Author Topic: Alexandra's Russian.  (Read 35726 times)

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Offline Olga

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Alexandra's Russian.
« on: June 27, 2004, 05:31:30 AM »
I'm confused. Some places say that Alexandra Fyodorovna spoke Russian fluently and without any trouble. Others say she struggled to keep up a normal conversation. Can somebody make this more clear?  ???

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2004, 07:37:50 AM »
My overall impression of what I have read re: Alix's ability to speak Russian was that she did well enough, but that her accent was off and that she was somewhat hesitant. Since she tended to speak English much of the time within palace walls, her Russian "immersion" wasn't complete, and this probably accounted for whatever flaws people noted in her fluency and style.

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2004, 11:04:32 AM »
I think that we are hearing references to her language skills throughout her life in Russia...she was just learning the language in her 20s but in her later years no doubt she was much more proficient ...I have great sympathy with her as I am just learning russian as an adult.

elisa_1872

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2004, 02:47:56 PM »
I've always thought Alexandra spoke it fluently, i remember reading Nicholas saying in a letter to her in 1894 even when she was first learning it, of her great progress.
"You write Russian beautifully, so many words and not one fault.." (Lifelong Passion, Pg 63).

She did so wonderfully to master this language!! :) Every time i have a go, i think, "Alexandra did it, you can do it" :)

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2004, 05:02:22 PM »
I agree with Helen that her language skills were probably, at times, compromised by her shyness, or being flustered, or later--when she was dealing with Alexei's illness--through sheer exhaustion. Heck, I've been speaking English all my life, but when I'm tired or upset, I easily trip on my words!  :-[

Alix was very diligent, and I wouldn't doubt that she applied herself to learning Russian with much determination. Even so, those who did not like her and wished to nitpick could always cite little imperfections in her accent, etc.  I am sure Alix was a very good student, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if Nicky, considering his great love for her, his own encouraging nature, plus his tendency toward tactfulness, was ready to compliment rather than correct!




Offline Dasha

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2004, 07:36:51 PM »
I have read that Alix spoke Russian only when it was absolutely necessary.  It was said by Lili Dehn (aplogies for the spelling) that she (Alix) spoke Russian with an English accent.  However, I highly doubt that her Russian was bad, because not all members of her household staff could have spoken any other language bur Russian.  Russian is a very difficult but extremely beautifull language, and many native speakers (myself included) have trouble writing and expressing themselves correctly in it.  I give Alix a lot of credit for learning the tongue of her new country, and for using it, even rarely.  Also, being in a position of not knowing English when I arrived to the States I can sympathize with her being shy and self-consxcious when attempting to speak on a newly-learned language.  Hope I made sense.  

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Offline Merrique

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2004, 07:55:56 PM »
This might be a little bit off topic but i was wondering how difficult it is to learn russian?I have been wanting to learn the language for quite awhile now but it seems a little difficult to get started with.Trying to learn the alphabet seems to be my biggest problem.I don't know how Alix did it but I really admire her for it.
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Dashkova

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2004, 08:12:15 PM »
Regarding study of Russian language:
There are more here that are far more experienced, but I can't help but respond.
The alphabet was (for me) the easiest part, by far. Once you've got it, it tends to stick with you.
After that it's just repetition upon repetition, just like all language study.
Talking regularly with a native speaker helps, as well as a natural "knack" with language. Youth is a definite bonus! (i.e.: the younger you are the better)
Spending extensive time living the language (by living in Russia for a time) usually works wonderfully for most.
Other than that, dogged, dogged persistence. :)  You have to really want it.
Good luck!

Offline masha

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2004, 11:59:17 PM »
In the biographies of either or both Empress Maria (Little Mother of Russia) and of GD Xenia, there is a quote taken from somebody who interviewed Xenia in later life in which she let her bitterness towards Alexandra be known. Included in Xenia's resentment towards Alexandra was the fact that the tsarina hardly spoke Russian at all, & when she did so it was as a last resort.
Masha
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by masha »

Offline Olga

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2004, 02:41:19 AM »
Merrique-

Russian is a beautiful language, both to speak and write. The alphabet is not hard, but the grammar is. Do try it though, it makes undertanding Imperial Russia a lot easier.

Offline jfkhaos

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2004, 07:09:57 AM »
I read last night in A Lifelong Passion that Alix spoke mainly English with Nicholas and the children, French with the court, and Russian with anyone that didn't know any other language.  Given the fact that she didn't speak it predominantly, I can understand how this would give way to rumors of Alix not being fluent in the language.

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2004, 09:08:15 AM »
Spiridovich confirms what Lili Dehn said. He also says that she spoke Russian perfectly but with an English accent. She spoke English with Nicholas and with the children at home. English is really the language Alexandra considered her "native" tongue.  At one point, in fact, she was quite concerned that the children were beginning to speak English with a slightly Scottish accent picked up from a Scottish tutor, which, (my apologies to Tsaria) she found unacceptable!  When with the children in the presence of others, she usually spoke to them in the language of those people, lest it appear rude that she was saying something to the children that could not be understood by everyone. As for the Court, it depended on the occassion and specific person. French was the official Court language, but in informal circumstances she would often talk to them in another language, Russian with Anya V., German with German natives, English with old friends, etc etc.
As for Russian, in my experience it is easy to learn basically but impossible to master as the grammar rules are endless and complicated!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by admin »

Offline Mike

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2004, 09:54:02 AM »
Quote
the grammar rules are endless and complicated!

Never mind the rules, exceptions are the real problem...

Back to the topic: One should remember that in the Romanovs' Russia everybody who was anybody spoke fluent French and very often also German. At the court French was spoken by all servants and even by Orthodox priests. One could easily spend a couple of years in Russia and not utter a single Russian word. A Russian-speaking foreigner was conceived as a rare and somewhat suspicious phenomenon.

So Alexandra's ability of speaking decent Russian was really outstanding and much appreciated; nobody expected her to do better - and at the same time no opportunity was missed to recall her German origin.

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2004, 10:14:35 AM »
I cannot remember now the exact phrase, but i read in Virubovaīs memoirs that once she was with the Empress and Lily together, Alexandra spoke french "because Lily couldnīt understand english". I therefore assumed that the Empress oftenly spoke with Anna in english. Also, when Alexandra told Lily about the Emperor abdication she did it in french. During the time following the abdication and imprisonment i think she would have spoken with Lily in that language. (French was also the language in wich she wrote the tiny note sent to Lily just before Kerensky ordered her and Anna to leave the palace).

Alexandra wrote Nicholas about how much she had progressed with her russian, specially when she had to receive the ministers, being Nicholas in Pskov.

I would say she was fluent in this extremely difficult language but that she would tend in strained circumstances to use either english or french. If not, why she would have told Lily about the abdication in french?

Offline grandduchessella

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Re: Alexandra's Russian.
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2004, 01:07:35 AM »
The Times Nov 1894:

The Russian officials who met the Princess on the frontier say that she speaks Russian very well, but with a German accent.
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