Shuttle-Mir Stories

Michael Foale in Mir Space Station Base Block.

Foale on Language

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 . . ."

Related Links:

Cultural Background
Foale Increment

Profile: Michael Foale
Michael Foale Oral History (PDF)

Text only version available

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