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Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 2:10 pm
by Tamien
I'm not, but my name is Russian enough (and I guess I look Eastern European enough) that people often expect me to be. Yesterday I was walking past my office at school, which I haven't used in months in favor of working in my lab, and noticed this note written on the whiteboard on my door (the drawings are not part of the message - I know who drew them):

я хочу к тебе
я думаю о тебе

My Russian is practically nonexistant, but I think that means "I want to see you/ I think about you", possibly with slightly weird word order? One of the few things I learned how to say is "я тебя люблю" so I could tell my grandma I loved her, and that uses SOV word order while the note I got is in SVO like English, which suggests to me it's a native English speaker writing in Russian? But IIRC Russian word order isn't fixed because they use verb cases, so it might not indicate anything. And the д was written more like a Δ, which someone just copying down the output of Google translate probably wouldn't have known to do. Also, I just checked and Google translate does not give "я хочу к тебе" for "i want to see you" or any similar phrasing I can think of, so it probably IS someone who actually knows Russian? Or at least someone who knows someone who knows Russian.

This is weird because anyone who knows me well enough to write mysterious Russian messages to me on my whiteboard knows that despite my background I don't actually know the language. I can think of one person I know in the area who probably knows Russian, knows I don't know Russian, and could guess that I enjoy linguistic puzzles enough to be intrigued by Cyrillic script on my whiteboard, but they've never been to my office and have no reason to know where it is. I guess they could have just gone to my department and wandered around til they found it??

It's possible the message is not meant for me - I share the room with one other girl. However, she has been to the room all of twice in the years I've been attending the school, whereas I've held office hours there and worked in there and had friends visit me there and such. So if the writer was targeting someone they had seen using the room, they probably saw me. If someone was writing to one of us in our presumed native languages based purely on the ethnicity of our names, I'm the more likely candidate, since I have a Russian name while hers is Korean. It's also possible that the message was to someone not in my office at all - it's on the outside of my door after all, and in a fairly public hallway where anyone might read it (or write on it). But there's only one set of handwriting, so it's not like two people were having a conversation on my board. And honestly the hall is generally pretty deserted, so it's unlikely anyone would have been loitering (unless they were waiting for someone else's office hours) or have any reason to expect someone to walk past and see the note.

So unless someone had Russian homework and felt like comparing the effect of prepositions on the dative case, using affectionate verbs and "тебе" as the object, on my whiteboard in my generally-empty third-floor hallway, which seems extremely unlikely, I figure this was written as a note for me. And given the general paucity of Russian-speakers in my local social network, it was probably written to me by someone who I don't know.

I want to write back with something that translates to "i just got your message. who are you? when did you write this?" but all I know how to say of that is "кто ты?"

If there are any Russian speakers on this board who would be interested in helping with this I would be very grateful! To anyone who is not a Russian speaker I hope my recounting of the situation was at least somewhat entertaining.

Update: A friend of a friend, who knows Russian, tells me that the note translates to "i yearn for you, i think about you", which is um. even more 'secret admirer' ish than what I thought?? ._.
Update 2: Wikipedia says that Russian is free word order in intransitive clauses, but (typically) SVO in transitive clauses like the ones in my note, so the fact that the lines in the note are SVO doesn't indicate a nonnative speaker like I first thought.

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 3:01 pm
by Shoal
я - I
хочу - I want
к - towards
тебе - you (object of sentence)
думаю - I think
о - about

not fluent in Russian but speak a few other languages close by

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 3:07 pm
by Tamien
Alright, well, that gives me pretty solid verification of the meaning of the original note. Now I just have to work out a response...

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 3:38 pm
by Shoal -> почему -> кто ты? -> я не говорю по-английски + -> русский = я не говорю по-русский.

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 5:11 pm
by Tamien
Well, as I mentioned, I'd like to say "i just got your message. who are you? when did you write this?"

My current best attempt would be:
"только сейчас я прочитал ваше сообщение. кто ты? когда ты написал это?"

I'm worried that the meaning of "just" in English isn't conveyed well. I want to convey a sense of "only just recently; a short time ago and not before" and I'm not sure that "только сейчас" is the right way to do that.

