Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Russian Periodicals

It's no surprise when newspapers and journals up their subscription rates, since so many people can get online and read the news for free these days. As the number of people who are actually willing to pay for their news drops, people have to pay more; it's a simple thing to understand. One of our (few) English-language Russian periodicals is going through the same crunch - and has doubled its rate for next year. So that means that someone has to decide if it's worth all of that extra money. I don't know the first thing about reading/speaking/understanding the Russian language , and really don't have to in order to figure this one out. But looking for information on Russia has inevitably led me to a bunch of things written in Russian. Looking at the Cyrillic alphabet is totally different than looking at something in a foreign language written with an Arabic alphabet. If I look at, say,a French newspaper, I immediatly know that I don't understand it and move on. My eyes can make out the letters, but they are are too many of them put together with too many little accent marks all over the place. My brain says "don't even bother" and moves on. If I look at something written in Russian, however, my brain is stunned for a second. The letters look somewhat familiar, and surely if I squint at it enough, they'll rearrange themselves so that I know if I'm looking at something I don't understand or something that I can make some sense of. After a half of a second my brain sends the message "no, you still don't know what this is" and moves on. But for that half second I'm convinced I'll figure it out. It's kind of like reading something by looking at it in a mirror - it takes your brain a minute to understand that everything is reversed. Only with all these Russian papers, nothing ever clears up. Now, after two hours of this, when I switch back to English it still takes my brain a half second to decide If I can understand something or not. I think it is definately time for lunch.

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