Archive for the ‘1’ category

The Audio Version of Blindness for Beginners. Now Available.

16 April 2021

Two years after the publication of Maribel Steel’s book Blindness for Beginners, the Audio Version has just been launched by (8 April 2021)

It was recorded by Harry Williamson of Spring Studio and the skilled reader is Alice Hermans.

This 8-hour version  of Maribel’s self-help memoir will be particularly welcome for its more effective accessibility and potential for people like herself, with impaired vision.

To get a basic idea about the audio book, try this:

In the 2 minute, 55 seconds SAMPLE (offered below the cover page on THAT website), the reader presents Maribel’s original ‘Dear Reader’ Introduction (pp.2-3) to her life-changing experience of going blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa and the complex process of adjusting her life, from age 17 on, to allow her to lead a full life and bring up four children, before creating her own career as a writer and mentor.

The 3 balanced Parts of the work are clearly identified:

Part 1: her personal biography, from the diagnosis (of Retinitis Pigmentosa), to acceptance and the long struggle to independence

Part 2: the types of practical strategies and attitudes that a visually-impaired person can adopt

Part 3: how other people can learn appropriate ways to assist visually-impaired persons.


To give potential purchasers a little more evidence of how the Audio book Blindness for Beginners may be of interest and use to them, I offer some relevant previous material and notes from the original book launch.

After the 2019 book launch there were four media appearances in Melbourne and Sydney (Australia). Three of these are still available to download, all showing how visual impairment does not make cooking impossible or too dangerous, providing very strict procedures are observed.

First came the two audio recordings by Australian ABC Radio National (RN), in its series Life Matters: April 10 and April 16, 2019.

‘Blind Inside a Tactile Kitchen’ 

Cooking demo with Michael McKenzie (in 2 parts)

Audio versions at:


The well-known presenter Michael McKenzie, wearing his blindfold, as instructed, was very brave, and completely empathetic. Guide dog, Dindi, was, as always, in attendance.

A week later in a follow-up TV interview with Studio 10 in Sydney, the studio audience and viewers  at home were treated to a 10 minute visual presentation of (briefly famous) Maribel’s blind cooking on the popular morning programme of Studio 10 TV. With assistance and a barrage of questions from her 2 amazed and nervous interviewers, she prepared the ingredients for Huevos a la flamenca (in memory of her mother).

This is now preserved on You Tube as: TV: Cooking ‘Blind’:

What I remember most vividly of this video is the apprehension on the faces and in the questions of those two glamorous interviewers as they stood beside visually-impaired Maribel briskly cutting up onions, with a large knife and a high degree of nonchalance.

That dramatic episode is just one example of Maribel’s very detailed repertoire of procedures built up during 40 years of learning to cope with practical life (including, of course, bringing up – and cooking for – a family of 4 kids).

Her hope and ambition is that her work will help other people facing different degrees of visual impairment to experience an easier but rewarding journey to success and personal fulfilment. And that family members, friends, institutions, and the general public will be able to relate more helpfully to visually-impaired persons.

Media Interest in Maribel Steel’s Blindness for Beginners

4 May 2019

*April 2021: Please note that the Audio version of “Blindness for Beginners” is now available. See

Since the 8 January blog announcing the publication of my daughter’s simpático handbook, interesting things have happened – especially in the past hyperactive week.

Book Launch

Writers Victoria, Melbourne, 26 April 2019

Media Appearances

April 10 & 16, 2019

ABC RN, Life Matters:

‘Blind Inside a Tactile Kitchen’  Cooking demo with Michael McKenzie (in 2 parts)


30 April:  ABC Radio 774, Writs and Cures, Steve Ellen and Bill O’Shea: Interview

*Choose 30 April session in this group and slide timer to c 1:27:50. Till about 1:50 [14 mins.]

2 May: Studio 10 TV, Sydney, 2 May: Blind cooking demo. Huevos a la flamenca (10 mins)  This url seems OK for a month from 2 May 2019


More Details:

The Launch of Blindness for Beginners on 26 April took place at the Melbourne offices of Writers Victoria, under the guidance of resident Writeability specialist and editor, Lyndel Caffrey.

In addition to more detail about Maribel’s life, career and work, elicited by a probing interview by Lyndel, we were given an audio recital of a few pages by Alice Hermans, who is at present completing the audio version of Blindness for Beginners with sound engineer and recordist Harry Williamson (Maribel’s partner).

