videopodcast for learning Russian

Intermediate Low Telephone by Corney Chukovsky

Posted on May 23rd, 2009

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Hopefully, a brief consideration of Russian versification can help you to get motivated about memorizing and reciting poems by heart. Russian versification is based on syllabo-tonic verse tradition with five vowel phonemes to be stressed: /а/, /е/, /и/, /о/, /у/. That means that Russian is a language relatively meager in a range of stressed vowel phonemes (when compared to English which has a dozen or so stressed vowels). However poets writing in Russian turn this situation to their advantage. Russian sound patterning (perceptible repetition of phonemes) has taken two main forms: end-rhyme, and the repetition in close proximity of the same stressed vowel. Note that end-rhyme surely function as a mnemonic device that aids memorization.

The poems and songs on this website will help you to know what poetry educated Russians are likely to have memorized, what famous lines and catch phrases from children’s literature, songs and cartoons they can recite by heart, what proverbs they are likely to quote. It will be rewarding if you recognize and understand phrases and words you memorized while hearing or reading them.

This poem has been handed down orally over the generations and enjoyed by young children in Russia. This possibly one of the most popular children’s verses in Russian-speaking world.

You don’t need to understand the meaning of every word, just what is happening generally in the rhyme. What is important is the ability to listen and to imitate the correct pronunciation and intonation, and this is where the repetitive vocabulary, word patterns and rhythms of the verse come in.

With a stretch of imagination you can identify with different poem characters and the situations they find themselves in. This link with real life situations makes it easy to extend the rhyme language to useful every day phrases for you to learn. The content of this poem also provide the opportunity for you to use your voices in different ways to reflect the mood created by the rhyme.

You can dramatize the verse by acting out the roles of the different characters. Making puppets or masks for role-playing also brings the language alive.

Tell the story in your own words. May be you could think of alternative endings to the rhymes or continue the story.