Language lesson

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This is painful to watch, but here we go:

Here's a translation of the exchange between the teacher and the little girl:

Teacher: “Very well. Tell me… what lesson are we having today? What lesson did you come to? What lesson are we having today? Which?”

Girl whispers: “English.”

Teacher: “English! Very good. And in the English language, are there any pronouns? Yes, there are. Tell me please, what is this?”

Girl says: “I.”

Teacher: “What letter is this? Read. What letter is it? What is this? WHAT IS THIS?”

Girl: “You.”

Teacher: “You! Good job. Finally. And ‘you’ is what? Well? You is… (pause) You is ‘toy’ (Russian word for ‘you.’)”

Source: "Right After A Teacher Humiliated This Girl, She Gave Him A Lesson He’ll Never Forget" (Qpolitical, 1/8/15)


  1. Nat said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 12:14 am

    I don't think I've ever been as happy to see someone get kicked in the groin. Good for her!

  2. Mark Mandel said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 12:40 am

    Looks like your transliteration of ты as ty got automiscorrected to toy.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 12:53 am

    @Mark Mandel

    Not mine, but I appreciate the correction of the miscorrection.

  4. Joshua said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 3:17 am

    This video was actually a staged promotional video for a TV channel, not a real incident. See for details.

  5. richardelguru said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 7:08 am

    What a big Union Flag on the wall!

  6. Helma said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 9:38 am

    It is said instant feedback is really useful in teaching, no?

  7. Pflaumbaum said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

    Slight diversion from the point, I know, but… the vowel in his ты sounds like /i/ to me. The /t/ is admittedly hard, but the vowel itself sounds fairly front.

    Has he got a regional accent, or shall I go back to the drawing board on Russian phonology… a journey I take roughly weekly with regard to morphology and syntax?

  8. Mark Mandel said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 11:14 pm

    Pflaumbaum: I noticed that too. Also didn't know what to make of it.

  9. DG said,

    January 14, 2015 @ 11:26 pm

    Pflaumbaum, I am a native speaker, but not a trained phoneticist, and it sounds like a normal "ы" to me, although of course he is overemphasizing so much. I think, because "и" cannot follow a hard /t/, almost anything similar to an "ы" is just an allophone of it to a native speaker in this position.

  10. Rubrick said,

    January 17, 2015 @ 2:52 am

    I'm unsurprised to learn this was staged, though I'll admit it's well done.

  11. Pflaumbaum said,

    January 17, 2015 @ 7:53 pm

    @DG – Yes I believe many linguists consider и and ы allophones generally, with hardness v softness being the important opposition conditioning the variation. This would seem to be supported by the common pronunciation of stressed ы as a diphthong starting high and back and then gliding fronter. In other words, what is really marked is the velarisation of the preceding consonant, which is what I guess you're pointing out. Still, I was surprised to hear it coming out so fronted.

  12. Marc said,

    January 19, 2015 @ 11:49 pm

    DG and Plaumbaum,

    You hear that in careful speech. My guess is и and ы started out as the same sound but because of the tongue position required to make the soft/hard distinction clear, the sounds shifted slightly over time.

    I think it wouldn't be too far off to say ты is actually just тъи, the same way that тя is just тьа.

    Come to think of it, there might even be a hint in the letter ы itself: yer + i.

  13. Marc said,

    January 19, 2015 @ 11:55 pm

    Come to think of it, even и isn't a pure "ee" sound in Russian. It's more of a "yih" sound, spoken very quickly. For example "Stalin" isn't just "staleen" (sorry for not using IPA, I hope you see what I'm getting at), it's more like "stalyin" – soft L followed by a slightly reduced i sound.

  14. Phil Bowler said,

    January 20, 2015 @ 4:36 am

    I’m all for TPR in language teaching.

  15. JT the Ninja said,

    January 27, 2015 @ 11:55 am

    Lol…U это T? Wow, even more confusing than Who's on first…how's she supposed to learn the alphabet like that?

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