Having Lived in NYC, I have often come across bilingual families. I have worked for two out of many, and came to a conclusion, that it is extremely hard for the Russian speaking parent or parents to teach their child to speak Russian (or any other language it may be). One of my friends who is in such a situation (she is Russian, her husband is American) has recently shared this story:
I went to a Russian grocery store in Soap Lake today (That’s in Washington by the way). When we came out of the store Annika (her 5 year old) sighed with relief and said, “Now that we are outta here I can speak English again?” And when someone asked: “Doesn’t she like speaking Russian?” My friend replied: “Unfortunately, she speaks it less and less. I continue speaking in Russian and they (she has another child – a younger boy, probably around 3) understand everything, but they choose to answer in English. Now I am not saying that these cartoons will help your child speak fluent Russian, and make him/her WANT to speak it. But they are a fun pass time (even though there are a lot of parents out there who don’t let their children watch TV, I grew up watching Spokoinyi Nochi, Malyshi/Good Night, Kids every night, and a cartoon in the AM before I left for pre-school and grew up normal! Also get your husband or wife involved too, especially if they aren’t native Russian-speakers. It will definitely help the child see that both parents are into spending time with him/her, even if one of them doesn’t fully understand what exactly is going on.
I also think that this Top 5 will be helpful for Russian Language Learners, because cartoon language is simpler, the characters often speak slower. There was a blog post that I have recently come across that explains one of the cartoons I have chosen to be in my Top 5, which explains Rusism (Russian language peculiarities) that you can check out, the post is called “I Want to Live in Prostokvashino”
Top 5 Russian Cartoons to Watch (on YouTube with English Subtitles)
1. Three from Prostokvashino (Troe is Prostokvashino).
A funny cartoon about a boy named Dyadya Fyodor, who meets a talking cat Matroskin, with a very philosophical view on life, and later moves to a village house where they also meet a talking dog Sharik. The population of the village moved into a new apartment building across the lake, so there were a lot of empty houses. The boy and his new friends have quickly chosen one to occupy, and so the adventures begin. There is a sequel to this cartoon, called Zima v Prostokvashino/Winter in Prostokvashino (unfortunately this one doesn’t have the subtitles, or maybe I didn’t look hard enough! And the third part of the “Saga” is called Vacation in Prostokvashino/Kanikyly v Prostokvashino (I will be posting a link to that! These cartoons are based on a book by Eduard Uspenskii, called “Uncle Fyodor, the Dog, and the Cat”
2. Vinny Puh/Winnie-the-Pooh. Now to all of you used to a yellow Winnie-the-Pooh, please! Bears are brown! Take your child to the Zoo, show them the bear, and then the cartoon. Then show them the American cartoon. Your child will tell you that Bears can’t be yellow! The Russian Winnie-the-Pooh has 3 episodes, and he speaks with a voice of a famous Soviet actor – Evgenii Leonov
Now when you watch this video, make sure you open the description, because there are no subtitles on the screen, which got me a little confused at first. But as the narrator and characters speak, the phrases are automatically shown in bold! Pretty neat, don’t you think?
This next video is called Winnie-the-Pooh goes visiting, I personally would’ve called it something like “Winnie-the-Pooh Pigs Out” taking into consideration that his best friend is a Pig, that’s a fun wordplay right there!
The last cartoon about Winnie (that’s what he goes by here in Russia) is called “Winnie-the-Pooh’s Busy Day”
3. My next pick is a cartoon about Karlson. It’s based on the book by Astrid Lindgren (a Swedish author, whose books are extremely popular in Russia). Karlson is a funny looking little man, who has a propeller attached to his back, with a button to turn it on in the front. He must have been a victim of some evil experiment, and got combined with a fan, but we’ll never know for sure. He has a little house on the roof, and has an EXTREMELY sweet tooth! This is where his resemblance with Winnie-the-Pooh comes in! The first cartoon is called Junior and Karlson (again the translation I wouldn’t go with, why not call it Karlson and Kid, then you can have the K&K going on, but oh well) and here is the video
There is another episode called “Karlson Returns” (Just like the Terminator said – I will be back, so will Karlson!) But unfortunately the video with the english subtitles is up no more, sorry my dear readers 🙁
4. The Bremen Musicians/Bremenskie Mysikanty. My personal childhood favorite. I used to have a record with the story (we call it Audio-Books now and they come on CDs) and loved listening to it. I think if I hear it again once, I will be able to tell it to you by heart! Oh the wonders of the human memory. This story is based on a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm. The video again doesn’t have subtitles, so you will have to click on the transcript underneath!
5. My last choice goes to a cartoon based on the Ukrainian Folk Tale called “There Once was a Dog”/Jil-Byl Pyos.
Make sure to also check out Smeshariki, my new favorite. I used to watch episode after episode, and could never get enough! There is an English version of Smeshariki, called Gogoriki, but I believe the creators wanted to make a separate English version, which I think wasn’t that successful. There are no English subtitles, that’s why it didn’t make the cut!
And of course there are the Russian fairytales! This link is for Alenkyi Tsvetochek/Red Flower – the analog of Beauty and the Beast. Again no English subtitles, but the animation is so unique and painting like, it will capture your attention! I strongly believe that Disney has nothing as good as this! A great “picture book” of Russian Medieval Life!