The TWO blind cooking programs speak for themselves:

ABC RN, Life Matters:

‘Blind Inside a Tactile Kitchen’  Cooking demo with Michael McKenzie (in 2 parts)


Michael, with his blindfold on, was very brave, and completely empathetic!

2 days ago, we were treated to a 10 minute visual presentation of Maribel’s blind cooking on the popular morning program Studio 10 TV, Sydney. She prepared the ingredients for Huevos a la flamenca (in memory of her Mum):

Of special interest (for me at least) was the understandable look of fear and horror on the faces of the two glamorous Studio 10 presenters as they watched visually-impaired Maribel cutting up onions, with a large knife and a high degree of nonchalance. That image alone shows how Maribel’s depiction of her 40 years of learning to cope with practical life (including bringing up – and cooking for – 4 kids) may be of inspiration to many other people. That is her hope and ambition. But please spare a moment of sympathy for Maribel’s new guide dog, sleek and beautiful Dindi, who had to endure an uncomfortable flight to and from Sydney with her owner.

The interview on 30 April (ABC Radio 774 [Victoria]), Writs and Cures, with Steve Ellen and Bill O’Shea, touched very empathetically on various aspects of blindness and Maribel’s 40 years of coping and triumphing over the odds.

Maribel is now gearing up for more interviews and lectures, as is her indefatigable partner, Harry Williamson, sound engineer, recordist, photographer and polymath. Together, they have a great life. That makes me happy too!

Apology: Some of the URLs given will not work outside of Australia. And others may not last for long. But Harry will soon fix the latter! And maybe even the former.

For Maribel’ s other writings and activities, see

Translation 48. Bizarre Adaptation of Octavio Paz’s El Cántaro Roto

30 September 2014

One of the best known poems of world famous Mexican poet and Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz is an epic of 1170 words, El Cántaro Roto (The Broken Pot). It is a complex and passionate evocation of Mexican history and landscape.

Useful References:

An English translation, followed by the full poem in Spanish and a quotation from Octavio Paz:

A You Tube rendering:


The Paz epic begins:

La mirada interior se despliega y un mundo de vértigo y llama nace bajo la frente del que sueña: soles azules, verdes remolinos, picos de luz que abren astros como granadas,
tornasol solitario, ojo de oro girando en el centro de una explanada calcinada,
bosques de cristal de sonido, bosques de ecos y respuestas y ondas, diálogo de transparencias,
¡viento, galope de agua entre los muros interminables de una garganta de azabache,
caballo, cometa, cohete que se clava justo en el corazón de la noche, plumas, surtidores,
plumas, súbito florecer de las antorchas, velas, alas, invasión de lo blanco,
pájaros de las islas cantando bajo la frente del que sueña!

Abrí los ojos, los alcé hasta el cielo y vi cómo la noche se cubría de estrellas.
¡Islas vivas, brazaletes de islas llameantes, piedras ardiendo, respirando, racimos de piedras vivas,
cuánta fuente, qué claridades, qué cabelleras sobre una espalda oscura,
cuánto río allá arriba, y ese sonar remoto de agua junto al fuego, de luz contra la sombra!
Harpas, jardines de harpas.

Pero a mi lado no había nadie.
Sólo el llano: cactus, huizaches, piedras enormes que estallan bajo el sol.
No cantaba el grillo,
había un vago olor a cal y semillas quemadas,
las calles del poblado eran arroyos secos
y el aire se habría roto en mil pedazos si alguien hubiese gritado: ¿quién vive?
Cerros pelados, volcán frío, piedra y jadeo bajo tanto esplendor, sequía, sabor de polvo,
rumor de pies descalzos sobre el polvo, ¡y el pirú en medio del llano como un surtidor petrificado!

Dime, sequía, dime, tierra quemada, tierra de huesos remolidos, dime, luna agónica,
¿no hay agua, hay sólo sangre, sólo hay polvo, sólo pisadas de pies desnudos sobre la espina,
sólo andrajos y comida de insectos y sopor bajo el mediodía impío como un cacique de oro?
¿No hay relinchos de caballos a la orilla del río, entre las grandes piedras redondas y relucientes,
en el remanso, bajo la luz verde de las hojas y los gritos de los hombres y las mujeres bahándose al alba?
El dios-maíz, el dios-flor, el dios-agua, el dios-sangre, la Virgen,
¿todos se han muerto, se han ido, cántaros rotos al borde de la fuente cegada?
¿Sólo está vivo el sapo,
sólo reluce y brilla en la noche de México el sapo verduzco,
sólo el cacique gordo de Cempoala es inmortal?


