It is certainly very much appreciated. Having you in these chats was like having Paulenrique in the portuguese chats; it is extremely helpful to have someone available to answer the questions that us newbies struggle with, so it isn't the blind leading the blind.... Thank you!!!
Yes, I hovered over "свидания" hoping it would give a translation of that word, but I had to look it up; apparently it means "date", "appointment", or "visit". I think "до свидания" is very much like "au revoir" in French, which I've always thought of as "to the resee", or something similar to the English phrase "until next time".
They are close but not the same. The a in "da" sounds like [ah] in "father", the o in "do" is the short o sound in "dock" but slightly shorter. In English, we are used to an ending o being the long o sound in "Oh!", but it is not in Russian.
Here is a lot of info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_phonology
Here is another place to listen to native speakers saying words:
"ня" would be pronounced differently. For words with "..ие" in the end variant with "..ье" is also possible sometimes:
свидание / свидания and свиданье / свиданья
рождение / рождения and рожденье / рожденья
It is pronouced as it is written. Variants with "..ье" are usually more poetic or informal and not even present in vocabularies.
When you have the preposition "до" (until), that always assigns genitive case for what follows. "Свидание" is the nominative case for the noun, and "свидания" is the genitive case. If you didn't have до, then yes, you could only use "cвидание", but that would just mean "meeting point." as olimo explained above. So because you have the preposition "До", literally "until we meet again", you must use the preposition, otherwise the meaning changes entirely! Hope this helps :)
So if there's an O at the end of a word, what would it sound like? Or what about an A? I think I know the words when I see them, I just don't know how to pronounce it. I feel like I'm just checking off another box when completing another phase. Does anyone understand or know what I mean?
I have to confess that Russian spelling in giving me troubles. I was wondering: how would the pronunciation be different if the word was spelt свиданя instead of свидания, without the и before the я? Would it be different? If yes, what would be the difference? If not, why is the и written? Is it just a convention, like many French or English spellings? thanks!
свиданя [svee-dah-n'a/svi-da-nj-a] - soft "n"+a (there is no such word as свиданя).
свидания [svee-dah-nee-ya/svi-da-ni-ja] - soft "n"+i+ya (iotated "ah"). Or like this [svee-dah-n'-ya/svi-da-nj-ja] - soft "n"+ya (iotated "ah").
There are some words in Russian like in your question. E.g. воскресенье (the day of the week; gen. воскресенья) and воскресение (the resurrection/a return to life; gen. воскресения). The former word is derived from the last. These words can be pronounced the same way (soft "n"+ye (nom.)/ya (gen.)). День рождения (a birthday) can be pronounced like день рожденья (but not день рожденя).