Learning (Languages) from Other People's Mistakes ;)

Today we are talking about common mistakes native speakers of Russian make when they communicate in English. If you’ve lived among us for a while, you’ll know exactly what we mean :)

But how is that knowledge useful to you? Glad you asked. One can learn a lot about a persons mother tongue from their accent, so for somebody struggling to master Russian hearing locals speak English can provide plenty of insight.

1. What / How… ?

As we are building our vocabulary in class the question “How is it called in English?” is unavoidable. We know, of course, it should be “What’s the English for…?”, but it means that in Russian the question looks like this: “Как это по-английски?”.

Same thing with asking for opinion: “How do you think…?” instead of “What do you think…?” suggests that in Russian we would ask: “Как ты думаешь...?”. Elementary!

2. My boyfriend is boring. ― Мой парень скучный.

That’s unfortunate. We might have actually meant “My boyfriend is bored.”, which in Russian would be “Моему парню скучно.” The trick here lies in use of cases: the object of boredom will be used in Dative (моему парню).
Similarly:

She is interesting. – Она интересна.
She is interested in me. – Она интересуется мною (Instumental).

3. “She is having a cat! ― What is she thinking?!”

Sometimes we don’t know that certain verbs will change their meaning when used with -ing. “She is getting a cat.” will be “Она берёт/заводит кошку.” in Russian.

So always consult a good dictionary for the translation of the verbs. The example section there will usually give you some clarity.

4. Many Peoples, Many Faiths

Plural can be quite confusing in English. There are less irregular plural noun forms in Russian, however, they exist. For instance: ребёнок — дети (child – children), человек — люди (person – people).

“Peoples” would translate as “народы”, and “persons” – “лица/особы” in official language.

5. “High” and “blue”

Do not be offended, when a native speaker of Russian or Ukrainian is impressed by how “high” you are. No, they are not on to you, you are probably just rather tall. You guessed it! “High” and “tall” are the same word in Russian: высокий.

The same way, not all of our bosses are chefs: boss – шеф, начальник (-ница).

Would you like to recognize more “translator’s false friends” for what they are? Then drop by ALMA School Facebook page every Thursday – it’s ALMA Homonym day!

Isn’t language-learning fascinating?! It certainly is with ALMA School! ;) So email us and start a course of Russian or Ukrainian as foreign right very soon!