Case Study: Order, Order!

Case Study: Order, Order!
16 November 2016

Recently in Russian class, I was going through the case declensions of a particularly tricky noun and my teacher stared at me as if I was mad. “You don’t know the order of the cases… and you’re in B2?!” she said. Well of course I do know. I know the order of cases that we are taught in the UK. I found out during my studies abroad two years ago that NAGDIP, the order in which Russian cases are presented in English language textbooks, is not the order that Russians know. I explained this to my teacher and told her I simply cannot ever remember the Russian order because NAGDIP has been so well engrained into my memory. After getting over her initial disbelief that they teach the cases in a different order in the UK (and don’t ask me why that is because I haven’t figured it out and nor do I really care), she taught me a little trick that Russians use from school age to remember themselves:

Иван Родил Девчонку, Велел Тащить Пелёнку

This, my friends, is what we call a mnemonic devise. A mnemonic device is any learning technique that aids memory and they come in many forms, from visual to aural, from acronyms to rhymes. There are lots and lots in the English language but today I am going to focus on the above example, as it may help you to transition from learning Russian abroad to learning Russian in Russia. So, how does Ivan help us here? The first letter of each word indicates the first letter of the Russian cases and the little rhyme gives us the order in which Russians teach and learn them. So:

Именительный, Родительный, Дательный, Винительный, Творительный, Предложный

(Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental, Prepositional)

I am not going to translate the mnemonic, as I think it would make a nice little challenge for you… (every word you look up yourself is a word you may remember a bit better!)

English language and culture is full of mnemonics. My favourites from childhood include counting your knuckles and the gaps between them for the length of the months, as well as the classic “Thirty days has September, April, June and November. All the rest have thirty-one, except February alone”; “i before e, except after c” is an English spelling rhyme that everyone knows (but it’s also deceptive when you’re little as you soon find out that there are many exceptions to the rule!); and a classic for remembering a very important Henry VIII horrible history, namely what fate was endured by his wives in order: “Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”.

Another favourite in English is used to remember the order of the colours of the rainbow (Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain = Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet), and I was pleased to find that Russian has its own cute little mnemonic, once again in the form of a sort of acronymic rhyme:

Каждый Охотник Желает Знать, Где Сидит Фазан

(Красный, Оранжевый, Жёлтый, Зелёный, Голубой, Синий, Фиолетовый)

So there you have it, two little mnemonics: one for fun and one to help you get on top of learning Russian in Russia.

Ellie, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow

Posted by Ellie

Hi there! I am a Modern Languages graduate from the UK, spending some time in Moscow to get some work experience, practice my Russian and enjoy the city! I hope you enjoy the blog.

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