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дима: Ты лучше всех!

I’ve just come back from another Russian lesson with the excellent Dimitri. People: You think Cantonese is difficult – try Russian. Every word, I mean noun, adjective, verb and adverb, has hundreds of different forms. Even numbers change wildly according to what comes after them. In Cantonese, dollar(s) have only one form: 蚊 (man) . In Russian there are three ways to say “ruble” depending on how many there are. In Cantonese, if you can count to ten and know the words for hundred, (百) thousand (千)and ten thousand (萬) you can basically count to as many millions as you want, using the same one-syllable words. In Russian, between 1 and 100 there are probably 50 different pronunciations with the number 40 suddenly taking off from the pack and having nothing to do with the number 4.

Then there are the genders of course, and every bloody word veering off to the left and right with only the first syllable (if you’re lucky) known to man. Endings, beginnings, things depending on whether there is one, four or more than five of the bloody thing … It’s like mathematics.

When I’m in the room with Dimitri I go into a kind of trance and can kind of communicate with him by remembering the first few syllables of words and mumbling the rest. When I stand on the pavement outside, shaking lightly and not knowing which direction to walk, I think: What was that all about? If you’d held a gun to my head I wouldn’t be able to remember what had gone on in that room three minutes ago.

So students of Canto: Embrace the Canto. It really is SO easy! When you know ten words, you actually know a hundred words. Whereas in Russian those words will be 1,500 different-sounding words which you have to memorise one by one. I’m just saying.

And the buffalo? Well, that’s a Russian bear with horns.

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