As this first third of the poem shows visibly and audibly, it is a brilliant and characteristic Paz creation.


One of musical composer Eric Whitacre’s famous choral pieces is called Cloudburst. He cites Octavio Paz’s ‘El Cántaro Roto’, as the inspiration for his composition. However, his work contains only 109 words of the Paz poem, including the 39 words in bold type above, plus these wonderfully sonorous words from another poem by Paz (Agua nocturna):
ojos de agua de sombra,
ojos de agua de pozo,
ojos de agua de sueño

To which, for his Cloudburst theme, Whitacre has added:

La lluvia, and La lluvia despierta.

In choral circles, this piece has been widely acclaimed as a mass choral piece.

Whitacre’s full lyrics are as follows:

♪ La lluvia… ♪ ♪ Ojos de sombra de agua ♪ ♪ ojos de agua de pozo ♪ ♪ ojos de agua de sueño. ♪ ♪ Soles azules, verdes remolinos, ♪ ♪ picos de luz que abren ♪ ♪ astros como granadas. ♪ ♪ Dime, tierra quemada, ¿no hay agua? ♪ ♪ ¿Sólo sangre, sólo polvo? ♪ ♪ ¿Sólo pisadas desnudas sobre la espina? ♪ ♪ La lluvia despierta… ♪ Hay que dormir con los ojos abiertos, hay que soñar con las manos, soñemos sueños activos de ríos buscando su cauce, sueños de sol soñando sus mundos. ♪ Hay que soñar… soñar… ♪ ♪ Hay que cantar hasta que el canto eche raíces, ♪ ♪ tronco, ramas, pájaros, astros… ♪ ♪ hay que desenterrar la palabra perdida, ♪ ♪ recordar lo que dicen la sangre ♪ ♪ y la marea, la tierra y el cuerpo, ♪ ♪ volver al punto de partida ♪


Question: What do you think of the adaptation?

Translation 45. French and Spanish Pronunciation. Tips for Journalists

6 November 2013

On Saturday, 2 November 2013, a sports commentator was filling in for the weekday celebrity newsreader duo on the government-subsidised Australian multicultural TV, SBS. (A one hour daily programme.)

Although it is a multi-lingual enterprise, SBS is not unknown for its occasional language aberrations. For many years now, the sports journalist referred to above has been one of the major onsite Australian commentators on the Tour de France, one of SBS’s most watched programmes for three weeks every July. He has occasionally had problems with the surnames of well-known Spanish cyclists. He tends to be more comfortable with the French names.

At one point on Saturday, in the international news, temporary anchorman X referred to a “ka-shay“ (cachet) of arms. Hence this reminder article for similarly language-challenged journalists or TV and radio stations. Also for any readers with an interest in the topic who have not visited my other website.

Years ago, in view of the inadequacies of the Australian media in such matters, I published the following two guides on French and Spanish on my professional website ( It would appear that they may be just as valid today.

French Words in English (‘The Brush up your French Holiday Game’)

Copyright © Brian Steel 2003 & 2005.

Hint for those who need it: Check ca-shay  and cash in my simplified pronunciation guide for fellow Anglophones.

Bon appétit!

Spanish Pronunciation Guidelines for the Media and Others

Copyright © 2007 Brian Steel   !Que le aproveche!





Translation 38. Hindi Learning Shortcuts. Introduction to a New Series

26 October 2012

Preliminary Note: This is the full Introduction to the series as it appears on my language website India page.

All subsequent articles in this series for English-speaking learners of Hindi will be briefly announced on this blog with a link to the full versions available only on that language website page.

Introduction to a series of Hindi Learning Hints

After spending most of my life learning, studying. using, teaching or writing about European languages, and after several visits to India, I decided four years ago that it was time to try to learn Hindi. My aim was not to be able to order a succulent curry or even to talk to Hindi-speaking Indians (who know infinitely more English than I will ever know Hindi) but to be able to follow what the Indian media and Indian citizens talk and write about. So the main criterion in selecting materials for this series was (and is) the achievement of greater comprehension of that language.

