5 Things I Learned About My Partner By Learning Her Language


Assya Plavskina may be the first person to ever request class barter opportunities on behalf of another student. Her husband Steven Wiener is currently in his third Russian class, working on learning his wife’s native language. While his goal is to learn Russian, he comments that he has also learned about his partner through his Fluent City classes.

Assya and Steven have known each other for ten years and will celebrate their two-year wedding anniversary August 25th. What is Assya’s ideal anniversary gift? “I want Steven to be able to order dinner for the two of us off of a Russian menu.” Assya’s father jumpstarted this goal by purchasing a Fluent City Level 1 class for Steven. Now in Level 4, Steven and Assya share a few of the life lessons they have learned along the way:

1. My husband’s brain works differently.

Assya: Through helping Steven study, I had a chance to see how my husband absorbs information. I learn by repetition and drilling information into my brain. Steven wants to understand the technical reasons why words change, and have a context for the change. I can study a list of verb conjugations for each word and just memorize the various forms, whereas he would rather know how the conjugation works. I had to change my approach to helping Steven, and now have realized it is important to give him more context in non-verb related conversations as well.

2. My wife always thinks in a different language.

***Steven: ***It is easy to forget that English is not your spouse’s native language when her English is so conversational. By switching roles, I now know what my spouse goes through. She has to work harder in conversation; she is usually thinking in Russian and speaking in English to keep up with me. I have realized what a luxury it is that her English is so strong, but that I should also not take for granted the extra effort she puts in to keep up in a conversation.

***Assya:***My dream is being fulfilled! The household words like “iron” are the hardest for me to remember, since I grew up saying those in Russian only. I can now use household words in my regular language and he can understand.

Assya & Steve - Photo by Mike Ratliff Photography

3. My husband can still learn new things about me ten years later.

Assya: There is definitely a deeper understanding of one another, which is saying a lot after knowing each other so intimately for 10 years. Russian is such a different, interesting, and beautiful approach to language when compared to English. The language one speaks shapes the way one experiences the world, so these classes have given Steve more insight into my life.

***Steven:***I even have some vocabulary now to converse with her grandfather. I was surrounded with Russian friends growing up in Brooklyn, but now I am starting to really understand the references and connect with my in-laws.

4. My wife is a better tutor than a teacher.

Assya: His Russian is coming along so well, I’m incredibly impressed! For several years I tried to teach him bits and pieces but I didn’t even know where to start. The way his classes are laid out, he has already learned such a strong foundation that once his classes are over, I think all he’ll need to learn is more vocabulary! It feels so great that Steve is learning Russian and my entire family has gotten so into the process of helping.

***Steven:***My teacher Polina is really good at understanding how a language should develop and giving assignments for each week. Assya is so supportive in helping me study and work on the assignments at home. My wife and I have become grammar nerds! Now we talk about grammar and I share what we learned in class, which makes us discuss the quirky sides of English. We have totally nerdy dinner conversations.


5. If you love your partner, you can make the time for anything.

***Steven:***I spend at least an hour a night working on my Russian. Assya almost always sits with me and helps me study. We have started watching less TV, and instead picked a coffee shop that we frequent together as often as we can. It’s great to realize you can work with your spouse.

***Assya:***We also set aside time to flyer together. It’s fun! It’s nice to be promoting something you genuinely believe in. People on the streets of NY are very leery of street flyering, but they let down the walls once they stop and see our honest belief in Fluent City. We moved to NJ last year, so when we flyer, we like to incorporate it into our days in NYC and have dinner after!

Learn a language for love. Sign up for a Fluent City class and to build deeper connections with a spouse, in-law, grandparent, or crush!

Click any photo to read why other students choose to #getfluent at Fluent City:

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