How are you at learning new languages? Personally, I'm not the best, never have been. Along the way I've had shots at learning French, German, Spanish and Dutch, none of which has particularly sunk in.
For example, the only thing of value that I remember from 5 years of French lessons is the word for 'slice' (and you would be amazed how handy that comes in when shopping for cheese in Provence, sweetie). Oh, and the first verse of the Marsellaise, which to this day I can sing perfectly due to a particularly fearsome and intimidatingly chic French woman who taught the subject in my 3rd year. (That's Year 9 in new money. I think).
German was a non-starter from Day 1. Bearing in mind that in the 70's and 80's we were never really taught how to conjugate verbs in English, the chances of teaching a group of bored convent school girls how to deal with the 4 cases in German (Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genetive - and yes, I did have to google those) when there were other important things to be done like looking up rude words in our dictionaries were always going to be slim.
Spanish? Well, that was for a couple of terms at university when, in the first year, I was forced to choose between some 'improving' subject (like Spanish, for example) or spending each and every Wednesday afternoon running around a hockey pitch being chased by scary stocky girls with very short hair and interesting piercings, all in the cause of glorifying the college sporting record. I know how to order beer in Spanish as a result - but that's about it.
Dutch appeared on the menu the year that Husband and I got married. I managed a couple of terms, attending an evening class almost exclusively composed of women with Dutch boyfriends, with maybe 2 men dating Dutch women, but bowed out when I got pregnant with Boy #1 and the term 'morning sickness' proved to be someone's idea of a cruel joke. Morning sickness? I don't think so; my nausea arrived promptly every morning, yes, but then decided to hang around for a laugh until bedtime...
So when faced with a move to Russia, I have to say that the prospect of learning an entirely new language, with an entirely new alphabet, didn't fill me with joy. Nevertheless, I'm giving it a go, and am now often to be found of an evening keeping company with Mamselle Rosetta Stone doing my best impression of Madonna in her 'Vogue' persona (think headphones here please, rather than pointy bra), swearing at the screen when I prove unable to say 'bread' in Russian for the 50th time.
This on it's own is not so bad. However, I am married to Mr Languages himself; he absorbs them by osmosis - oh, and very hard work, obviously. This skill on it's own is also not so bad. (Have you ever seen 'A Fish Called Wanda'? Remember how Jamie Lee Curtis loves it when John Cleese speaks Russian? That's what I'm talking about... But I digress).
Anyway, Husband speaks a number of different languagues, around 5 - including Russian - fluently, and another couple that he claims he can 'get by' in. And there's the difference between us. For me, 'getting by' is making it to the correct destination by taxi in Malaga without being ripped off. For him, 'getting by' is being able to order your coffee in Spanish and specifying that you don't want the whipped cream on top. Which, to my mind, is rather more than 'getting by', so I think you'll agree that our start points are not in exactly the same spot when it comes to learning languages.
Which is why I should not have been at all surprised by the following conversation...
Him: "So, how's the Russian coming?"
Me: "Oh, OK. You know."
Him: "It would be really great if you were able to communicate a bit with the locals by the time you arrive."(at the time of this conversation, around 8 weeks away).
Me: "Yeeeees. How do you mean, exactly?"
Him: "Well, you know. Talk to people in shops. Chat to the cleaning lady. Give directions to a taxi driver."
Me: (after a very long pause). "You do realise that what you've just described is my ultimate goal for when we've been living there about two years, don't you?"