Four years older and wiser, I remain engaged in a time- and energy-sapping struggle with this fascinating but quite difficult language. Some of my previous language-learning strategies have proved very useful in keeping me on a slow learning curve but the real foreignness of Hindi vocabulary, morphology and grammar has presented a formidable linguistic Himalayan range to conquer. With Hindi there are none of the usual convenient and comforting ‘toeholds’ or mnemonics for “us”: all those familiar COGNATE European (latinate, and even germanic) words, prefixes and suffixes which are quickly recognisable to the English learner in a flow of Romance writing and speech (or even, to a much lesser extent, in German and Dutch).

One slight but interesting advantage has been the vast – and constantly growing – number of English loanwords used in educated and media Hindi. That will be the subject of a later Hindi Hints chapter. Another early chapter will deal with Hindi acronyms (with both local and international references) which, mainly because of a historical accident, are phonetically based on English. Hooray!

The planned series of hints and shortcuts for greater or speedier comprehension of Hindi by Anglo and other foreign learners has (at least) three motives:
1. To share some of my very hard-earned knowledge with other Anglo learners.
2. To encourage Hindi speakers and fellow Anglo learners of Hindi to point out my misunderstandings and to correct my errors.
3. To force myself to study and observe Hindi more carefully.

The Reference lists posted in each article will also point to those books or websites that I have found useful in learning Hindi, in particular in relation to transliteration of the difficult (but nowhere near the difficulty of Chinese script) Hindi Devanagari script, for quicker (romanised) deciphering.

I wish to express my special gratitude to my patient tutor, Indramohan Singh, who for the past three years has also acted as my translator, transliterator, interpreter and scientific advisor and has also supplemented my bilingual (romanised) dictionaries on the many occasions when they failed to enlighten me (or, perhaps, when I failed to locate the information in the exhausting labyrinth of the anti-firangi Devanagari alphabetical order). To give credit where credit is due, these life-saving lexicographical works were:
Allied’s Hindi-English Dictionary, Father Camille Bulcke’s posthumous Hindi-English Dictionary and, much more recently, the late Dr Hardev Bahri’s first-class 2-volume Advanced Learner’s Hindi-English Dictionary) and, at the eleventh hour, Arvind Kumar’s HEROIC opus and life’s work, the Hindi AND English Thesaurus.

Nevertheless, the errors in this series of articles are entirely of my own making and I look forward to benefitting from readers’ corrections (and, perhaps, additions), which would be most welcome by me – and excellent karma for such benefactors.

Notes for the Series

1. My simplified Hindi transliteration system should not be too difficult to understand. One of its advantages is that it stands a reasonable chance of being recognised by transliteration systems like those of Google (for conversion into Devanagari script, where necessary). (Thank God for transliteration as a partial antidote to the Devanagari script, however artistic the latter may be!)

2. In most articles, an English alphabetical order for Hindi words (a further utilitarian desecration!) is deliberately used since it allows Anglos to make quick searches for words and also allows the speedy extraction of useful materials using the “Sort” and “Find” features of Microsoft WORD and other word processors. Without this subterfuge, I would not have been able to accumulate (and benefit from) my private 14,000 word romanised Hindi Glossary! Although totally artificial, this unorthodox Hindi word order thus speeds up reference work enormously for foreign learners.

Favourites on this Blog – for Holiday Reading

27 December 2011

Of the one hundred and eleven blogs posted here since 2008, these are the 16 that have attracted most attention. Unlike other more ephemeral blogs, the subject matter seems to remain of interest.

With my good wishes for the New Year.

New Hope for Disempowered Women

‘The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia’

‘Please dress up the Em dash’

‘Global warming debate. 1’

‘Global warming debate. 2’
‘Global Warming Controversy. Part 2. Global Warming Scepticism: Some Basic Data & Chronological Notes’

‘Julia Owen and bee stings in Bromley’

‘Julia Owen, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and the Media. Part 1’
(Part 2 will follow in the New Year.)


Of 33 offerings on Translation and Interpreting topics, this item has captured most attention:
‘Translation 8. Fluency in foreign languages. The case of Dr Condoleezza Rice’
(See also ‘Translation. 30’.)

‘Translation 32. David Bellos’s Revealing Book on Translation and the Meaning of Everything’

‘Spanish Pronunciation in the Media’


‘The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)’

‘Justo Gallego – the lone twentieth century Cathedral Builder’


‘Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information’

‘A Visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in October 2008’

‘Sathya Sai Baba: Questionable Stories and Claims. Part 1’

‘Fuzzy Dates in the Official Biography of Sathya Sai Baba. A Re-examination’

An Unofficial Analysis of India’s Current Problems

4 August 2011

Are you bewildered by the frequent announcements of India’s recent scandals and scams (beginning with the Commonwealth Games last year) and the increasing media and public pressure to bring about overdue changes in the “system”, especially the major popular campaigns by peace activist Anna Hazare and the influential and volatile yoga superstar Swami Ramdev?

