13 Awesome Russian Tips for Learners
Russian is one of the 10 most spoken languages in the world. With its Cyrillic alphabet, a multitude of grammatical layers and inflections that are gender- and case-specific as well as very little connection to English, it presents a formidable challenge to English speakers.
If you are someone who is finding Russian difficult, don’t be frustrated! Everybody goes through that stage when they start learning a new language. Think of all the differences between your native language and Russian. It has a very different script, vocabulary and sounds that do not exist in your mother tongue.
Unlike English, which is an analytic language, Russian is a synthetic language. This means that grammatical relationships between words are conveyed through morphemes (inflections). To have a better understanding of what that means, let’s have a look at the word ‘read’ – ‘читать’ [chi’tat].
In English, ‘read’ used outside of context can have a few meanings. Let’s consider only some of them and then compare to the respective forms in Russian.
– ‘Read’ could be an infinitive if used with a particle “to”;
– It could denote an action of the 1st, 2nd person singular or plural, such as ‘I read, we read, you read’ and 3rd person plural ‘they read’;
– It could denote an action in the past for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person singular and plural, such as ‘I/you/we/he/she/it/they read it a month ago’, etc.
Let’s have a look how the above mentioned forms of ‘read’ correspond to their Russian equivalents:
1. The initial form of the verb (infinitive) is ‘читать’ [chi’tat’];
2. Each singular and a plural form has a different ending:
I read – я читаю [ja chi’taju]
You read – ты читаешь [ty chi’tajesh]
He/she/it reads – он/она/оно читает [on/ana/ano chi’tajet]
We read – мы читаем [my chi’tajem]
They read – они читают [ani chi’tajut]
3. In the past tense the inflections do not only express a past event, they also indicate gender in the case of singular persons:
I read – я читал [ja chi’tal]-masculine singular
я читала [ja chi’tala] – feminine singular
you read – ты читал [ty chi’tal]-masculine singular
ты читала [ty chi’tal]-feminine singular
He read – он читал [on chi’tal]-masculine singular
She read – она читала [ana chi’tala]- feminine singular
It read – оно читало [ano chi’tala] – neuter singular
We read – мы читали [my chita’li] – 1st person plural
You read – вы читали [vy chita’li] – 2nd person plural
They read – они читали [ani chita’li] – 3rd person plural
With so many endings it is not surprising that mastering Russian is time-consuming and requires a great bulk of work.
15 Russian Tips for Learners
There are things you can do to make learning Russian easier. Here are my top 15 Russian tips.
1. Don’t rush.
Start with the basics. Learn the Russian alphabet thoroughly so that you don’t confuse letters. For instance, the Russian ‘P’ is equivalent to the English ‘R’ and the Russian ‘Н’, the English ‘N’. Learn the difference between ‘Ш’ and ‘Щ’, and make sure that you have all the bases covered where the alphabet is concerned.
2. Practice daily.
Even if you can find only 30 minutes a day for your language practice, that totals over 180 hours per year, which is enough to reach a new language level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
3. Learn Russian from interesting content.
These days we are lucky to be able to learn a foreign language online and not from the boring books with endless grammar exercises. LingQ lessons include audio from native speakers with matching transcripts. Whether you want to learn from blog posts, news articles, song lyrics, recipes or import something else in Russian to make a lesson with, LingQ has you covered.
4. Watch a movie you know very well in Russian.
You can view it with the subtitles in Russian or in English. You already know what the film is all about, so this time try to concentrate on what the actors say and how they speak. If you can get your hands on the movie script, you can even add the whole thing as a lesson on LingQ!
5. Read books in Russian.
Choose a book at or only slightly above your level, though. Otherwise, you might become discouraged.
6. Use sticky notes.
If you struggle with memorizing new words, write them down on sticky notes and place them around your home.
7. Analyze song lyrics.
Translate your favourite Russian songs to understand their meaning and grammar structures.
8. Set your social media network pages such as Facebook to Russian.
This can take some getting used to, but will is a great language learning tactic. If you are a gamer, you can also choose Russian in the language settings.
9. Sign up for Vkontakte.
Vkontakte is a Russian social media network similar to Facebook where you can find millions of native Russian speakers to practice your language with.
10. Learn new words in context.
Do not memorize words separately, as it will be hard for you to use them later on. LingQ makes this easy.
11. Immerse yourself in a Russian environment if possible.
Travel to Russia or any other Russian-speaking country. Find Russian friends online and go meet them in person.
12. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.
No one knows a foreign language perfectly, so use Russian whenever you can and don’t be embarrassed.
13. Believe in yourself.
Remember that practice makes perfect. You can reach your goal, you just need to keep at it and not be discouraged. You will have days where it feels as though you aren’t getting anywhere, but don’t give up!
Check out LingQ today to discover the best way to learn Russian from content you love!
If you are determined to learn Russian and follow this advice, you will see that with time it will get easier. Regular practice, original audio, books and consistency are the keys to success.
Make use of every opportunity where you can speak the language. Whether at school, in a business meeting or on vacation abroad, do not be shy; try to communicate in Russian, as that is the only way you can learn the language.
Ievgeniia Logvinenko is passionate about languages and holds a Master’s degree in English philology. In addition to English, she speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, German and basic French.