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Dorian Montoir
Attempting sympathetic Russian
Thu Mar 29, 2018 07:49

Tatya was not happy. That was immediately and apparently obvious from the way she was glaring at a bookshelf, although he doubted it was directly responsible. She had mentioned needing to go see a teacher, so he suspected the problem was more of the usual English-is-a-frustrating-language variety, rather than her having attempted and failed to get on with – he glanced at the shelf she was evincing a dislike for – eighteenth century fiction.

“Privet, Tatya,” he replied cautiously. He had been ninety-five percent sure on approaching that he had done nothing worthy of the look currently on Tatya’s face, and the way she had softened slightly had confirmed that she was not angry at him. She was, however, definitely angry, and angry people needed to be handled like a volatile potion – with immense care, unless you wanted an explosion. It was a skill he had a reasonable degree of practise in. Not for the first time, the girl in front of him reminded him of his sister. Émilie could be upset, could cry when she had been wronged, but it was usually preceded or accompanied by a fit of temper. His dark brown eyes surveyed his friend, the level of her anger in her eyes matched by the level of sincere concern in his.

He didn’t need to ask her what was wrong, because she promptly gave vent to her feelings. Prior to her outburst, he would have said Professor Wright was a very nice man. A teacher he liked quite a lot. However, he knew Tatya, and spotted the difference in her syntax straight away. Assignments were stupid. English was frequently stupid (and he frequently agreed). But she did not usually direct her anger at specific people. He was both surprised and hurt that mild, kind Professor Wright could have done something to so upset Tatya, but he clearly had, and Dorian’s first and strongest loyalty was to his friends. The problem appeared to be to do with Tatya’s quill and a test but he wasn’t entirely sure… Test again? Had she spelt so badly that he wanted her to repeat? That seemed unfair. He decided not to try to guess, which would probably be wrong and lead to more confusion. Nor did he prompt Tatya to try to explain again, because she was already very upset and angry, and he doubted that not being understood would improve her mood, or how coherent she was. How she was feeling was the first problem that needed addressing, because she was hurt and that was not something that could be allowed to continue. Why she felt that way would have to come a little bit after.

"I... I don't know," he answered her direct question, feeling that that was a safe enough admission. He did not know a lot of things right now, and the fact that he was somewhat confused was quite evident.

He reached out hand and gently stroked her arm. You could not hug an angry person. She was too stiff and prickly with anger right now to be hugged. But he wanted to comfort her. He searched for words to express his sympathy, weighing up whether it was better to express his thoughts well in a language that Tatya was at odds with, or to express them badly in one that would mean more to her. He thought he knew the answer to that, but found his vocabulary lacking. He knew they had discussed it and that Russian, like almost every sensible language in the world, used two different words to express ‘sorry’ when one was directly responsible versus merely expressing sympathy. He was sure they had learnt both. But he had far more frequent use for the former. Prosti, ya zabyl slovo dlya… Prosti, moy russkiy ne ochen' khorosh. He had rarely needed to express sympathy to Tatya, or at least not to a degree that demanded the comfort of her native language.

“Professor Wright plokhoy,” he replied hesitantly. It was about as accurate and refined as Tatya’s description of their Professor, but any loyalty he felt to the teacher he liked was easily eclipsed by that which he felt to Tatya. “Plokhoy, potomu chto Tatya serditsya. Serditsya-grustnaya,” he added, because he suspected that for Tatya, as for Émilie, the emotions had a rather large overlap. He had never hated his lack of fluency in a language more. Not when he struggled on a test, not when he couldn’t collect his own thoughts. He needed words to make Tatya feel better again, and he lacked them, and that was just simply not good enough. However, even with all the accidental magic going around, apparently one could not simply wish oneself fluent. “Mne grustno, potomu chto Tanushka serdito-grustnaya,” he finished working laboriously around his lack of words for the sympathetic ‘sorry’. Then feeling the first kind was more than relevant again, added a phrase he could manage flawlessly. “Prosti, moy russkiy ne ochen' khorosh,” he continued to watch her attentively, looking deeply troubled by her sadness and his own insufficiency in addressing it.

Glossary: Prosti, ya zabyl slovo dlya… Sorry, I forgot the word for…
Prosti, moy russkiy ne ochen' khorosh - Sorry, my Russian is not good.
Professor Wright plokhoy. Plokhoy, potomu chto Tat'yana serditsya. Serditsya-grustnyy. Mne grustno, potomu chto Tat'yana serdito-grustnaya – Professor Wright is bad. Bad because Tatya is angry. Angry-sad. I am sad because Tanushka [Tatya] is angry-sad.

  • Letting off some steam (tag Dorian).Tatiana Vorontsova, Tue Mar 27 21:54
    To the world at large, nine times out of ten, Tatiana’s face was a somber-looking blank, despite the fact that almost no-one spoke to her for very long without realizing she was anything but a somber ... more
    • Attempting sympathetic Russian — Dorian Montoir, Thu Mar 29 07:49
      • Noticing another problem.Tatiana , Thu Mar 29 12:11
        Dorian’s Russian was slow and a touch awkward and a balm to Tatiana’s ears. She managed a small smile. “Ty ochen’ khorosho govorish po-Russkii,” said Tatiana, tightly gripping the hand petting her... more
        • “Spasibo,” he thanked her in return, as she rather generously complimented his Russian. At least he’d made himself understood, and the gesture seemed to have meant just what he had hoped, and some of ... more
          • Being impressed.Tatiana, Fri Mar 30 12:46
            Cheet . Was that the word? Tatiana was uncertain on the word. She shrugged. “He thinks I use a bad quill,” said Tatiana. “That is to cheat? To say I used a quill that write for me?” Such quills... more
            • By... me? I'm... impressive?Dorian, Sat Mar 31 08:07
              “Yes, that is cheat,” he nodded sadly, when Tatya confirmed the meaning of the word, and reiterated the explanation about the quills, which made a lot more sense now. Except that it didn’t because... more
              • You are as brave and loyal as a bear.Tatiana , Tue Apr 3 06:55
                Tatiana stared at Dorian in silence for a moment. It was a long moment, at least in terms of her silences - a moment long enough that it would have been reasonable for him to doubt how much she had... more
                • Right. Okay then. Dorian, Wed Apr 4 09:39
                  She was just… staring. Perhaps she hadn’t understood? Or perhaps she just thought he was mad. Maybe it was one thing to bad mouth a teacher in private, but maybe she disapproved of his- That train of ... more
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