Friday, January 23, 2015

Russian melancholy?

From Russian melancholy?

The other day I was trying to learn some adjectives in Russian, and noticed that there seemed to be more Russian words for sad (9) than for happy (4), at least in one dictionary I checked ( This might be a coincidence as in other dictionaries are more words for happy than for sad. In fact, combining the words together gives us nine words for happy and ten for sad.

Words for happy include:
– счастливый = happy (also: fortunate, lucky, providential, blessed)
– весёлый = happy (also: gay, cheery, fun, hilarious)
– довольный = happy (also: glad, pleased, amused, content)
– удачный = happy (also: successful, felicitous, chancy, fortunate)
– благополучный = happy (also: safe, trouble-free)
– ликующий = happy (also: jubilant, exultant, gleeful, elate, cookahoop, triumphant)
– радостный = happy (also: jolly, joyful, joyous glad, merry, cheery, high, gleeful, frabjous)
– удачливый = happy (also: lucky, successful, prosperous, fluky)
– улыбчивый = happy (also: smiling)

Words for sad include:
– прискорбный = sad (also: sorry, lamentable, regrettable, grievous)
– грустный = sad (also: melancholy, wailful, lamentable, minor)
– печальный = sad (also: down, sorrowful, deplorable, dolorous)
– тёмный = sad (also: dark, dirty, cimmerian, darksome)
– унылый = sad (also: moody, dreary, chap-fallen, cheerless)
– ужасный = sad (also: awful, horrible, terrible, dire)
– отчаянный = sad (also: desperate, foolhardy, hotshot, reckless)
– тусклый = sad (also: dim, gloomy, blear, bleary)
– тяжелый = sad (also: heavy, difficult, hard, grinding)
– досадный = sad (also: annoying, provoking, pesky, plaguesome, vexatious)

I wondered if this might reflect the reputed Russian melancholy nature of the Russian character.

Do you think there’s anything in this?

Are all of these words in common use, or are some used more than others?

Even if this has no particular significance, it does illustrate the difficulty of choosing the right word when translating from one language to another.

Copyright © [2014] Simon Ager. For more language-related musing, go to

As for why Russian might be melancholy by nature, I can only say that I grew up in Alaska where it is cold and dark much of the year. Easier to be melancholy when you don't get much sunlight. In the summer when it is bright all the time, it is easier to be happy and active.

I'm still plugging way learning the first words for happy and sad. Though, in about two months I learned the Cyrillic alphabet and reading through podcasts at LingQ I'm nearing the middle of the "beginning" levels.

The other night I sat down next to a Russian speaking lady at one of our local casinos and the Spanish speaking gentleman next to her was trying to flirt in Russian with her. She was not happy with him, she was sad. Ha.

She left soon there after, so he ruined my chances at practicing Russian in real life. Sad that he was a wee bit drunk because it isn't that often I've run across someone I can talk with in three languages.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Learn Russian - Fabulo App

Image and video hosting by TinyPicFound this post and picked up the free Fabulo app for learning Russian.


Recently I’ve been learning Serbian, Russian and Czech with free apps produced by Hallberg Ryman, who make them for quite a variety of languages for Andriod and iPhone/iPad. They are working well for me and I would definitely recommend them.

They use a flashcard/SRS-based system to teach you vocabulary arranged into categories such as numbers, colours, clothing, food, etc. Within each category you learn individual words, and then see them in various sentences, which you’re tested on by filling in blanks, or by assembling sentences from a bunch of random words.

One blank filling exercise involves typing the missing words – in the other you just select the words – and I find this the most difficult, especially for Russian. It is also the most useful because I have to think about spelling and the grammar.

The other day I was doing a lesson on colours in Czech and in the typing exercise was having trouble remembering the endings for each word. I tried to memorise them for each sentence, but found this tricky, then I thought that there must be a pattern to them. I soon realised that they were agreeing with the gender of the nouns they accompanied. Once I spotted the pattern, it was easy to remember and apply it. I’m sure this aspect of Czech grammar has come up before in my Czech studies, but I hadn’t internalised it. Now that I’ve worked it out for myself through observation and experiment, I won’t forget it.

When learning grammar, are you able to take it in and remember it just from grammatical descriptions, or do you need to see lots of examples?

- Copyright © 2014 Simon Ager. For more language-related musing, go to 

When you open up the app there is an option to create and account or use it as a guest. But from iTunes (on my phone), the link for the developer website and it is just a placeholder with no information about their apps. Since isn't entirely clear to me what we'd be signing up for, I picked the guest option.

I don't mean to be complaining! As we say in English ... don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Learn Russian - Fabulo was free and it more helpful than most of the Russian language apps that I've purchased.

Who will find it helpful?
Learn Russian - Fabulo is a great app for beginning level Russian speakers that have already taught themselves the Cyrillic alphabet.

Beginners will find it helpful to learn some basic vocabulary with images while a voice reads the word. The repetition built into the app is also helpful.