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 6:07 pm
by Shoal
i didnt see that part before.

i think только needs что after it to mean 'just now', so только что (source ... 1%82%D0%BE )

прочитал is masculine past tense, and your pronouns are she/her/hers, so you should use feminine past tense: прочитала

they called you tebe so you shouldn't use ваше but твоё

If you are expecting your interlocuter to be a man then написал looks good, otherwise написала

wiktionary says записка is for a short informal message, and that matches my feeling that сообщение is kind of formal. записка is female and the accusative form is записку so instead of твоё it should be твою.

so, keeping in mind that i don't speak russian and thus there may remain errors that i do not catch, my corrections are:

if you are hoping it is a man: только что я прочитала твою записку. кто ты? когда ты написал это?
if you are hoping it is a woman: только что я прочитала твою записку. кто ты? когда ты написала это?

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 6:15 pm
by Shoal
Also, I would trust your friend who speaks russian more than me, but in the languages i speak "i want towards you" also means "i want to come visit you", so it might not be creepy.

(in some language if you add the verb "to go" it can mean "to marry you" but 99% of the time it still means "to visit you" anyway)

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 6:48 pm
by Tamien
Wow, thank you! What is the difference between ваше and твоё? I know nothing of Russian pronouns except я and тебе to be honest.

I am bad at gendered languages - thank you for catching that I was using the wrong gender for myself >_<

сообщение felt formal but i didn't know a better word! записка is better.

What if I am expecting my speaker to be genderqueer (ve or they pronouns)? Cause there's a significant chance that they are. Is there a neuter form of написал, maybe?

And speaking even a related language is better than I've got. My knowledge of Russian is literally only what I've assimilated from my Russian-speaking family (who generally do not speak it around me except when they do not want me to understand) and what general linguistics skills I've trained up. It is good to have help, and a better guess at what to say, and further reassurances that this might be from, say, a friend who is missing hanging out with me because I have been in thesis-crunch and not from, say, some stalkerish secret admirer I have failed to notice :P

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 7:24 pm
by Shoal
ваше and твоё are both "your" to be used when the object you are possessing is neuter, but ваше is formal and твоё is informal. You use ваше with: your professors, your boss, your elderly neighbour. твоё is for people you are on a "first name basis" with (though I think the distinction between that is changing in the US, I heard that you would even call your boss by your first name these days). твоё is for adults to use with children (unilaterally - the children have to reply with ваше), or for children to use with each other (bilaterally), and teenagers / young adults will use it with each other too. College kids will use it with each other still, but once you stop passing for a college kid you have to use ваше with anyone you don't know very well.

In this case, since they addressed you with тебе instead of Вас (the formal pronoun that matches тебе), it would be odd for you to switch to formal, because you are not a small child that has to address people with Вас when they address you with тебе.

Google translate always uses masculine pronouns for everything; it's annoying :)

There's not really a good answer for genderqueer. The neuter form is написало, but that translates more as "it wrote" than "zie wrote". If the person you were talking to said they preferred that form then you would use that, but it wouldn't be good to guess that a person wants to be called "it". I prefer "they" pronouns in english but in slavic languages it's kind of impossible, because "Вас" is "you plural" and so asking people to call me "you plural" is asking people to call me using formal language. i want there to be a way to call me "you guys" but instead Вас sounds like "esteemed ladies and gentlemen".

But if you were using the formal language you could use "написали" which is for "we, they, and you plural" and does not have gender in Russian. (there are gendered plurals in some other slavic languages though: if there is even one man in the group, you use the masculine plural, only if the group is all women do you use the feminine plural, or all neuter objects do you use the neuter plural)

For genderqueer the best is probably to switch to a language like Finnish that doesn't have gender at all (not even to the extent that english does. in Finnish, the distinction is between animate (hän) and inanimate (se), not between male and female)

Re: Russian Language - anyone fluent?

PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 7:27 pm
by Shoal
another option for genderqueer is writing it like this: написал/а

I think написал/а might be better anyway, because even if you're hoping for one gender or the other you could be wrong either way.