The bristling morphology of Russian was my delight as I studied and studied. Eventually I was able to write and speak by 1994 when I traveled to Moscow on a study program. Out of 60 people I was at the top of the class without having a degree in the language. It pissed one guy off, I could tell. I tried to explain how many years I had been reading Russian and studying grammar.
But the truth to tell, I had never read that much, not any of the classic nineteenth century novels nor contemporary literature. A short story here and there, lots of journals….. wait a minute. That was it, journals.
One summer I had decided to write a position paper for my masters in counseling on vocational education in the Soviet Union – this was 1973. I had subscribed to a number of journals like Voprosy Obrazovaniya = Issues of Education, and had a ton of them, some focused entirely on occupational education and research. Believe it or not, I find the topic fascinating.
However, plowing through those journals all summer sitting out by the pool did not define compelling input, but it sure was input and a lot of it. So recently, as I was thinking about why it is the morphology of Russian presents me with few puzzles or lacunae, it dawned on me that I had read hundreds of pages of dull academic prose. Along the way I picked up the feminine ending of the instrumental case singular of soft nouns, etc.
As I read Harry Potter now, I not only read it fluently but notice where the translator departs from the original. Wikipedia says the first Russian volume was not done well but the rest are. I look forward to it.
It dawned on me after I wrote this that what keeps up the “compelling interest” for me is the language itself, the grammar, the syntax, the lexicon, the culture. That keeps me reading even when the content holds less than compelling interest.