It all started because I wanted to write a fan letter.
I wish that I could state a great and noble intention, like a great love of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, an appreciation for fine art and opera–but honestly, I started studying Russian because I have a crush on a singer. His name is Denis Dmitriev, and he’s the star of a viral Youtube video in which he and the rest of a small military choir sing Adele’s “Skyfall.”
Writing a fan letter in English was out of the question. Hiring a translator was out of the question. Cheap moves. He learned English and sang beautifully in a language not his own, in front of the whole world, in front of an often cruel audience. Learning enough Russian to write a fan letter would be only a small tribute.
So I started studying–by every means available to me. And through some of my blundering comments on the choir’s videos, I even became acquainted with one of its members. I could easily send that fan letter to Denis Dmitriev, but I still haven’t done it.
It’s not because I’m shy or afraid of making mistakes. My Russian will never be perfect, although it improves every day. No, I think it’s because he is no longer my greatest reason for learning the language.
You see, I have encountered dozens of Russian speakers along my journey so far. Some of them I now have the honor of calling my friends. Each and every one of them has responded with such kindness, such a selfless desire to help, that I now live in a constant haze of stunned gratitude. My efforts to give back seem insufficient.
Even if the Russian language ceased to be so caressing to my ear, so intriguing to my brain, or to produce such inexplicable longing in my heart, I would continue learning. I’m now doing this for my current and future friends, for the warm and wonderful Russian speakers who have warmly greeted me and have never failed to lend a helping hand along my path.