Random words: УБИТЬ. Kill 3 with 1.

A useful one sometimes. Let’s see how we can remember it.

You must already know the verb БЫТЬ – to be. As sound Ы is a hard nut to crack, probably in the beginning you always pronounced it like БИТЬ, completely unaware that it is another verb.

Быть = to be

Бить = to beat somebody

Убить = to kill (very close to бить, just add a prefix), perfective. A bit strange in the future: убью, убьёшь, etc.

Убивать = to kill, imperfective, regular.

For practise:

So that

Word-for-word: So that all were happy, must kill those who (is) unhappy. (In Russian we normally have singular forms with КТО – who).

Anything to learn from children?

Attention! Lots of letters and hardly any pictures.

Ever wondered why you nailed English easily at the tender age of 0-5 but struggle with other languages now? If so, it feels like our brains actually get worse and worse for languages. Children have 2 basic advantages over adults in this matter:

1) Motivation. In attempt to learn something new, they are ready to sacrifice their mum (yea, let’s drag her by her shiny hair!), dad (yea, he does not need to sleep, so he can read me this book again for the 45736th time) and even own life (let’s try and see what it tastes like – never mind mum shouted “don’t touch it!”).

To make this post a bit more serious, I will add three smart words – hippocampus, amygdala and dopamine, all about brains. The first one, hippocampus, is responsible for collecting information from all sources (visual, auditory, etc) and transferring short-term memory into long-term memory. If you are truly enjoying something (let’s refer to languages again as an example), this changes much how your memory works, as you involve amygdala as well. Amygdala is a little part of the brain which influences the strength of the memory if strong emotions are added to an event. Emotional memory is viewed as an implicit or unconscious form of memory and contrasts with explicit or declarative memory mediated by the hippocampus. Also, if you are really motivated about something (let’s say to learn a language), amygdala releases dopamine (a chemical) which improves your concentration and abilities. Dopamine is like ketchup on your hot dog – a little thing but changes so much.

And now a question: how much motivation to study English did people have before they put this sign in a public place:

no way

Thanks to my student Jim who sent it to me! Word for word, it is all correct (the top line is in Ukrainian but source language does not matter here). This is probably what happens if you assign the job to Google translate or have no interest in what you are doing (have you done your homework?=).

2) Special “mechanism” in their brains. How do actually children learn a language if they can’t read? How do they know this is one word and this is another? The first thought is probably that they listen and try to make sense of words between pauses. But if we look at oscillogramme (visual representation of speech – the last smart word here, I promise!), we will see that there are actually no pauses between words and sometimes there are pauses between parts of one word:


Recoding of “Where are the silences between words?”. University of California.

What children do is, as they are highly sensitive to repeated segments, they look for repetitions. Once they heard same syllables or their combination in different contexts, they can think it is a separate word. Such a complicated work they do! While we normally say that it is so easy for them and so hard for us poor. Neuroscientists say we loose this great decoding ability as we grow older but maybe we just get lazier and lazier with every year=) Plus children love repetitions while we hate. Children want the same book with the same story again and again until they make sense of every atom in it while we want something new every day and hop from one thing to another.

So, to be successful in leaning, we need to have a stubborn baby-like motivation (not something abstract) + enjoy what we are doing (then it is physically easier to remember stuff and do it really well) + study regularly + work hard, and all at the same time. An old truth many forget!

Survival Russian: turning “thanks” into “help”

You probably already know the word СПАСИБО (“thanks”). Make sure you pronounce the last О as a weak short sound closer to А.

Ok, now we get ready to tear off the last bit – БО – and add – ТЕ – instead and shout: СПАСИТЕ!!!!!!!! That would mean “save!”, “help!”.


Learn to talk about food in 15 minutes

Есть ли идеальная еда? Is there any ideal food? Below you will find a little graph about food.

The larger font corresponds to key “features” (adjectives) people generally like about food.

The smaller font corresponds to the kind of food we will see if we mix certain features.

A somewhat ideal food possessing all three features is in the centre. You can replace it with food of your choice.

You can read the graph using the following structure:

Если еда … и …, то (она) …

(If food is… and…, then (she) is… – food in Russian is female)

If you cannot read the graph yourself, just use the text below and vocabulary.


Если еда быстрая и полезная, то она вегетерианская и дорогая.

Если еда быстрая и недорогая, то McDonald’s.

Если еда полезная и недорогая, то готовить 3 часа.

Если еда полезная, недорогая, быстрая, то… так не бывает?


Быстрая – quick

Полезная – healthy

(Не)дорогая – (in)expensive

Готовить – cook

3 часа – 3 hours

Так не бывает – “so doesn’t happen” (“impossible”)


All Russian tenses explained in 5 minutes

Most verbs have 2 infinitives: perfective and imperfective. The choice is easy – imperfective forms are used in present (any), as well as in past or future (if you want to underline it was a process or a regular action). Perfective forms are used for single actions in the past or future and there’s no need to mention the process.

Here’s an example with imperfective verb “зарабатывать (to be earning/to earn)” and perfective verb “заработать (to have earned/to earn)”:

1To get a better quality picture, just click on it! It does not cover 100% cases (for example, sometimes with modality we use past tense even though refer to present or future), but this logic is applied most of the time.

Learn to speak about women in 15 minutes

Below you will find a little graph about women.

The larger font corresponds to key “features” (adjectives) men would generally like to find in women (well, let’s stereotype!).

The smaller font corresponds to the kind of women (nouns) we will see if we mix certain features.

A somewhat ideal woman possessing all three features is in the centre. You can replace her with another woman of your choice.

You can read the graph using the following structure:

Если женщина … и …, то она ….

(If a woman is… and…, then she is…)

If you cannot read the graph yourself, just use the text below and vocabulary.


Почему так трудно найти девушку?

Если женщина богатая и умная, то она старуха.

Если женщина богатая и красивая, то она тусовщица.

Если женщина умная и красивая, то она карьеристка.

Если женщина богатая, красивая, умная, то она… Анжелина Джоли?


трудно – hard

девушка – 1) girlfriend 2) young lady

женщина – woman

богатая – rich

умная – smart

красивая – beautiful

старуха – old woman (rather negative)

тусовщица – party girl (like Paris Hilton!)

карьеристка – ladder climber, a woman who is focused on her career

Russian poems you can learn in 120 seconds

If you know Russian numbers.

Russian is well known for its poets but often, especially if you have taken only a few Russian lessons, it is hard to be able to surprise somebody with a Russian poem. So numbers can help you. A particular combination of them can convey the individual style of almost any poet – if you keep up with rhythm, of course.

When you succeed, you can recite them to other people who don’t speak Russian and I guarantee they will sound like a real poem of a particular poet. Let’s take a few.

A.S.Pushkin   Alexander Pushkin, our romantic poet. His works are melodic, often melancholic, Byron-inspired.

  17 30 48,
  140 10 01,
  126 138,
  140 3 501.

You can find the recording here.

Or we can take Vladimir Mayakovsky. His poems are “rough”, they oftentimes resemble military marches.


   2 46 38 1
   116 14 20!
   15 14 21
   14 0 17.

Recording here.

You can also go for a cheerful poem which does not imitate anybody’s style.

2 15 42
42 15
37 08 5
20 20 20!
7 14 100 0
2 00 13
37 08 5
20 20 20!

You can find the recording here.

The trick is that if you don’t know numbers well, it won’t sound right – so keep trying!