Then you may find some enlightenment in the following recent blogs by one of India’s best known bloggers, Amit Varma. Varma has been blogging (as ‘India Uncut’) since 2004 and a few years ago retired from journalism to write novels, the first of which was My Friend Sancho (2009).

These are the blog references. Do they help?

April 2011. ‘Where Anna Hazare Gets it Wrong’

June 2011. ‘India’s Second Freedom Struggle’

As light relief after all that heavy stuff, you may well enjoy this related satirical piece by Varma.

Amazon UK Reviews for Eileen Younghusband’s ‘One Woman’s War’

1 August 2011

Two weeks after the book launch there are 5 reviews on Amazon UK
(Will insular Amazon USA incorporate these one day?)

An untold story from WW2, and a very good read
By Hugh Turnbull (Wales) (Real Name)

A remarkable book which tells the untold story of a group of young women who played a huge role in saving Britain from the Nazis. Eileen Younghusband not only gives belated credit to the unsung heroines who worked at the heart of Britain’s radar defences, but were sworn to secrecy long after the war. She also speaks for the millions of ordinary people had their lives turned upside down by the need to contribute to the war effort. Her accounts of her wartime romances and her “make do and mend” wedding are almost as fascinating as her extraordinarily demanding job, helping to defeat Nazi bombing raids or save downed Allied aircrew. This is a complete picture of WW2 – from the build-up to the grim aftermath – as seen by a young woman who was just eighteen when it started but had to grow up extremely quickly. Those of us who were born later can only thank Eileen and her generation, and wonder whether we could have coped half as well.

An incredible story written by an incredible woman
By HC123 [Check this reviewer’s contributions on Amazon UK]

I haven’t read many autobiographies because they always seem to be written by celebrities, but this is a truly incredible story of an unsung hero. The author writes of her WW2 experiences in such a way that it’s as though she is telling the story to you personally. I have always been interested in the World Wars and this book provides not only an individual perspective but also remarkably accurate facts relating to the status of the war effort, allowing the reader the gain knowledge of Ms Younghusband’s life whilst learning more about the hardship and timeline of war.

This book can be read in two ways; an effort to learn more about the Second World War or just an incredible story featuring the love and loss of an incredible woman. Either way it can be enjoyed by anyone anywhere.

Better Late then Never
By Brian

This is a fine contribution to the history of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force in World War II. Readers will be grateful that the 90 year old author’s memory so sharply recalls the detail of her war service, in particular her special service training and activities as a radar-savvy operator in the Filter Rooms of the British Royal Air Force in the early 1940s. Further revelations are offered by Younghusband about her equally vital and accurate work in Belgium towards the end of the War tracking the launch sites of V2 rockets.

In the July 2011 issue of the magazine “Saga”, Emma Soames (grand-daughter of Sir Winston Churchill) describes this ex-WAAF officer as “one of the mentally sprightliest people I’ve come across” and recommends “One Woman’s War” to all those “interested in the untold stories of that time”, especially for “its valuable contribution to our overall knowledge of that war.”

WAAFs at War
By Simon Mawer (Italy) (REAL NAME)

This book struck a strong chord with me because my mother served in the WAAF during the war, and worked in the top secret Filter Room as did Eileen Younghusband. However, my mother is no longer around to talk about her experiences whereas Mrs Younghusband most certainly is. And that is the tone and charm of the book – it is oral history put on paper, as though you are sitting in a chair beside the author and hearing her reminisce about night watches in the bunker at Fighter Command HQ or plotting V2 trajectories in Belgium in late 1944. Amidst the technical details the author also recounts her life and loves, the personal experiences of a young woman on active duty during a period that is starting to seem like distant history. It is an inspiring story from a remarkable woman.

How else can we thank that special generation?
By Clive Elsbury

This wonderful account of life during WW11, when a whole generation of British and allied citizens joined together to give civil populations the peace now enjoyed, draws the reader into the ‘pressure cooker’ atmosphere that those folk experienced. In the book, so well written, we join this lady in her journey from being an Au Pair to a most able tracker of missiles which enabled allied aircraft to destroy the launch vehicles. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Thank you for helping make my world safer.

