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Donald Brashear Learns Russian

Brashear hugs a Russian speaker. (By Luis M. Alvarez - AP)

Maybe you saw where Alex Ovechkin told a Russian journalist that Donald Brashear is teaching himself Russian via a translator on his cell phone. This seemed worth investigating.

"I noticed that Ovie and Semin sometimes talk to him in Russian," Karl Alzner observed today. "I always wonder, does he actually know some, or are they just speaking to him?"

Well, he actually knows some. At a minimum, more than your average English-speaking Washington hockey player. "Way, way more," Sergei Fedorov told me.

"He's not like me, but he's not bad," Alex Ovechkin said. "He speaks really cool, actually. He understand some words and he's cool."

"He's very good," added Fedorov, who's neighbors with Brashear both at the team's practice facility and at the Verizon Center. "His pronunciation is very good. He does understand more than he can say. If we speak fast, with a little slang, I don't expect he would catch that on, but if we speak slow and normal, I mean, he catch almost half of it....If he ask me some questions, I tell him, and he repeat it back, without no accent. That's my experience with him "

So what's this all about? Brashear said he's always had a talent for learning language. Last summer, he went to buy himself some teach-yourself-Spanish CDs, figuring it'd be easy to pick up for a French speaker.

"And then I saw all those other languages that they had," he told me, so he wound up with Italian language CDs and German language CDs and Russian language CDs. He hasn't used the Italian or German ones much, but with four or five Russians in the Caps' dressing room throughout this season, he's making a game attempt.

"I don't know that much," he said, downplaying his own ability. "I hear them say a few words, I try to repeat them, and if I get it, I ask them what it means and then it sticks in my head....It's way too fast. It's a crazy language. You hear something, and I try to repeat it back, and when they say it slowly it sounds so much different than when they say it's faster."

Brashear said he's thinking of visiting Russia--although he's not sure if he'll have the time this summer--and he wants to be able to say a few words if he goes. He also said he enjoys the company of his Russian teammates, because "They're always fun guys to hang out with. They like to have fun, they enjoy their time here. I'm thinking they come here in the States and they just enjoy the free life."

Alzner said he could say about five words in Russian, including "yes," "thank you," and "hello or goodbye, I'm not sure." Brent Johnson also said he can say just a few words. Fedorov said teammates invariably wind up learning some Russian, "because we're always loud and screaming around the locker room. They always ask, 'What the hell are you saying?' " he continued. "Don't worry about it - swear words."

I also asked Bruce Boudreau whether he had gone Slavic.

"Nyet," he said. "I can barely speak English, I couldn't get French in school, so Russian is way beyond me. I applaud everybody that can speak more than one language, but I'm just not capable. I've got enough to worry about."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 8, 2009; 5:13 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Dan you're a Caps post procrastinator, that's what you are. Doing it all at once...I'm on to you.

Posted by: ThisGuy | January 8, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

In Russia, language learns YOU.

Posted by: Section117 | January 8, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

"I can barely speak English" -- Ha!

Posted by: jen-s | January 8, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for the Caps, hopefully the can keep it positive.

Check out the blog of this former intern........

Posted by: bennyob | January 8, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Fedorov said teammates invariably wind up learning some Russian, "because we're always loud and screaming around the locker room. They always ask, 'What the hell are you saying?' " he continued. "Don't worry about it - swear words."

ROFL! That's just funny. Learning to swear in Russian is useful, but the Russian language is a great one for sounding like you're swearing up a storm when in reality, you're reciting the recipe for Borscht! ;-)

Posted by: irockthered | January 9, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Russian strikes me as particularly difficult due to the alphabet. The billboards and other signs look alien when you go there.

Posted by: 1995hoo | January 9, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Доналд - ты молодец!

Posted by: heathj82 | January 9, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

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