In his Oral History, U.S. Mir astronaut Michael Foale discusses studying and learning the Russian language.
He says, "When I realized that I was going to be sent to Russia to do this job on the Mir, it was quite clear to me that suddenly language is a much, much more important part of this whole experience than I had ever given it . . . in my life before.
"It was that cold realization that I was going to have a miserable time if I didn't learn the Russian language . . . I then said to myself, in a fairly disciplined way, 'You have got to stop doing all those things you like doing in your free time . . .'" including, "hundreds of hours on the computer [and] reading science fiction in English."
Foale realized that, "All those activities that I did in my free time as intellectual recreation, I was going to have to stop for the next two years. Instead, I only read Russian."
He goes on to offer this self-assessment: "People have said I am so-called gifted or I have a high aptitude for language. I don't believe that's really so. I believe it's because I made that decision to put those hours in . . ."
Profile: Michael Foale
Michael Foale Oral History (PDF)
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