I wrote this a few days ago, so don’t think I’ve been
typing away thinking today. Instead, imagine me comatose and whiney, and in bed with a fever, deliriously cursing this weird weather that’s happening in Moscow (and in VA, too!).
I have a business English class that just started a new, advanced-level book. For those of you who don’t know, business English classes are actually a level more difficult than general English; for example, an intermediate level business student would be at the level of an upper-intermediate general English student. Suffice to say, these students of mine are really high-level.
I actually really enjoy teaching low-level classes, but there’s something to be said about having a class where you can basically speak freely to the students (and they can return the favor). What’s especially fun is teaching them new phrases or idioms. Since their English is so good, they know most standard English and they’re ready to start learning the nuances.
Now, after three years of teaching, I’m used to “teacher speak” and I don’t have to think too much about speaking simply as it just naturally happens. But sometimes with this advanced class, it’s fun to slip in some strange expressions and watch them frantically flick through their notes to see if this weirdness has been explained before. (We do a lot of idioms — their personal favorite, or the one they can usually remember, is “it’s raining cats and dogs.”)
This got me thinking about all the fun Russian idioms that I hear quite often and was utterly confused by the first few hundred times I heard them. So here’s a brief list. Learn them and then you’ll have a new party trick!
Близок локоток, да не укусишь (Blizok lokotok, da ne ukusish’)
Lit. The elbow is close, but you can’t bite it.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
Лить как из ведра (Lit’ kak iz vedra)
Lit. To pour as if from a bucket
To rain cats and dogs.
Век живи — век учись (Vek zhivi — vek uchis’)
Lit. Live a century — study a century
Лучшие ножки во Франции, если побрить и выпрямить (Luchiye nozhki vo Frantsii, yesli pobrit’ i vypryamit’)
Lit. The best legs in France, if you shave and straighten them
An unattractive woman.
Любовь зла – полюбишь и козла (Lyubov’ zla — polyubish’ i kozla)
Lit. Love is cruel — you’ll fall in love with a goat.
Love is blind, I guess?
Every language has its own set of outrageous idioms and phrases. I’m not sure which I enjoy more — learning new, confusing phrases or confusing non-native English speakers when I use them in English…