Having been exposed to several languages for most of my life–even though I was far from fluent in most of them–I am sometimes amused by the questions I get about Russian. I do not mean to be judgmental as I fully understand that a person who has never been exposed to a non-Latin-script language or, in case of the US, to any language but English cannot have an understanding of how multi-script input and communication works. So, I thought it was worth going over some of the questions I’ve been asked and provide a short explanation.
“How do you type in Russian?”
(I have actually been asked that)
If you have Windows on your computer, you can install additional input keyboards in the “Region and Language Options” menu in the Control Panel. Once you have several languages installed, you should see a language bar. You can switch languages by choosing one from the Language Bar list. However, I normally toggle languages by pressing Alt+Shift. You get used to doing that if you run a non-English Windows because you still need to switch to English to input URLs and email addresses.
“I take it you’re Greek”
(librarian checking out Russian books to me)
I think the reason for this one is the fact that people recognize some of the letters they’ve seen in math problems or on fraternity houses. It is true that the Cyrillic alphabet is partly based on the Greek alphabet, as is the Latin alphabet. So, I can’t really blame people who aren’t regularly exposed to non-Latin alphabets for mistaking one for another.
Do you ever get naïve comments about your working language?