Sunday, September 21, 2008

Should you learn Cyrillic Handwriting?

Should you even learn Russian?

Josh asks whether it's worth it to learn Russian handwriting. He notes that Iverson (creator of Iverson lists, described in earlier posts) doesn't see the value. I think there's another question that needs to be asked before approaching the handwriting question, though:

Why do we bother with this at all?

I face a similar question with Chinese - Do I learn the characters, or content myself with a smattering of the spoken language? If I were talking to someone else, I would pose the following question: And how do you envisage using Mandarin?

My answer, for better or worse: If Mandarin comes up, and it comes out that I've studied a little myself, I'd like to be able to give some evidence of that.

Q: So, it's a face thing - as in saving face.

A: You make it sound like that's a bad thing.

This is a danger that those who love languages for their own sake - or at least develop love-hate relationships with them - must face: How do you set practical goals for an endeavor that doesn't have a fundamentally practical application? It's all up to you.

If you've got Russian ancestry and might come into possession of their papers, it would be worth it to learn the handwriting, so you could go through old letters. If you were thinking of getting a Russian pen pal, it would probably be through e-mail, but who knows? But if you want to read literature, the printed letters are probably enough. The thing is, if you're learning Russian in the style of Hillary - because it's there - then you have to decide for yourself what learning Russian means to you, and how much you're willing to invest.

For my part, I'd say that even if knowing Russian script serves no practical purpose, it only takes a few hours to learn and it looks a lot cooler to be sitting there scribbling notes in Russian, as though you just toss of your thoughts in the language, than to limit yourself to duplicating the characters in the book. If you're going to learn Russian, you might as well look the part, no?


Anonymous Russian Lessons said...

I don't think that in the beginning you have to know how to write the language but if you intend to feign any form of fluency that writing has to be learned.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Josh said...

Hey Geoff,

Thanks for the link and follow up. I'm going to post a bit more about this, but to summarize my feelings on it (at the present time, anyway): I think learning the cursive script is worthwhile, that is, being able to read it. Using it exclusively in my written studies, however, isn't on my agenda, for a rather simple reason: it's slow! I know many people write cursive faster than they print, but I'm the opposite. My printed English has always been quicker than my cursive, and that seems to be the case with Cyrillic characters as well.

Additionally, my printing is far more legible. I can make my cursive writing legible, but I have to write it at a crawl, which I don't really want to do. :)

3:50 AM  

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