Episode 5: A father’s will to preserve his language

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Andrey Kneller, a Russian-born poet, translator and math teacher.  Andrey was 10 years old when his family moved from Russia to New York.  He grew up reading and speaking Russian fluently. At fourteen, he started writing his own poetry and not long after that, he started translating his favorite Russian poets into English. He has published 9 books of translations and his own poetry book.

Episode #5 Quick Guide

On this episode, Andrey discusses with us:

  • His childhood in Russia and life after moving to the United States;
  • How intentional he was to retain and preserve his Russian;
  • His decision with his wife to speak to their daughter exclusively in Russian while speaking English to each other;
  • Why he feels that language has the power to keep his family connected and forming meaningful relationships;
  • How difficult it was as a father to see his daughter struggling to communicate with her peers in English and how he helped her through that experience;
  • A really funny story related to animal noises;
  • An incredibly proud parenting moment that moved Andrey and his wife to tears;
  • And how he is looking forward to enjoying the last bit of good weather to play outside with his daughter.

Once we hop on the Autobahn at Bilingual Avenue, Andrey shares –

  • A favorite resource: Technology specifically the iPad for Russian apps and YouTube for old Russian cartoons (see below for links to the cartoons)
  • Best advice received: Be consistent
  • What has held her back: Being away from family and specifically the grandparents
  • Great family habit: A thorough bedtime routine that includes reading in Russian
  • Favorite Books: Karlsson Who Lives On The Roof (карлсон который живет на крыше)
  • Best Advice to others: Take your time, slow down and enjoy the moment! Kids will learn at their own pace.

Summary of links Andrey mentioned on the show:


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Comments 1

  1. This has been a great show! My husband waited until I got the kids into learning and speaking Spanish with me. Now he is working more on Russian with them. His Russian has gotten a little rusty. He almost never has anyone to speak to. I found a way for him to connect and have fun teaching the kids while getting back into speaking Russian. I was looking for Spanish shows on YouTube for kids, when I came across a Russian cartoon”Masha and the bear”. The kids love it! My husband is enjoying just introducing a few words for now. I have been learning Russian again on a free app called Duolingo. My husband is as well. I started learning some Russian when my oldest son was only 6mo old. I learned the alphabet and a few words. I gave up after my second pregnancy became difficult. My husband was discouraged by this. He stopped saying some of the sweet things that I thought were so cute when we first met. I felt bad, but I was in the middle of really trying to teach my kids Spanish, which my father started teaching me when I was only 1. I exhausted his knowledge of Spanish very quickly as I got older and more curious. He did not remember a lot of what he had learned at school. I just knew that these were some of our most important moments growing up and I wanted to share that with my kids. I also wanted to finish learning Russian. I wanted to have that with my husband. I never imagined that it would take so long to teach my kids while advancing my own Spanish to stay ahead of my kids. Now we both say sweet things to each other in Russian. It takes me back to hear him tell me he loves me in Russian. It always sounds so much sweeter coming from him. My Russian leaves something to be desired. I can see how much he loves speaking Russian. His heart and soul are in every word. The same way I pour myself into every word I speak in Spanish. His father knows that his mother spoke Russian to him when he was little, but as soon as he was old enough for school they only spoke English. He never regained being able to speak Russian. His mother could not speak Russian very well after a while. The school had told them that he had a better chance of adjusting to the English language and culture, if they only spoke to him in English. He is sad that they did that. My husband worked hard to teach himself Russian with the help of a few books. I am proud of him!

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