in Prose

Weeknotes S01 E06

The one with Russian

My brain has absolutely melted out of my ears.

Monday was day one of my immersive Russian course. I’m taking it through the Russian Language Centre at Pushkin House, and I have to say it’s incredibly good. There’s no better way to learn anything that to immerse yourself in it, and starting with other absolute beginners permits you to let go of the fear of looking stupid. We all look stupid. Let’s do it together. Looking at my notes I’m genuinely stunned how far I’ve come since this point; on Monday we covered the printed alphabet[1] and by Friday we had conversations that included adjectives, the genitive and locative cases, and numbers. More on that as we get to it.

So that’s A, B, wait B again, half a T, don’t know, E maybe, E again, okay I give up

Tuesday we covered gender, of which there are three. I am curious about how long the concept of gender will last in language — it is problematic and forces a culture where non-binary people don’t exist, because there isn’t language to describe them. You could just call feminine “Type 1” nouns, masculine “Type 2”, neuter “Type 3” and avoid the problem — but considering that these linguistic institutions have been around for a long time, I’m not hopeful.

Today I mastered the ы sound, which Wikipedia reckons is like the i in hit. If so, I recant my previous statement, because mine sounds nothing like that.

I also got to speak to Morgan B, who’s a former Fast Streamer-turned-Product Owner. She’s completely brilliant and gave me a great reading recommendation — Radical Candor by Kim Scott. We’ve set up fortnightly chats where I’m hoping we can support each other — she’s learning to code (also Ruby) and has some cracking insights about leadership. More than anything else it’s valuable to have someone to bounce ideas around with who’s not immediately in your context.

Radical candor is a new concept to me, and I’ve already got some hard truths. Highly recommend.

Wednesday and we’re halfway through the week and a quarter of the way through the course. We talked about what we have and don’t have, which introduced the genitive case: the case you use where (generally) you’d use ‘of’ in English. It’s absolutely brain melty, but two of my classmates — undergrads reading classics — are absolutely in their element. One of them has mentioned that they can’t wait for the locative case.

[This gif may have been stolen from another weeknoter]

On Thursday I found out I got the job that has been the main story arc for this season. With another four episodes to go before I start, there’ll be an “emotional review of the season” episode in the pipeline if I know the writers. Now comes the difficult bit: actually doing the job. There are going to be some huge challenges ahead, and I’m so excited to get started.

I dropped into the office to look at paperwork and negotiate my salary, which I hope will be the last time anyone has to do so in the company. I’ve been inspired by Basecamp and the Fast Stream to offer the same salary to everyone doing the same job. It’ll probably drive away high performers who are totally driven by money, but maybe it’ll open the door to people who don’t like the aggressive approach required in negotiating and are worried they’d be underselling themselves. It’ll be a significant shift. Tune in next season to see how it works out!

Friday and my brain, now entirely fluid, got one last stir before serving. Despite being on leave we had a minor crisis at work, and so I had to take calls before and after class. It’s not ideal, but we’re still so very small that this will happen from time to time. My absolute goal is that it won’t keep happening, and it won’t happen to anyone working for me

That was my week.


[1] Russian handwritten alphabet looks, by turns, exactly the same and then wildly different.

Reading/learning/listening

  • Radical Candor, by Kim Scott
  • Russian (obviously)
  • The West Wing Weekly podcast — watching along with someone else, even if they’re in your ear, is lovely. Like a bookclub, but for your eyes.

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