Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Learn Russian and English – Word focus: know

I recently asked a Russian friend to help me with a ‘simple’ question, and his reply left me with even more questions.  It’s fairly basic Russian, but again, understanding the idea being expressed can often be difficult.

Here’s the simple dialogue I was trying to write:

Кто это? (Who’s this?)

Это Брад Питт. (That’s Brad Pitt.)

Кто он? (Who’s he?)

Кто он? Ты не знаешь Брад Питт? (Who’s he? You don’t know Brad Pitt?)

Ты не знаешь…… (You don’t know who Brad Pitt is?)

I didn’t know how to write the second sentence, and I later realized I’d made a mistake in the first sentence.  In English, the idea is essentially the same.  He replied as follows:

По-русски эту фразу можно сказать по-разному:
In Russian this phrase is possible to tell differently:  (It’s possible to say this phrase in several ways.)

Вариант 1. Ты знаешь Брэда Питта? Кто он такой?
Вариант 2. Ты знал Брэда Питта? Кто он был такой?
Вариант 3. Ты не знаешь, кто такой Брэд Питт?

В первом варианте есть предположение, что этот Брэд Питт может быть
личным знакомым собеседника в настоящем времени.
Так нельзя спрашивать, если заранее известно, что это исключено.

Во втором варианте есть предположение, что этот Брэд Питт мог быть
личным знакомым собеседника в прошлом. (Так обычно спрашивают о людях,
которые уже умерли.)
Так нельзя спрашивать, если заранее известно, что это исключено.

В третьем варианте вы зотите узнать, что известно Вашему собеседнику о
человеке по имени Брэд Питт. Это наиболее универсальный вариант. Он
подойдет для любого случая.

Google translates this as:

In Russian this phrase can be said in different ways:

Option 1. You know Brad Pitt? Who is he?
Option 2. Did you know Brad Pitt? Who was that?
Option 3. You do not know who this Brad Pitt?

The first option is the assumption that this could be Brad Pitt acquaintances of the interlocutor in the present tense. That’s not asking if it is known that it is excluded.

The second option is the assumption that this Brad Pitt could be acquaintances of the interlocutor in the past. (This is usually asked about people who have already died.) That’s not asking if it is known that it is excluded.

In the third variant zotite you know that you know the person on a man named Brad Pitt. This is the most versatile option. He suitable for any occasion.

Here’s how I would translate each variant, and I don’t think any other them is the one I was looking for.

Вариант 1. Ты знаешь Брэда Питта? Кто он такой?  Do you know Brad Pitt? Who is he? (and you have no idea who he is)
Вариант 2. Ты знал Брэда Питта? Кто он был такой?  Did you know Brad Pitt? Who was he? (and now ‘know’ means ‘knew personally’ and he’s dead)
Вариант 3. Ты не знаешь, кто такой Брэд Питт?  Do you know who (this) Brad Pitt is? (and you’re rather perplexed)

Now, Brad Pitt is a famous person, so the question is one of surprise because the other person has never heard of him.

Here’s a sampling of phrases from various movies with ‘know who’.  There were quite a few from the movie, The Bourne Identity.

I wanna know who saved my life. Я хотел бы знать, кто спас мою жизнь.
Mary, I wanna know who I am now. Мэри, я хочу знать, кто я такой.
Do you know who that little wife will be? И знаешь, кто будет моею женой?
It’s okay.  I know who you’re talking about. Да нормально всё.  Я слышу о чём вы тут говорите.
{Bourne} Do you know who I am? Вы знаете, кто я?
I do not know who I am. Я не знаю, кто я.
Tell me who I am. Скажите, кто я?
If you know who I am… please stop messing around……and tell me. Если Bы знаете, кто я – прошу Bас, .. не юлите, скажите мне.
I don’t know who you saw last week. Я не знаю, кто с Вами беседовал.
I don’t know who I am. I don’t know where I’m going. None of it. Я не знаю – кто я? Что меня ждёт? Куда ехать? Hичего.
What, like, like, amnesia? Что это – амнезия?
I don’t know who this guy was! Не знаю, кто на нас напал, ..
I don’t even know who I’m hiding from. Вот я скрываюсь от кого?
I don’t wanna know who I am anymore. Больше не хочу знать, кто я такой.
You’d know who was sick at the time.. who wasn’t. Вы знаете, у кого бывают расстройства, а у кого – нет.
You know who I think really did it? Знаете, кто, по-моему, виноват?
Now you know who to call first. Теперь ты знаешь кому первому звонить.
Do you know who I am? Ты знаешь, кто я?
I won’t sign it, and he won’t know who sent it. Я не подпишу её и он не узнает, кто её отправил.
You know who he is, don’t you? Вы знаете, кто он, не так ли?
Starling!  Starling, we know who he is, and where he is. Старлинг!  Мы знаем, кто он, и где находится!
I wanna know who saved my life. Я хотел бы знать, кто спас мою жизнь.
Mary, I wanna know who I am now. Мэри, я хочу знать, кто я такой.

