8 Weeks to Learn Russian: Send Me Your Tips


In eight weeks I’ll be in Kiev, the Ukraine, for a full week. My mission: to teach a course in philosophy for five straight days. I’ll have an interpreter. So I don’t have to know a single word of Russian to get by. But I don’t want to get by. I want to have as much useful Russian under my belt by the time I get there.

I’ve found that a trip to a new destination, where they speak an unfamiliar language, provides me with the greatest initial inspiration to learn that language. I want to exploit that initial burst of energy and learn as much as I can. I won’t be fluent when I reach my destination, but people will know that I’ve made the effort and will realize that I want to learn their language. So I’ll get more help when I’m there, and I’ll have something to build on. My question for you: What’s the best way to build that foundation when I have eight weeks to go?

Quotes to Live By


“No matter what side of an argument you’re on, you always find some people on your side that you wish were on the other side.” —Jascha Heifetz

“Genius is only a superior power of seeing.” —John Ruskin

“I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.” —Woodrow Wilson

“Every war movie, good or bad, is an antiwar movie.” —Steven Spielberg, “Of Guts and Glory”

“Happy is the man who learns from his own failures. He certainly won’t learn from anyone else’s.” —Austin Farrer, “St. Mark”

“. . . there is a tremendous social responsibility that comes with any public act we do, and that includes creative acts, as well.” —Charles Johnson, in his interview with Diane Osen for The Book That Changed My Life

—Charles Johnson, in his interview with Diane Osen for The Book That Changed My Life

Why Study a Foreign Language on Short Notice?


So here I am with eight weeks to go before I’m in Kiev, Ukraine, to spend a week teaching a philosophy course. Ukraine is divided linguistically. In the western half, Ukrainian is the language of choice. But in the east, including Kiev, it’s Russian. Some of the students will be proficient in English. For all of my presentations I’ll have an interpreter. My host has sent me a single page of “key words and phrases” he thinks I should know. So it’s obvious no one expects me to be able to speak Russian like a Cossack when I get there.

On the other hand, I genuinely enjoy studying foreign languages. It’s hard but rewarding work—especially if you have sufficient time and you have the opportunity to visit a country where the language is spoken “officially.” I could recount the many advantages to learning a foreign language. But here’s my question and I welcome your advice: Why study a foreign language on such short notice?

I’m looking for advice from people who believe it’s a good idea. In a separate post, I’ll beseech my readers for practical tips on learning a language in a hurry. But the first tip I would give myself is this: Have a good reason, and know what that reason is; the more reasons the better. That’s where you can help me. Load me up with the best reasons to go for it!

I have some ideas of my own, of course. And once I’ve had the chance to sort out the advice you send me, I’ll post it for all those in the same boat (there must be at least three or four out there).

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