The other benefit to this site is that it allowed me the opportunity to interact with people from all over the world who are learning various languages. As a life-long American citizen and native English speaker I have received numerous friendship requests from people throughout various parts of the former USSR who are interested in speaking with me as well as helping me to learn Russian.
Learning a new language is not easy at the age of 46. This is particularly true when it comes to learning Russian because we do not even share the same alphabet and the grammar rules are completely different. I am grateful to my friends on this website for the help that they have given me. I keep in touch with them through the website and also through Skype, which allows me to speak with them and see them via webcam for free.
One of the things that my friends and I share on Busuu.com is information about various idioms which are used within a given country. Every country has its own set of idioms. They normally do not translate very well; however, everyone within that country would understand them. Some of my students on Bussu.com (those I help to learn English) will ask me to teach them American idioms as a way of helping them to learn the language. It is interesting because we often come to realization that our languages share many common idioms; however, they are worded somewhat differently. For example, in the United States if someone is not speaking clearly it is sometimes said, “That person was speaking like he or she had marbles in their mouth.” The Russians would say, “That person had porridge in their mouth” and the Brazilians would say, “That person had a potato in their mouth.”
Every once in a while I will encounter someone who will want to contact me on Skype for a very specific reason. One person in particular was Sirob. Sirob is from Russia. He has a very important job with the government and he initially contacted me with the desire to “teach me English”. He saw me on Busuu.com and sent me a message asking if he could speak with me on Skype. I gave him my account address and he immediately called me.
In his very heavy Russian accent he said, “Hello, I am here to teach you English.” I tried to explain to Sirob, “No, I am here to teach you English.” He said, “That is what I said, I am here to teach you English.” I asked, “Sirob, how much English do you know?” He said, “Hello, have a nice day, I am fine, where is the bathroom?; what is your name?; and goodbye.” I tried to explain to him that I know all these phrases. Once he realized what I was saying he simply vanished from Skype without even saying goodbye. Our entire conversation was done without any emotion on Sirob’s part. He stared directly into the camera, never blinked, and attempted to teach me phrases that I already knew.
I expected that this would be last time that I would hear from Sirob. Then, a few days ago, I receive a surprise phone call from him on Skype. He said, “I am calling to teach you a new American idiom!” Apparently the fact that I had told him earlier that I have lived in the US all my life and Busuu.com profile states that I am from the USA did not make any impression on Sirob. He was determined that he would teach me this new idiom that he learned.
Since he showed no emotion at all, it is difficult to say that I saw how excited he was so I asked him to tell me. Instead, I simply said, “Please tell me this idiom.” At his very deliberate pace he said, “Now the shoe is on the other foot.” I said, “That’s great, do you know what it means?” He proceeded to tell me. If Mr. A is doing well and Mr. B is not, but then Mr. A has problems so that he is no longer doing well, Mr. B might say, “Now the shoe is on the other foot.” This means, “Now you know what I am experiencing.”
I have had discussions about psychology, philosophy, religion, art, music, literature, culture, customs, education, and various other things with people from a wide variety of countries. In addition to the people from the former USSR, I am also helping people from Spain, Turkey, Germany, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Italy, Colombia, and several other countries to learn English. However, I never expected that I would be learning about American idioms from someone like Sorib.
It would not surprise me if, after he ended our conversation, he felt very proud of himself for teaching me that idiom. Normally I would see the excitement in someone’s eyes as they shared some new and important information; however, in Sirob’s case he might as well have been reading the St. Petersburg phone book to me. He stared at me like a statue, never even blinked, and spoke in a very monotone deliberate voice. He wanted to make sure that every word would be understood.
If I try to engage in a conversation with Sirob I am told, “I am here to teach you English.” I did not expect to learn English from someone who knows only eight phrases, but I am certainly willing to try.