On a German page about the Russian language, I learned the words
прямо [prjáma] – geradeaus (straight on)
направо [napráwa] – rechts (right)
налево [naléwa] – links (left)
for directions (location plan[*]), for instance:
Идите прямо и потом поверните налево. (Go straight ahead and then turn left.)
Coincidentally, I came across an academic work (written in German) about left and right in the Russian language. While reading, I learned that there are another two words for both left and right.
left right сле́ва спра́ва вле́во впра́во
In the academic work, the three words are compared to each other. The author examined two corpora with more than one million words.
Obviously, the word pair which I learned (налево / направо) is just the second most common designator for left and right.
I'd like to briefly summarize what I came to know from the academic work. (I hope that I don't have any misconceptions.)
The writer distinguishes between three cases. The (1) "direct personal direction" (e.g. The sea is to my left), the (2) "indirect personal direction" (e.g. The police station is on the left side from the church) and the (3) "non-personal direction" (e.g. The seats on the left side of the cinema).
The examples she uses are solely taken from literary texts (sorry, I was wrong. Not solely, a few are taken from a dictionary).
a. I start with (1). When talking about direct personal directions, the most common word pair is сле́ва / спра́ва. Only налево / направо can be used without changing the meaning of a sentence.
b. I continue with (2). When talking about indirect personal directions, сле́ва / спра́ва is, again, most frequently used. Both other word pairs can be used synonymously; examples for налево / направо were only found in dictionaries though.
c. Lastly (3). When talking about non-personal directions, only the word pair сле́ва / спра́ва is used. No written examples exist using the other word pairs.
- Since the writer isn't a native Russian herself, she consulted Russian friends asking them about their personal opinions for interchangeability.
- The time of the origin of the literary texts is not clear. At least I haven't been able to find that information.
So, finally, here are my questions. I'm sorry for combining a couple of questions into one, but they belong together.
Are the summarized results valid for nowadays colloquial speech and everyday conversations? Would you also agree that сле́ва / спра́ва is the most frequent word pair, while вле́во / впра́во only rarely used? (The gap seems very large.)
I learned налево / направо for directions (location plan). According to b., there are no written examples using them in indirect personal directions. I personally would integrate directions into category (2), i.e. indirect personal directions. However, налево / направо are accepted as synonyms for the category (2), but only dictionary examples exist. That's somewhat ambivalent and inconsistent. Are налево and направо the preferred words for describing directions (location plan)?
Which main distinctions do you personally see between those three word pairs. As a non-native, do I need to carefully think about which word I use in order to not be mistaken?
I tried to figure out if German or English also have different words for left and right, but I can't think of any. Maybe my understanding of the three word pairs is just wrong and therefore I can't conclude the correct German or English counterparts, if any exist. Do you know of any counterparts in the English language (and German, if applicable)?
I guess after writing this long text and now being tired and weary, I might have forgotten something. Please feel free to add any thoughts to your answer if you consider them to be important, interesting or helpful in any way.
[*] Since I often used the word "directions" in two different senses, I (hopefully always) designated that word with "location plan" when talking about ... yeah, directions ;)