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There are two common uses for the English word experience:

  • the specific sense, as in "skydiving was an interesting experience"
  • the more general sense, as in "I have the job experience you're looking for"

The former is a description of the immediate process of living through something, perceiving it, etc. Where as the latter is typically more focused on the knowledge or expertise gained by having participated in something. They're not cleanly separate, of course, since the former typically leads to the latter.

Whenever I've looked up experience in an English-Russian dictionary, they always give опыт as the translation—often the only one. My sense is that that word is the best translation for the second usage above. Is it also the proper term for the first usage, or would переживание be better for that?

I've also noticed, on Linguee for example, that переживание is indicated to be less frequently used. Is that because опыт meets the same need, or because the second usage above is a more common topic of conversation among Russians? I wouldn't normally wonder that, but in this case it does conform to my sense of the cultural differences between, say, America (whence I come) and Russia. But perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

  • @Dmitry Thanks for the edit. Try as I might, I cannot get through my skull that it's a hard т at the end of that word. – spoko Mar 6 '18 at 17:23
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    Note that “experience”, as in perception, is a much wider term than “переживание” (typically reserved for negative emotions) and can’t usually be translated with one Russian word, especially in verb form as is common in advertisements for movies, video games and the like. – Roman Odaisky Mar 7 '18 at 14:33
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    I personally can't even think of "переживание" being used as just "experience". Maybe only a "personally hard experience". Ex. "Он пережил развод" - "He had a divorce. It was a hard experience." – Alexander Mar 7 '18 at 21:08
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    The expression "skydiving was an interesting experience" is very typical of the way ideas are expressed in English. We can say almost anything by saying what something is and we have a word for every such occasion. In Russian such such sentences are generally worded differently using a verb other than "быть". For example, you could say "Первый раз прыгнул с парашютом. Впечатлило!" – David42 Mar 8 '18 at 14:14
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Переживание (literally, "living-through") is quite a set way to translate the English phrase "emotional experience". I can't think of any other way for it to be used to translate "experience" outside this context.

However, your gut feeling is right, Russian опыт usually only applies to knowledge and expertise indeed. "Skydiving was an interesting experience" is best translated as прыгать с парашютом было очень интересно.

  • Интересное ощущение – Yu Jiaao Mar 7 '18 at 14:17
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skydiving was an interesting experience - It's possible to say переживание (probably when saying of a jump which caused strong emotions), or впечатление (if you mean an unusual impression regardless of emotions), even опыт (e.g. if you mean this pursuit was interesting experience for your career professionally). That is to say a speaker might want to be specific here.

I have the job experience you're looking for - most likely implies опыт (i.e. you have enough skills, knowledge, practice, etc., sometimes implying you are a seasoned person who suits the job).

It's not that переживание is used rarely. It's a literary word often implying some stronger feelings (so it's more often used in suitable contexts, emotionally coloured speech, or literary works). While опыт is a neutral word suitable for any style (from philosophical meaning 'experience' to everyday meaning like 'job experience', etc.)

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Можно сказать опыт работы и любовные переживания, но не переживания работы, а опыт любви звучит пошло, если не сказать скабрезно.

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