Since I've lived in all three of the Baltic States at various times over the past four years, it's not escaped my notice what, at times, a useful lingua franca Russian still is here. Instead of three languages of notable complexity and exclusivity (Estonian is usually plonked in a completely different language group than the other two, although it shares some items of vocabulary with Latvian) one, admittedly also difficult language, caters for all three. Not that it does exactly.The younger people often tend to learn English instead, and it's probably only possible to communicate on a superficial level with most balts in the language of the USSR, particularly here in Estonia (though presumably fine for the substantial 'Russian' population here). But, well, a lot of people can speak Russian here.
Viewing my inability to make progress in Russian bar more or less learning the alphabet plus a few daft and hackneyed words of phrases as little short of scandalous, and possibly a hindrance to getting by here (along with languishing Captain Scott style on the intermediate plateau in Estonian) it was definitely on one of my various lists as something worth doing.
Forunately I got hold of the Michel Thomas method Russian courses about a month ago and haven't looked back since. As a part-time language teacher, this method had always held a certain amount of significance, or at least had done since I discovered it (via the German courses, and well before I was a language teacher). Thomas was of Polish-Jewish origin who, it is reported, discovered the deep and largely untapped potential of the brain when, of all things, he was being brutally tortured by the Gestapo (he was apparently a French Resistance agent) and discovered an ability to block out pain. I'll gladly leave that part to Michel but after the war he used his ability to extract confessions from former nazis under interrogation, this time without the use of violence, and subsequently opened a language school for the beautiful people, in Beverley Hills.
Actually it seems he was no snob, opening up his doors to school kids who'd been dubbed no hopers and seeing them make enormous progress.
I won't say anything about the method 'cos I don't think I could do it justice, except to say it's fun, if you can credit that. I've completed the foundation and 'advanced' courses (which isn't really advanced although gets you putting together, after less than 10 hours in total, constructions which might take others months or even years) and moved on to the 'vocabulary' course (which isn't really vocabulary, but a lot of essential grammar, guess they didn't want to scare people off). They're even available electronically , so you don't need to wait for a package from amazon.
I'm now speaking in Russian in shops from time to time where needed and looking forward to being able to read newspapers (which should be able to do by the time I've finished the vocab course) and speaking to real people.
Seth's Blog-the original internet marketing guru (he'd put it in a much less hackneyed way than that)