Of course, they aren’t really mine, they are the students of Nina Alexandrovna Kuznetsova, a highly respected teacher of English here in Samara for over 40 years. She wrote her own grammar book–published in 1991–and the print run was 50,000 copies! (I should be so fortunate someday.)
Anyhow, over the years I’ve come to know several of her students pretty well and seen their great progress in communicating with me– from shy, whispered hellos to full-on conversations.
To my shame, my Russian has not progressed quite so rapidly.
So without further ado – please meet:
Here she is, studying with Nina Alexandrovna (whose birthday is today, by the way! Happy Birthday, Nina!) Oksana is a doctor of embryology at the local women’s clinic, IDK (Kasey and I visited there 2 years ago!) She’s currently working on her doctorate, has a husband and two small kids, and still has time to study English. Can you imagine?
And here’s Galina!
One of Nina’s youngest students at 18. She’s only been learning English since last December. I heard more giggles during her lesson than English words, as she was rather shy and nervous to speak in front of a foreigner. But nevertheless, she did it. Bravo, brave girl!
I met Asya last year via Skype. She lives in Moscow with her husband and three boys–a friend of another of Nina’s students, Mary, whom I know well. Asya is a physical therapist and a lovely person. Her boys only interrupted twice in the 90-minute lesson, which was pretty impressive.
Next was Tanya, a psychotherapist who began her lessons in September of last year. Although she had some English in grade school, she wanted to become more fluent. I was really impressed with her progress in such a short time. It was apparent she was working hard and has a good memory.
Even the cat participated in the lessons.
After lunch, Sveta and her husband, Kostya, arrived. I met Kostya two years ago at the plant where Nina teaches group lessons. That same year he bravely came to her “student party” where we sit around a big table together and speak English (or try to). He was terrified at this party and maybe said two words. Now, he’s happy to help his sweet wife who has been studying English for a year, and even translates for her. Also impressive work for a busy guy. Sveta teaches math at the technical college. They have a 15-year-old girl who will start English lessons with Nina in the fall. And Kostya will celebrate his 40th birthday on Friday.
The last student of the day (at 7:30 pm) was Tanya, who brought a pie (more like a cheesecake). Oh my gosh! I threw my diet out the window for this one, and it was worth it. I’ve been at Tanya’s lessons several times in the past. She’s a fun gal with a bright personality and a great love of conversation in English. (She’s not so fond of grammar.) Tanya works as the chief of the budget department in the Regional Ministry of Finance. I was also grateful for her willingness to drive me home in her car, and our interesting conversation about life in Russia today as we traveled.
Tanya also shared the fairy tale about the Kolobok! (similar to our gingerbread man story). I have been learning new Russian phrases to say when I’ve had (more than) enough to eat, and this one Я как колобок (I am like the kolobok) is becoming more and more apropo every day here. (burp!) You can view a modernized, Americanized version of this fairy tale by clicking here. It’s pretty clever.
So, I guess you can see that these young professionals are a delight to spend time around and an inspiration to me to work harder on my foreign language skills.