Lots of great examples, and do we now know how to say:  You don’t know who Brad Pitt is?

I think it’s perhaps the 3rd variant actually, which can be translated in 2 different ways, or used in place of at least 2 distinct English ideas.  Ты не знаешь, кто Брэд Питт?  And does the meaning change when you add такой?

Interesting how many examples you can get from movies, eh?  I’ll be doing more of these, so come around often. 🙂  Пока!!


A Driver for Vera (Водитель для Веры) – Part 2/11

If you haven’t watched part 1, best to go there first: A Driver for Vera – Review and Discussion

Now, let’s continue our chat, focusing on part 2.

When Victor sees her pull a mickey out of her purse and take a drink, he’s clearly upset, maybe disappointed, maybe feels some sympathy for her, but probably nothing more than seeing a nice looking girl pull out a cigarette and start smoking, and you don’t like girls who smoke.

She very quickly establishes her character as a ‘bitch’, which he brushes off easily and casually. He’s far too easy going and content and happy to let much of anything bother him.  When she tells him, “Closer.”, he neatly pulls up to within an inch of the wheelbarrow, showing that he’s a good driver and confident in his abilities and perhaps a bit cocky.

Tough to stay exactly what he thinks and feels when he sees her walk to the house.  In the KinoKultura review he says: “All the more striking is the expression of surprise and disgust that appears on his face at the sight of Vera’s physical disability.  A crippling childhood illness has left Vera severely lame, able to walk only with great difficulty.  For young Viktor, and one might suspect for Pavel Chukhrai, beauty and its opposite are not simply surface attributes of the physical world.  They go to the core of human existence and inform our attitudes towards politics and morality, or, in this case, towards Russia and the contemporary course of Russian cinema.

I don’t think it was so much ‘disgust’ as surprise, along with a little “oh, gross”. It’s a natural reaction for everyone if they see something physically surprising and unattractive. Most people then get over the initial shock/surprise and then look past that to see the real person. I think most people, or at least I like to think most people look past physical appearances and see things as they really are.  Appearances are unfortunately very important in all societies.

Lida is still fully in her role of being the flirt. If you don’t believe it’s realistic, then you haven’t travelled to Ukraine, Indonesia, Hong Kong and other places.  It’s totally realistic.

Sure, Victor is then eavesdropping, but only because he was given a lamp to fix and he moves into the light to see what he’s doing.  He then leaves because he clearly feels uncomfortable listening in on their conversation.

The characters of Vera and the General, and their relationship with each other, then gets developed nicely. He clearly cares for his daughter, and you guess that he’s a single parent doing the best he can. He’s very traditional in his values and morals, naturally, but you sense that he’s fair and caring.  She’s the rebellious, angry daughter.

She then goes to her room feeling all the range of emotions that any girl would feel in her situation, and unplanned pregnancy is an all too common problem. Of course she’s not going to stab herself with the scissors, but she wants to, as most would, and many do go for the ‘back alley abortions’.

From Victor’s expression as they’re about to leave, you can clearly see the concern and interest he feels. He’s already seeing past the ‘bad things’, understanding where they’re coming from. His interest in her is renewed. He liked her from the moment he saw her, hit a little bump in the road, and is now back to his original feelings, and more.

In the car, chatting with the General, Victor replies that he plans to go to the Army Academy for top officers. That’s been his plan and ambition since long before he met the General and was transferred to work for him. Thus any future claims that he uses the situation for his own personal gain, aspiring to be an officer, are pretty hard to substantiate.   And he’s totally relaxed, cheerful and confident about everything. He’s certain that with time and hard work everything will work out.

You quickly get a feeling for who that bad guy is going to be when the General’s assistant asks Victor to report on everything that happens; what they say and do; including the General.  He’s not keen to do it, but he’s in no position to refuse.

