provincial backwater, a cultural center which was a local University, said first the Americans, who, of course coincidentally, turned out to be missionaries.
Head of the delegation of the priest was accompanied by a retinue, a young, modestly dressed girl who’s a Mormon, silent old lady with a blank expression, like a mask, face and chatty, bright-eyed and curly-haired guy caught the personal interpreter of the Holy father. He’s the one who translated us the message, which for many was the first in my life, given our atheistic childhood. God, what he was carrying behind Mr preacher… Russia has strayed from God and the economic crisis of the early 90s is a punishment for «the sins of the nation.» But, «the Lord still loves our lost souls». Remember, even Lenin’s body on red square, is still not buried according to Christian traditions, which is an urgent need to bury the joint efforts of all the inhabitants of the former Union. Then followed the distribution of free books and… chewing gum, undoubtedly strengthening the moral foundations of the lost sheep. Such is the kind of «meeting with aliens» was the main event of the year.
Then I had an utter disappointment in our English language teaching. Without an interpreter I don’t understand. Yes, and normal communication, alas, also failed. 1000 odd people who have studied English for 8-10 years, to say it was nobody. The translator of course was there, but «live» discussion and exchange of views through an intermediary – not the same thing, isn’t it?
Arose in that moment the desire to bring your English mind was broken about the existing textbooks. Learn how to translate English to Russian with them in principle it can, but to say… Even the notorious technical translation, which we are «taught» at University, in the oral form is not hard work, despite the apparent monotony of grammatical structures typical for technical texts.
A breakthrough in the development of speech occurred a few years later. Relative, to go abroad, brought as a present exotic at that time, the Cambridge Grammar textbook. Free from academic terminology and is built using templates this tutorial is strikingly different from those books that we were given to study. They have been drawn engines and machines in the context, emphasis was placed on translation of scientific and technical literature, and exercises on grammar emanated such impenetrable nonsense that the construction of missiles and power plants seemed to fuss in the sandbox.
To summarize: the real stumbling block for learners of English – verb tenses – was successfully studied… the commercials for two weeks; before that, the head was a complete jumble, despite excellent grades in a foreign school leaving certificate. Conclusion: the books apparently need to be able to write that they were understandable to people with an IQ below 180.
But… I’m not closer to the goal — to speak the language and understand it. The inspiration came as always unexpected. To talk — we should talk! But how to do it? In the English class we engaged in «interpretation» of exercises from the textbook, only better for some reason did not become. It was necessary to begin with something simple… and it hit me. Grammar exercises from Grammar Cambridge was safely dictated on tape in Russian language, then you can do consecutive translation of sentences into English. Gradually, the whole tutorial was on the tapes, and the grammar in the head, but in the kind of «speech reflex». Most importantly — gone typical speech pathology characteristic of our system of teaching language is to think about the spoken words and to remember the «rules».
Next there was a problem with the specifics of the self-study – following meeting with foreigners showed that I speak better than understand it. From that moment I knew all the «English-speaking» gathering in the city: English club, conducted by volunteers from the Peace Corps, gatherings of students, etc. a Little understanding of speech has improved. Now this is easier – there is a TV and video, but then it was a shortage of cassettes, for example, the BBC news it was possible to get only on good acquaintance.
Somewhere in the fourth month of the study, I was seriously engaged in a vocabulary — prescription Moscow News and began to discover running words and idioms. The production of «reflex to it» has continued with consecutive translation of the series «Santa Barbara» back in English. For the «Santa Barbara» followed by news releases. Still, the VCR – a great invention! And… finally found a live partner to practice speech — sweet and very self-confident lady who wanted to go to America on some exchange program. We chatted with her twice a week for two hours of commercials. Three months later she asked me to write her a recommendation for the Embassy of the United States. Well, of course I wrote… And that I’m her roommate, leaving her with their three children, who’s going to start calling her «mom» and that I’m her employer, which she is not overjoyed, because it combines the posts of administrator, accountant and waiter in my restaurant. Yet Americans are remarkably naive! You will laugh, but with the «advice» she actually went to America six months later. Even managed to take a picture of the twin towers a few months before 11 September…
In the end, is not amenable to study English was tolerably studied for about 7-8 months. The funny thing is — and it was grammatically correct. Otherwise it could not be — based-that was a grammar, published in England by the British. The biggest compliment on that score was made by an American a few years ago: «You sound like a priest… the language is too correct». Still not «like a priest» – with him it all began…:)