The road to speaking

My ambition is to reach basic conversational level in both Russian and Italian.

In order to do this, the steps have been:

1) learn basic grammar using teach yourself books and tapes, as well as apps such as Duolingo and Babbel

2) Join group classes with a teacher

3) read simplified texts

4) watch videos made by native speakers: (also a YouTube channel “real Russian club”

YouTube channel “be fluent in Russian”

YouTube channel “RU-land club”

YouTube channel “Russian for education”

YouTube channel “Anastasia Semina”

YouTube channel “Italy made easy”

5) make contact with native speakers using
HiNative (also called Lang-8)

Евгений Онегин

Last night I went to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, at the Mikhailovsky theatre, which is conveniently located near a park in the centre of town. I think the facade of the theatre is being renovated and was therefore covered, but the theatre itself give an idea of the magnificence in those non egalitarian days. A treasure.

And a fortifying snack was available during the intervals

 The performance itself was controversial and fairly new, by the Ukrainian Stage Director Andriy Zholdak.

The two ladies next to me did not like it, too eccentric an adaptation.

The staging was certainly entertaining, though I thought some of the symbolism of fate was a little heavy handed: all the stage and costumes were black and white, mostly white at the start, but black in the final act. Lots of spinning tops and bags of marbles. Also a fair bit of water and milk, which I didn’t understand.

I thought the biggest applause was for the good old fashioned bass solo at the start of the last act.

Still, I’m no expert. The words of the director and some video is at this link.


Last night I went to my first live ice hockey game, SKA St Petersburg v Jokerit Helsinki. Unfortunately, my team lost 3 – 5. The stadium, the Ice Palace (ледовый Дворец) was full to its capacity of 12,300 ( they also have concerts: Cher, Sting and others have performed here). It was full on flashing lights and loud music over the PA. Manly supporters would have felt at home with Eagle Rock, but there was some cultural sensitivity, with Kalinka when the home team scored a goal.

At the start, the sponsor’s ballon

Preparing the ice

The match starts

And there are cheer leaders

A mascot

And crazy home supporters

All good fun


Last weekend, I saw a group of boys in military uniform having lunch. The only information my level of Russian managed to get from them was that they we wearing the old imperial military uniform.

I now know that these cadets were set up in 1731. During the revolution, many cadets and graduate cadets fought for the White Russian forces against the Bolsheviks, so most were executed or deported. They survived in emigre communities overseas. 

Some information is at this link:

Russian cadet corps
After the fall of communism, cadet corps were reformed in Russia.

The boys live in boarding accommodation (internats) and study academic subjects as well as military. To graduate as a cadet  is regarded as an achievement and prestigious.

There is no cost to the family of a boy in cadets, but there is a selective entrance exam. Of course it isolates the boy from the family, but some parents like it in cases like both parents working, or single mothers, in order to give good training to boys.

For Australians, this sounds more like boarding schools (which are expensive), rather than military cadets, which are part time.