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September-October 1999

Language school!

On September 6th I became a full-time student once again. I am now studying Russian language at the Kiev State Linguistics University. There are several thousand students in this university. Most of them are Ukrainians who study French, English, German, Chinese, and other foreign languages. I am studying in the “preparatory faculty” which is a program designed to teach Russian language to foreigners.

As you might imagine, I was a bit nervous on my first day, not knowing what to expect. There are about 100 students in the preparatory faculty - I am the only American. We study in groups of about ten people. My group has people from China, Mongolia, Turkey, France, and Slovakia. The Slovakian fellow, Lubomir, speaks English well, and he has been a big help to me. He already knows a lot about Russian, since Slovakia was under Soviet control for many years. Praise the Lord for Lubomir’s help!

None of the teachers speak English! They began by teaching the alphabet and basic vocabulary words, using picture cards. For example, the teacher held up a picture of a family. She pointed to the mother and said “Eta mama.” (This is mama.) She pointed to the father and said “Eta ot-yetz.” (This is father.) and so on with brother, sister, cat, dog, etc. The teachers use pictures of people in action to teach us the basic verbs - walk, run, read, write, etc. Often they act things out to show us the meaning of a new word. We write all the new words in our notebooks. Sometimes we have to look up a new word in the dictionary, but most of the time the teachers get the meaning across with pictures and actions. We constantly repeat out loud what the teacher says. She makes each student say the word or sentence individually, and helps us pronounce correctly. As soon as we had a small vocabulary to build upon, we began learning some basic rules of phonetics and grammar.

I am in school 5 hours every day, 5 days a week. I do homework 3 to 5 hours each day, and several hours over the weekend. I often spend 50 hours a week or more studying Russian. This language is very difficult and confusing, but I believe in am in the best place in the world to learn it. Although Ukrainian is the official national language, almost everybody in this part of the country still speaks Russian. I certainly can’t say that I am speaking Russian after only 2 months of study, but I am keeping up in class. Some days it seems like I am drowning in a sea of new information, but usually I manage to keep my head just above water.

My family is very happy living here. They already know how to get around town and shop in the markets for everything we need. At this time, we do not have any reason to own a car. Public transportation is reliable, safe, and cheap. Trains and buses take us everywhere we need to go. We thank the Lord for a good church to attend here. We pass out tracts and scriptures on the streets every Saturday with no interference from the government. We appreciate all of your prayers for us.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde