>>I speak fluent Russian, but DON't understand Bulgarian. AT ALL.<<
You know there's something else I wasn't thinking of. I was not only a Russian Linguist in the Army, I was a Transcriber. Meaning, I had the ability to listen to what I heard and write it down precisely as it had been spoken. Not gisting, or paraphrasing, exact reconstruction.
What that skill does, is it teaches you how to deconstruct what you hear. Separate roots from endings, for instance. Or, figure out what must have been said, whether you hear it or not. Garbled prepositions in Russian is a good example. We were taught, "Russians don't speak incorrectly, you HEAR incorrectly!" That's not precisely true, but we lived by that rule. If I submitted a transcript that had a grammatically incorrect sentence, it was sent back with a nasty note.
After I became a Russian Transcriber, my fluency in German tripled! It became a lot easier for me to hear exactly what was said, in any language.
So, in the language game, I'm kind of a 'ringer' because of my training. And I suppose I underestimate its effect.
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