Russian Language Blog

November Writing Challenge Posted by on Oct 31, 2011 in language


Do you know that November is a National Novel Writing Month? If yes, then you’ve probably heard of «Нонараймо» [NaNoWriMo], a 30-day challenge that starts on Nov 1st of each year.

Here’s the description:

«Нанораймо-2011 ждёт своих героев, которые готовы… писать литературные произведения фантастической длины в кратчайшие сроки.»

[NaNoWriMo-2011 is awaiting its heroes ready to… write fantastically long novels in the shortest time.]

Coincidentally, writing is a really great way to improve your language skills. You might think writing a whole 50 000-word or longer novel in a foreign language in 30 days is not possible.

Fortunately, this great «анекдот» [joke] comes to mind:.

Объявлен конкурс на самый короткий рассказ. Тема – любовь, но есть четыре условия: 

1. в рассказе должна быть упомянута королева; 
2. должен быть упомянут бог; 

3. чтобы было немного секса; 

4. чтобы присутствовала тайна. 

Первую премию получил рассказ в одну фразу: 

“О, Боже, – воскликнула королева – Я, кажется, беременна и неизвестно от кого!”

[A competition for the shortest short story is announced. The subject is love, but there are also four conditions:

  1. A story must mention a queen
  2. God must be mentioned
  3. There must be a little bit of sex
  4. There must be some mystery

The winning story was this one-liner: “Good God!, exclaimed the queen. “It seems I am pregnant and don’t know who is the father!”]

So the point is if you only have time or patience for a couple of sentences each day, then that’s what you should do.

That’s why starting November 1st, we will post a word (or several), a phrase or even an unfinished sentence to the Learn Russian Facebook page. «Ваша задача» [Your task] is to write a sentence that uses the given words.

With each new sentence you write, try to weave it into a narrative. If you would like to write more than one sentence, feel free. You can share your sentences with others on our Facebook page. Or you can simply respond with “Done” once you complete each day’s writing in case you prefer to keep your work private.

A note on grammar: Words will be posted in their dictionary form – singular masculine nouns and adjectives; singular, imperfective, normal aspect verbs. Feel free to change gender, tense, aspect, etc to better suit the needs of your creative process. Be liberal with your use of prefixes and suffixes.

A note on format: There are no format or length requirements for this challenge. The only requirement is that you use all the words for that day. You can even craft separate sentences for each word/phrase.

A note on language: The daily words/phrases will be in Russian with no accompanying translation. It is up to you to look up the translation. If several translations are available, you are free to choose whichever one you prefer.

Sounds interesting? If yes, then sharpen your pencils, dust off your dictionaries and get ready to have fun!

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  1. Lude Nunes:

    Ура! So excited!

  2. David Roberts:

    Интересное, и мне неожиданное, что русская короля стала беременная от кого-то, и не беременная кем-то. Вероятно, потому-что “беременная” имеет первоначалное значение нагрузенная: следовательно, женщина беременная зародышом.

    Interesting, and to me unexpected, that the Russian queen became pregnant from somone, not by someone. Probably because “беременная” has the original meaning of “burdened”: consequently, she’s burdened by the foetus.

  3. Gerry Grable:

    If this great blog had existed when I started studying Russian language and literature more than thirty years ago,I now might have been able to speak fluently. As it is, I am forced to reading, rather slowly, with the use of the Oxford Russian/English dictionary 🙂
    Gerry G

    • yelena:

      @Gerry Grable Thank you, Gerry 🙂 If you need to look something up quickly, a good online dictionary to use is You have to be careful with some of the options there since it’s a community-supported site and not all of its Russian-language contributors are fluent in English. But generally anything marked with “общ” (short for “общее” – general meaning) are good as well as entries by Макаров (especially for phrases and technical terms) and ЕБРР (acronym of “Европейский Банк Рекострукции и Развития” – European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). Also, sometimes the site doesn’t load well or gives you error messages (in my experience), but in general it’s a very nice and handy resource.

  4. Bob:

    Gerry – Join the club, we’ve got jackets 🙂

  5. Rihard:


    I’m in exactly the same situation! The Internet has made it so much more enjoyable and so much easier to study foreign languages; if only we’d had it back in the eighties! Personally, I blame Al Gore. LOL

    Have you tried some of the very good dual-language books available through Amazon?

    Nil desperandum!!!

    • yelena:

      @Rihard Richard, can you share links to some of the bilingual books you mentioned?

  6. Minority:

    Yelena, to me, each season can be great to write something. =) I liked to write poems couple of years ago, and inspiration didn’t wait for an autumn at all.)

    By the way, my fall is over… We’ve got a snow on the ground here. =)

    David, your explanation about “беременная” is good, though you can hardly hear a question “Кем она беременна?”, it would be: “Кого ты ждешь – мальчика или девочку?” – “Would it be a girl or a boy?”.

    • yelena:

      @Minority Minority, looks like we got some of your cold weather here as well 🙂

  7. AMIR:

    Dear Friend
    Hi I hope you’re doing well,
    I’ve a one-paper text for translation into Russian, and unfortunately at the moment, my only choice is to request someone in web to help me in this regard.
    If you kindly could do that for me I’d be very thankful for that.
    If so, please inform me by above-said email.

  8. Minority:

    Yelena, hope you don’t mind cold weather. =) As for me, I’m anxious to walk under the great snowfall. )))

  9. Minority:

    And I found more russian/english books there 🙂

    Пушкин, “Пиковая дама”:

    Лермонтов, “Герой нашего времени”:

    Чуковский, “Мойдодыр”:

    Чехов, “Дама с собачкой”:

    Чехов, пьесы:

    Тургенев, “Первая любовь” и “Ася”:

    Гоголь, “Мертвые души”:

    Достоевский, “Преступление и наказание”:

    Чехов, Гончаров (не указано, какие произведения.. У Гончарова, наверное, “Обломов”):

    Jerome K Jerome, “Three men in a boat”:

    Russian songs:

    Charles Dickens, “A Christmas carol”:

    Толстой, “Анна Каренина”:

  10. i:

    I must be something that I am not doing correctly, but when I click on “see all comments” I get only one comment. How do I see all –including my own comments?
    Gerry G

  11. yelena:

    Gerry, I’m not sure what’s happening here. When I go to this post and click on the number of comments at the top (at present, 16 comments), I see all of them. Does anyone have similar problems with viewing comments?

  12. Richard:


    Try clearing the cache in your browser and also clean out any cookies in your browser; odds are that you’re viewing a cached version of the page, not the up-to-date version.

    Here’s a site that gives instructions for different browsers:

    I have no problems on my end so I don’t think it’s a server-side issue.


  13. Richard:


    Есть много хороших книг на этом сайте. Я покупаю всё мои книги у Амазона. Я думаю, что прибавляется также, не правда ли?

  14. Minority:

    Richard, I used to buy books with, but it doesn’t update its’ databases anymore =( So last times I bought any books I used =)