Sunday, 18 March 2012

The joys of В Контакте

Russians don't really use Facebook that much, instead they have В Контакте. I have no idea if this is better for keeping in touch with your friends, but it is a lot more useful for learning languages. On В Контакте you can watch films, TV shows, music videos etc etc, in Russian, for free. This is probably illegal but people seem quite relaxed about copyright here. Currently I am watching the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast in Russian whilst trying to read Lermontov. The songs are pretty distracting, because since I know all the words in English (and why not?), I keep trying to predict how they will translate them whilst trying to keep the rhymes (like "large" and "barge" when Gaston is singing about how many eggs he eats).

But the best thing so far about В Контакте is a Russian soap opera set at the beginning of the 19th century called Бедная Настя. It's weirdly addictive, a bit like Sunset Beach (with similar production values and believability of story lines). I think it was made for the hard-of-thinking, because everyone speaks really slowly, so I can actually understand what they are saying. Plus, like Sunset Beach, nothing ever happens. You can skip four or five episodes and the same people will still be in the same room talking about the same thing, which means lots of repetition of vocabulary. One girl spent three episodes complaining about being locked in her room, trying to pick the lock with a variety of knitting needles, combs, hair pins etc, before it occurred to her that she could just climb out the window. Another scene involved a serf theatre rehearsing Romeo and Juliet in Russian, with the барин yelling at some poor serf girl about how could she not know the balcony scene - EVERYONE knows the balcony scene. I can't think of any British soap operas where people quote Shakespeare (although to be fair, this may be because I don't watch any British soap operas). Yes, so Бедная Настя is fantastic, even if they do dance to pop music at their balls.

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