My first talk in Russian.

I recently wrote a post on how I was scheduled to give a short talk in Russian before an audience of native-speakers. Well, it happened and here is what transpired.

Since I had to speak for 15 minutes or so I made a short mind map of what I wanted to say. The purpose of this was to keep me on topic and to make sure that I knew what topics to cover. I often use mind maps when speaking in public and find them very helpful.

The affair was held in the community room of a retirement center near where I live. Fourteen people attended. About half of them were native-speakers of Russian. The others were three students who presented and some family members.

Boris Shekhtman introduced each of us. I spoke following the other two students.

When I got up to speak I jokingly addressed the audience as, ” Workers, Toilers, Pensioners, and Heroes of Leisure World ( the name of the retirement center) !!! Greetings!!”

Boris laughed. The others went into a deep trance, their faces frozen in confusion and incredulity.

That was the high point of my presentation.

From there on it was all down hill.

I told them that I was a physician and teacher. I explained why I study Russian.

I love Russian literature and music.

When I mentioned music, as if on cue, a cell phone in another room went off. It loudly played a rather long and silly Russian peasant medley.

I told them that this is why I study Russian.

Boris laughed. The others just stared at me like I was a horse that had been hit by a tram in the street.

The cell phone music continued.

I broke into a feverish Russian dance, the kazatska, that I do at bar mitzvahs ( usually before I collapse in a sweat due to my lack of physical activity).

Boris laughed. The others became glassy-eyed, going even deeper into the trance state.

I spoke about my entry into medicine and why I became a physician.

Then, finally, I ended my talk with some background on my time with Michel Thomas and how I came to author the Mandarin Chinese course.

When I asked for questions one man raised his hand.

He was another student who dared me to demonstrate that I could speak another foreign language besides Russian or Chinese. I asked him what I should speak. He pointed to a family member visiting from Madrid and told me to interview her in Spanish.

It so happens that I am comfortable speaking Spanish so I did OK.

It is a hell of a lot easier for me to speak Spanish than Russian for many reasons and I didn’t want to stop speaking with this woman. The rest of the audience began to come out of their trance states when I broke into Spanish.

At that point another man, a Russian, asked the only other question.

“Can you recommend a decent Chinese restaurant around here?”

I told him that since I am allergic to MSG ( monosodium glutamate) and almost all local Chinese restaurants use it in their food, I can’t recommend one. However, I did recommend a really good Thai place.

He got my e mail and told me that he would contact me the next day and make plans for us to there together and speak Russian.

So far, he has not contacted me.

Author: Harold

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