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Saturday, February 03, 2007

A message from LR's Translator

In response to a reader who commented on our response to the eXile by making disparaging comments about other people's command of Russian, LR's translator posted a couple of observations about mistakes the commenter had made in his own Russian. Now he offers readers a few general observations about this kind of discourse:

My last two notes bring me to a larger point, something I've noticed over the years, and this seems like as good a place as any to mention it. The people who are most prone to basing ad hominem arguments on other people's proficiency in Russian almost always fall into one (or more) of three categories:

1) Those who don't speak it very well themselves, but have always dreamed of being able to scold their fellow countrymen for being narrow-minded and provincial, especially about foreign languages (these are mostly Russophile expats);

2) Those for whom it is their sole qualification for speaking on Russian affairs (these are often Russian-Americans, who forget that foreign affairs, human rights, jurisprudence, etc. are all legitimate fields of inquiry in themselves);

3) Russians who are trying to get critics to shut up so they can hear the gentle music of their own propaganda machines. (Problem is, more and more of their critics are Russians themselves... that's where I come in.)
All (ALL) of the really competent Russian specialists I've known (and I've known a lot), regardless of whether they tended toward the Russophile orRussophobe side of the house, have religiously avoided making any mention of their or anyone else's proficiency in the language. I've been delighted sometimes to discover some of them had extremely high levels of fluency in the language, because they never mentioned it to me themselves, and their friends don't usually make a big deal out of it either. By contrast, almost every rabid Russophile I have ever met (with the exception of ethnic Russians, and I'm not sure they can be called "Russophiles" anyway) who claimed to speak Russian has disappointed me, usually very badly, when I've had the chance to hear them trying to do it. There's probably a deep psychological explanation for this phenomenon -- something that speaks to the origins of self-loathing and other inferiority complexes -- but I'll leave that to the specialists and those who like to speculate on such things.

LR would like to add: The very last (LAST) thing in the whole wide world that anybody who hopes for a better future for Russia should be doing is dissuading people from using the Russian language by attacking them for it when they do or by lording over them the fact that they don't. LR reported not long ago on the possible demise of the Russian language as it goes the way of the population, which is going the way of the dodo. Once again, we see a so-called Russophile doing far more harm to Russia than the country's worst enemies.


penny said...

Get real, since when does a command of Russian negate understanding what's going on in Russia.

My parents didn't speak German but they were not compromised in understanding what was happening in Nazi Germany.

Irishman said...

You see Penny, this is the logic you're dealing with on this website. They actually say that speaking Russian inhibts an understanding of Russia. Yes, thats what they are saying. Amazing. They also ramble on about expat ''russophiles'' -whatever the fuck that means -doing damage to the language. There's also a riduclous statement about expats whose attempts at Russian make them feel superior to their friends who dont speak Russian. Could you actually dream up bullshit like this, if you sat down and deliberately tried to do so? I couldnt anyway. My dodgy home-cooked Russian is learned as a necessity - I live and work in Moscow. Its not done for any other reason. None of my friends actually give a shit that I speak Russian. The whole -and I mean whole -website is based on shitty, childish one-upmanship about ridiculous, metricious things. As for the translator, who by the way DID NOT write that piece -cos as surely as westerners dont perfect Russian, Russians dont perfect english - he should be ashamed to be associated with this website. Never mind, I'm sure that the FSB know who he is and where he is. The arms of the Empire have a long reach. Remember Leon Trotsky?? And if he's American, then what a poofter. He studied Russian at university and thats it. He can speak Russian but is actually not qualified to do anything. Except speak Russian. Did you take a break stacking shelves at Wal-Mart to write that piece?

Ger O'Brien