Putting thoughts on paper clarifies the linguistic chaos in your head and gives you confidence using the language. That’s especially important when learning Russian, since grammatical patterns can seem very random and chaotic. Writing your thoughts down, even if there are mistakes, can help you to achieve inevitable success. The problem is that writing is often associated with school and tedious homework. So, is it possile to change our feelings about it?
Unfortunately, not everyone likes writing just for the sake of writing. In fact, a lot of people prefer to avoid writing whatsoever. What’s the point, they ask, of writing somebody a letter when I can just compose a quick text and be done with it? By thinking this way, they leave writing to the writers, hopeless romantics and graphomaniacs.
So, let’s just take a break for a moment and travel a few centuries into the past, to 19th century France. It’s nighttime, and the Moon is high in the sky. On the third floor of a sleepy house, a single window is open, disbursing a thin yellow light outside. We can see the dark figure of a young man who is leaning over the pages of a half written novel, taking a sip from a large cup of coffee. Indeed, Honoré de Balzac (the future literaturary genius) often neglects sleep in favour of inspiration. No matter how much coffee he drinks, the quill in his hand is steady, a fine tool for channelling his thoughts. He believes it to be much better than a typewriter, which he feels lacks the same “mind-to-paper” connection. Moreover, recent research has shown that we learn and remember better when writing by hand rather than typing!
Not so much has changed in the present times. Coffee and a quill (or, in our case, a pen) are still our best friends when it comes to quality writing. Try a little experiment: close the door, take a clean sheet of paper and your favourite pen, sit down and write a few sentences in Russian. If that didn’t make you feel like a Dostoyevsky to-be, then nothing will.
At this stage, you might feel a bit confused. Perhaps, you have never written anything in Russian before and this seems like a truly impossible thing to accomplish. Most likely, you’re just lacking some vocabulary, which is one of the reasons why this article exits. Today, we’re going to master writing a diary entry in Russian.
First things first, you’ll need to buy a Russian-looking diary. If you already have one, skip this step, though it might be wise to read it anyway, just to make sure you’ve gotten it right.
Now, when you hear the phrase “a Russian-looking diary,” you probably imagine something solid with a giant bear on the front cover and a vodka bottle on the back. That could work, but it also might destract you if you’re a beginner. Instead, go for something with traditional Russian decorations on it. It could also be a diary with big yellow sunflowers or Soviet cartoon characters.
When all the preparations are done and you’re safely locked away with your new Russian diary, it’s time to do some real work. Think about what you’ve accomplished today or something amusing that has happened to you. Write something along the lines of:
- Дорогой дневник, сегодня у меня был очень интересный день. Dear Diary, today I had a very interesting day.
If you think that sounds too cheesy, there is another way to put it:
- (напишите число) Еще один дурацкий день на этой проклятой Земле. (Insert date) Another stupid day on this cursed Earth.
Now it’s time to provide some more details. Imagine yourself ten years from now, reading the yellowed pages of this very same diary. What would you like to read about then? Write it down, while the memories are still fresh:
- Сегодня у меня отличное (обычное/странное/ужасное) настроение, потому что…. Today I am in a great (usual/weird/horrible) mood, because….
Here are some possible variations for you to choose from:
- у меня проблемы в школе (на работе/дома/со здоровьем). I have been having problems at school (at work/at home/with health).
- (напишите имя) не любит меня. (insert name) doesn’t love me.
- у меня похмелье. I’ve got a hangover (probably the outcome of the unrequited love in the previous situation).
- (напишите имя) сделал(а) мне комплимент. (insert name) gave me a compliment.
- я съел(а) слишком много после шести. I ate too much after 6pm.
- я только что понял(а), что пишу дневник на русском. I just realized that I’m writing a diary entry in Russian.
Of course, this doesn’t cover all the many possibilities that can occur, so keep your English-Russian dictionary close at all times.
After you’ve finished writing about your day, try making some plans for the future. Making goals for the next day can help you to achieve them. At the very least, you will be able to practice writing in the future tense in Russian.
So, take a deep breath and write:
- Мои планы на завтра…. My plans for tomorrow are….
Choose from the following, or take a risk and make up your own list:
- встать рано. to get up early.
- сделать уборку. to do the cleaning.
- заняться спортом. to start doing sports.
- почитать что-нибудь на русском (или ваш вариант). to read something in Russian (choose your variation).
- сходить к парикмахеру (стоматологу/диетологу/психологу). to pay a visit to a hairdresser (dentist, nutritionist, psychologist).
- провести этот день в хорошем настроении. to spend today in a good mood.
After this, you can draw a little picture of yourself accomplishing your goal and smiling happily. Now you may close your diary and carry on. Maybe go to the shops and get yourself a little treat. After all, you’ve just done something to be proud of!
Keep your diary in a safe place, preferably someplace where nobody can find it. In the event that that happens, write this in a huge red letters on the cover:
- Не влезай – убьёт! Danger – keep out!
Here are some more tips for using diary writing to learn a language:
- Use words or phrases that you are trying to learn in your diary entry.
- Resist the temptation to use a translator or dictionary too often. It is better to use only a limited number of new words, and to try to express yourself with the vocabulary that you already know.
- Don’t make it too complicated for yourself. If you are a beginner, you should just use simple phrases like “Today, I ate porridge for breakfast. Then, I went to school with my friend.”
- Don’t worry too much about mistakes. No one else is going to read it anyway. Just write!
All the best of luck in your diary writing journey!