(Please see my previous blog on my feisty 90 year old friend Eileen and her book. I am very proud of her writing and envious of her energy! It was a privilege and a pleasure to attend the book launch activities and to see Eileen review an RAF Guard of Honour at RAF Saint Athans, Wales.)

A Glut of Expertise in Glastonbury?

31 July 2011

Recent British media coverage of the (more or less) annual 4-day Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts revealed 170,000 revellers of all ages happily frolicking and wallowing in hectares of farmland mud near the famous Tor.

One week before these boisterous festivities, a brief return visit to the ancient town (which over 40 years appears to have become the New Age capital of Europe) provided interesting evidence of an ever-increasing range of commercial spiritual and ‘alternative’ services on offer to the many thousands of eager seekers who flock to the town which many believe to have connections with King Arthur, The Holy Grail and Joseph of Arimathea.

The monthly “unique free Guide to Holistic Glastonbury”, The Oracle , contains 20 pages of ads (costing practitioners from ₤140 for a full page to ₤12 for one sixteenth of a page). In addition to the more or less familiar offerings of Ayurveda, Hatha and Bhakti Yogas, Psychotherapy, Reiki Healing, Aromatherapy Massage, Kinesiology, Crystal Healing, Psychic Readings, etc., the visitor is bombarded with offers of an extraordinary variety of special treatments, many of which clamour for attention by indicating novel or enigmatic approaches to various basic alternative therapies:

Atlantis Reborn
Atlantis Reborn Tantra for Women (“Sacred Bliss. One day workshop. ₤58. No sexual contact.”)
Vinyasa Krama Yoga
Horses as Teachers
Greenbreath – Plant Spirit Medicine
Humanity under Attack. It’s all in the Cards!
The 2012 Earth Changes and the Plan of Spiritual Evolution
Full Moon Ceremony of the Presence of the Lady of Avalon
Experience the 8th Wonder of the World – Damantur
Munay-Ki Rites and Mentoring
Labyrinths for Inspiration
Alchemy of Becoming
Goddess Wisdom and Healing Day
Priestess of Rhiannon. One year Training
Crystal Singing Bowls Sound Bathing
Alchemy of the Mind (Hypnotherapy)
Emotional Freedom Techniques: (Emotional Freedom ‘Light’ Techniques and Matrix Reimprinting)
The No Hands ‘Signature’ Massage
Hopi Ear Candle Treatment
Lifepath and Soul Purpose Readings
Intuitive Tarot Readings [Are these a refinement of ordinary Tarot readings?]
Indigo Holistics
Past Life Regressions & Hypnotherapy
Ho O Pono Pono

For a more rewarding description of Glastonbury by an outsider, see Roland Howard, Shopping for God. A Sceptic’s Search for Value in Britain’s Spiritual Marketplace (Chapter 8, ‘Magical Mystery Tor’, pp. 106-122).

Translation 30. Condoleezza Rice’s Knowledge of Russian. Addendum

12 May 2011

My 22 March 2009 blog (Translation 8) speculated at some length on the topic of Condoleezza Rice’s alleged prowess in Russian.

I have since come across an interesting media reference which I would like to add here as an addendum to that blog.

In April 2005, in his New York Times report from Lithuania on Dr Rice’s meeting with Vladimir Putin and other prominent Russian officials, Steven R. Weisman states:

“Ms. Rice held meetings at the Kremlin and the Foreign Ministry, but she also made a direct appeal to Russians in an interview on Ekho Moskvy, an independent radio station that frequently broadcasts criticism of the government and that says it reaches two million people across Russia.

In a half-hour interview, she answered questions about the expanding American military presence on Russia’s periphery and about the role American support for democracy might have played in the ousting of governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Alexei Venediktov, editor in chief and the host, asked her pointedly if the United States was trying to export democracy the way the Soviet Union sought to export socialist revolution. “There’s an important difference here,” she said. “You do not actually have to export democracy.”

She said democracy rose from within a state, though the United States had supported private organizations and institutions in some countries to move the process along. “We see this as not a zero-sum game but one in which everyone has much to gain,” she said.

Ms. Rice bantered occasionally with Mr. Venediktov in Russian, which she has studied, but she apologized for speaking largely in English, saying she felt too intimidated by Russian grammar to feel comfortable speaking Russian for the whole interview.”

That reported statement of Dr Rice’s words is the closest to an admission of non-fluency in Russian that I have seen.