What about nakhodit-sya? Is it strictly necessary? Like, could I say, "Ostanovka - von tam."? (Mostly, I'm just uncertain when I should be using nakhodit-sya. Any rules of thumb?)
No, it is not strictly necessary. It is basically an "is situated/located" vs "is" sort of thing.
I think the correct version is "Остановка находится там". "вон" is redundant here ("косноязычие") although quite a few people do say it this way.
I guess "вот там" or "вон там" instead of just "там" is rather close to "over there" instead of just "there".
I am not sure where you could have got that impression. There are dictionaries and there is a large corpus if you need examples of some word's usage. "Quite a few" is an understatement: it is standard usage in Russian, albeit spoken (on the other hand, while giving somebody directionson the street, speaking is the most likely option).
Косноязычие means a different thing in Russian.
This is what they taught me in school in Russia. However, one can view this situation differently: some countries establish an official standard - for example, "Academy francaise" dictates what is correct French and what is not. Others, like US, tend to incorporate into dictionaries whatever people actually say - in this case "correct" is considered anything that you find in a dictionary/thesaurus/etc.
Just a suggestion: I don't know what is currently the official policy in Russia, but perhaps this course would benefit from having some kind of an official reference defining what is really "standard usage".
You have GRAMOTA.RU as a reference for standard language.
ВОН, частица. 1. Указывает на лицо, предмет, действие и т.п. в отдалении. Вон наш дом. Вон одна звезда, вон другая. Вон он бежит. Вон там был лес. Вон туда надо идти. 2. Употр. для уточнения и усиления значения последующего слова или высказывания в целом; вот. Вон какой сильный! Вон как поранился! Вон сколько мы не виделись! Вон (оно) что!; вон (оно) как! (выражение сильного удивления).
You have Russian National Corpus to look up trickier material like usage in spoken language (for example, standards for written language will not give you advice on which is better, чёрт or блин). Not everything in the corpus is considered correct, of course. Sometimes it contains deliberate mistakes: for example, a passage where a person tells another person how you should not say a certain phrase in Russian. Hoever, you can still see trends and preferred use by natives.
For grammar and finer details on usage encountered and not encountered in Russian, I use various sources, such as Russian as a Foreign Language textbooks or scientific studies.
I also use my experience and common sense because I speak the Moscow dialect (it is pretty close to standard) and have never left Russia.
School teachers are an unreliable source of knowledge: first, they might have received a fairly poor education, second, they are prone to embracing unfounded "rules" just because someone somewhere said so. Dictionaries in the last 50 years seem to have been more faithful to the actual language than the common misconceptions about "correct" usage are. I think, partially the problem is the lack of understanding of what IS the standard language by teachers, and why they teach it.
As far as I remember school, it does not "govern" colloquial speech. Of course, "вон" is not something you would write in a school paper, but it's perfectly fine in everyday spoken language.
This pretty much falls under what I explained in my previous post: under "US policy" it is "colloquial speech", whereas under "French (and Soviet) policy" it would be incorrect. (In another thread Shady_arc does cite a Soviet-era dictionary on the use of "кушать").
I am not sure it is what you explained. "Вон там" is in use and has been in much use in speech and literature for the last 200 years (at the very least!) Soviets could hardly do anything about that—besides, dictionaries were created by lingusts who knew what they were doing.. Whatever you might have been told has probably been an opinion of a particular teacher or advice on formal writing (why would you need to wave your hands in formal writing, anyway?).
The language of official documents is not the same as the language in general. And the latter does have standards, too, even though the name is slightly misleading (Современный русский литературный язык).
My point is that appealing to an established authority is better than discussing our educational background, geographic origin and social circles.
Some reflexive verbs can be classified as an "experiences" and "emotions". Some verbs express being inclined to do something / having hard time doing something. These do indeed take a Dative experiencer:
- Мне нравится салат. = I like the salad.
- Мне кажется, что так будет лучше. ~ I think this way would be better.
- Думается мне, это далеко не всё... ~ I reckon we are far from having seen the last of it.
- Ей не спится. ~ She cannot sleep.
- Мне плохо спалось. ~ I did not sleep well.
- Ей требуется помощь. ~ She is in need of help.
- Мне хочется пойти погулять. ~ I feel like going for a walk.
- Будущее видится мне неопределённым. ~ I see the future as quite uncertain
- Ей никак не работалось. ~ She could not make herself focus on her work
- Ей не сидится на месте. ~ She has itchy feet. (lit. cannot sit still in one place)
Находиться, though, is not one of these verbs. Here, -ся simply works as a in intransitivity marker. I mean, this verb, unlike находить ("to find") takes no object.
"situated" was not accepted (I reported)
I suppose we'd know from some unspoken context that the "stop" is either bus-stop or a tram-stop or a trolley-stop. Duo did accept "bus stop", but still - unless the bald остановка is assumed to mean "bus stop".
I assume also that you wouldn't just ask "Где остановка?" but "Где автобусная остановка?"
The word остановка indeed means a bus stop, a tram stop or a trolley stop (and also "stop" as an action of making a stop). We do not use it for train stations, airports, or subway stations.
The locations of bus stops and tram stops are more often than not synchronised. Some tram stops do have a separate structure, though, like here. So, in principle, you may need to use трамвайная остановка or остановка трамвая. Of course, if you established beforehand which stop you are talking about, остановка is enough.
Am I correct in supposing that вон там is "over there" and вот здесь is "over here"? It would be incorrect to switch the вон/вотs?
It is вот тут (or вот здесь) and вон там, sometimes вот там.
In case you ever see it, вот has multiple meanings, including the explanatory tone. So when you see "вот там" at the start of the sentence, it may mean "over there" but it can also be more like "that's exactly where":
- Вот там, внизу, был магазин одежды. = Over there, downstairs, was a cloth store.
- Вот там мы и познакомились. = That is where we met each other. (note the emphatic и)