In the scene with Vera and Lida, you get a quick sense that there’s already plenty of animosity between the two. Lida undoubtedly wishes she could be the daughter and not the maid.  She wants the finer things in life, naturally.

In the car, Victor is cheerful as always. No signs yet that he’s anything but a nice guy. And I never did find any signs to contradict that viewpoint. So for everyone who thinks otherwise, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

For more material to help you learn Russian (and learn English for Russian speakers) come visit our website: Learn Russian

A Driver for Vera (Водитель для Веры) – Watch Video and Discuss – Review

A Driver for Vera  (Водитель для Веры) is a great Russian movie that’s thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The great scenery of the Crimea is beautiful, and along with nice music and an enjoyable story it’s a film that can be watched and enjoyed many times over.  Enjoy it now, with Russian and English subtitles. It’s a great film to help you learn Russian.

I came across 2 other reviews, which really made me want to add my 2 cents, and by creating a post here, everyone else can add their opinions and comments also.  I’m also using it to learn Russian, so with this and other posts with the other parts of the video, I’ll be asking questions and I hope some of you can help me out.  I’ll also make comments and corrections of the English subtitles to help those of you learning English.  Sound good?

If you want to read the other reviews, you can see them here at KinoKultura and Russia Blog.

The film opens in Moscow, 1962, on a sunny summer day.  A young army sergeant is getting photos taken with his car, which is clearly his pride and joy.  You soon discover, if you didn’t realize immediately, that it’s not his own car, he’s simply a driver, but he treats it with all the attention of a young man with his first new car.  You also immediately get the feeling for his enthusiasm and optimism about life, and his complete enjoyment with simple things.  It’s a very refreshing outlook to have.

His name is Victor, and by coincidence he is chosen to be transferred to work for a General in the Crimea.  The one review (KinoKultura) then says: “Yet it quickly turns out that his primary function is to be the servant, supervisor, spy, and potential suitor of the General’s headstrong and prickly daughter, Vera.

Now I completely disagree with that.  As you can see in this part of the film, he was chosen completely by coincidence.  It was a spur of the moment choice while the General was looking for a reason for coming to Moscow.  How can there be a ‘premeditated’ or ‘ulterior’ motive for something that was entirely a spontaneous and simple decision?

He gets ‘recruited’ by the villain, the General’s ‘right hand man’ who’s actually working for the KGB.  Victor doesn’t feel comfortable with his request but since he’s new and of low rank, he agrees to write down everything he sees and hears.  There’s a pretty big difference between that and actually spying on someone.

There was also no intent for him to become a “potential suitor” of the General’s daughter, Vera.  He was simply being employed as a driver and when he picks her up and sees her for the first time, yeah, he thinks she’s very attractive, but so would most guys.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And he certainly never got any sudden ideas that she could be his ticket to a better life.

I had a great discussion with some friends in Ukraine regarding the main character, Victor, whether he was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (opportunist, social climber, etc).  I absolutely insist he’s a good guy throughout, but feel free to argue against me.

Also in the KinoKultura review: “The most serious critiques of the film have focused upon the degree to which the film’s characters lack in psychological verisimilitude.  Viktor seems too innocent, too upright, and too morally pure.  Savel’ev is too evil and Lida too outrageously sexual.

I’m a native English speaker and I had to look up the word ‘verisimilitude’. (verisimilar : probable, realistic)  Hey, it’s a movie! I thought the characters were pretty realistic except for the villain, who wasn’t so much “too evil” as a bit corny.  By western standards Lida was certainly “too outrageously sexual”, but if you visit Ukraine, you’ll see many such beautiful, confident women who aren’t shy.

I loved the scene when they meet and she checks him out and he does the same to her.  Totally real and honest.  It doesn’t happen in the west, sure. Men (usually) try to be discreet and women don’t want men to look (but do they really?), and western women look also but they’re really good at not getting caught.

It’s definitely not ‘love at first sight’ between them but there’s naturally a physical attraction.  When he sees Vera for the first time, there is a spark for him.  Hey, every guy has particular tastes in women, and Vera caught Victor’s eye, not Lida.

In the car, driving Vera home, you get another glimpse into Victor’s character.  He’s almost too good to be true with his high standards and morals, but I believe there are lots of guys like that, and I certainly identify with him.

I’ll continue this on my next post with the second part of the video.  Now let’s have a look at some of the expressions.

For more material to help you learn Russian (and learn English for Russian speakers) come visit our website: Learn Russian

A Driver for Very (Водитель для Веры)