Is it true that russian grammar is difficult?
Hi Evgueny40...Thanks so much for the compliment about my Russian pronunciation. Having just listened to your 'First Steps' lesson 1, your English pronunciation is quite good, too. As you guessed, my lessons are indeed for absolute beginners and thus necessarily use English to explain things, but as soon as the requisite vocab has been accumulated, the ratio of Russian to English grows ever higher.
I should've commented earlier, because I totally agree with your earlier posts, especially where you mentioned the difficulties of English grammar (to say nothing of the insanity of English spelling.) Your point was spot on, and answered the O/P's question: All grammar is hard to non-native speakers. (Though I'd add that it depends on who the non-native speaker is. If your native language is one of the Slavic tongues, then Russian's case system and verb aspect approach aren't foreign to you.)
As for my choosing the Ukrainian flag....I've been living in Sevastopol, Ukraine for the past few years. It's a great place to study Russian because of the variety of native Russian speakers living there. In Sevastopol I've met people who've moved from Moscow, St. P, Murmansk, Vladivostok, and so on. (They're usually soldiers from Russia's Black Sea fleet which of course is stationed in Sevastopol.)
Of course, I was joking saying that English was terrible.
Actually, I like English like a lot of other languages.
But it irritates me when people complain about the 'horrible Russian Grammar' in compare with their native languages.
All native languages are obviously easier for the native speakers than foreign languages.
For Chinese the Chinese language is the easiest, for Russians it is the Russian language and so on.
But the logic of these languages can be very strange for non native speakers like a logic of English for English learners as well.
However, if you have some patience and time, you are able to overcome all difficulties and speak a new language well.
I saw some of your Russian lessons. They are rather interesting and can be useful for English speakers. I prefer not to explain so much in English when I'm teaching Russian, but it's maybe good for the absolute beginners. And besides Grammar patterns I prefer to introduce some simple topics to make the study more interesting. You can see my method in the Russian library of Lingq opening my courses ПЕРВЫЕ ШАГИ(First Steps):
or РУССКИЙ С НУЛЯ(Russian from zero).
But sometimes non-native speaker teachers can better see the 'hard nuts' for students than native speaker teachers. I can say it also from my experience because I teach not only Russian, but also German and English.
Your pronunciatian is rather well, my congratulations. I can't boast such a good pronunciation in English, that's why I often write my English lessons and then ask some English native speakers to record them for Lingq or for my school in St Petersburg. So, take my congratulations again!..
But why the Ukrainian flag?.. Or are you living right now there?
I wanted to learn a second language and I looked at a bunch of them. I was going to learn Swedish but one day I saw cyrillic and thought it looked really weird and wondered how people could read it. So I learnt the alphabet, just for fun I guess, but the more I learnt about the grammar and heard the sound of it the more awesome it became to me. I also like it for the same reasons you do, when you describe the sound as strong but graceful. I'm also a musician (though not professional) and for me learning Russian is just like learning a musical instrument. You have the same goal which is to master the instrument. I have a preference for Russian and not German in the same way I have a preference for the guitar and not the drums...but I have no idea why that is.
Hi btotheb....I started learning Russian so as to visit the Hermitage back in 2004. (As a fiercly independent traveller, I didn't want some tour guide telling me, "Okay, three more minutes with these Rembrandts everyone, then we're on to the Egyptian wing!") So at first, my goal was to learn just enough to get by. But as soon as I started studying Russian, I fell in love with the language. Can there be another language as beautiful as Russian? Their grammar is in most part based on rhyming which makes it incredibly poetic. I mean, even past tense verbs have to rhyme (in the femine and plural forms) with the "do-er" of the action. Incredible....And incredibly beautiful. To my ear (a musician by trade), Russian has the powerful masculinity of German and the flowing feminine grace of Italian. Once I heard it, I became obsessed, studying hours a day and really delving into how we learn languages.
And yourself? What draws you to Russian?
The cases and the verbs of motion can be really a shock for English speakers, but for Russian English learners is the same shock to know that there're so many verb tenses in English: 16 +10 =26!
They just don't understand who invented such a difficult system!..
And the English spelling they have been studying for many years and continue making mistakes by writing.
THe horrible, horrible and unlogical language where every second rule has an exception, but we have to study it!
mthomson, I watched the video. The SLT way is something I've always done since I first began Russian, pretty much for all the reasons in the video. It's also why I hate watching RU tv shows with Eng subtitles, because the Eng translation throws me off the Ru way of thinking. I'd much prefer a Ru tv show with Eng subs as literal translations, which would probably be really weird for some people but perfect for me.
I think I started learning that way because at first I was learning from song lyrics and would translate things word for word, that way I'd learn some nouns and verbs. I was told by someone who was helping me at the time that the SLT was not a good way to do things but I totally disagree, at least for the start. I've found after 2 years of learning I'm starting to learn more things that I can't apply LT to e.g "vse chiki puki" (some random thing I heard in a RU tv show.) Or some other things I can't remember right now, but they usually have some deeper roots in Russian culture/language so can't be translated word for word. Those things are the hardest for me to remember. mthomson, as a native Eng speaker why did you learn Russian language?
"Yes, it's horribly difficult. That is why Russians are given a dacha to enjoy in the summer and free word order, to make up for the instrumental case, the dative, the accusative, the genitive, the cigarette case, the suitcase and other cases, you probably haven't even heard of yet."
LOL. The main problem is that English has no "real" cases at all.
That must be a real culture shock for UK/US people (do they really learn at school what cases are?) start learning Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, or even German, Russian, or Turkish.
Ahh, I see what you mean, now, btotheb. Actually, I'm a native speaker of English, self-taught in Russian. Yes, it's amazing how much info can be packed into one Russian word. For me, the classic example are their VoM's (verbs of motion.) In English, if we say, "Steve went to the library," it's not clear if he's still there at the library, on his way there, or if he's gone and come back. In Russian, we'd know more. If he "khodil" (ходил) to the library, we know he went and came back. But if he poshol (пошёл) he went there but hasn't returned. (THough it's not clear if he's still en route.)
You also mentioned the importance of thinking in Russian, which I agree with. Here's a video I made that relates to thinking in Russian. You might find it interesting: http://russianmadeeasy.com/start-thinking-in-russian-with-slt/
Meanwhile, I stand by my own experience: Russian grammar is easy to learn. Yes, it takes a long time to master all the patterns, but that doesn't make it hard. In reference to Paolo's statement: Personally, I felt great abut myself and my success in the language during the learning process.
[Paolos - "in England we no longer learn grammar and it is something less based on rules and more easily picked up through communication" Right. You are picking up the grammar naturally...like a child does...learning the grammar through patterns as you communicate. Not learning rules. Just as mthomson said.]
I never said that learning grammar by rote was the most efficient way. I actually agree with your statement, however I was making the point that even when using the most natural method described above Russian grammar is far from easy. A child has a 'clean slate', and the benefit of immersion - hearing the language day in day out, so of course the right grammar drip feeds into him over time.
I then drew a comparison with Rosetta Stone, because they use the same rationale for their language programmes. But arguably they don't work, or would take an extremely long time to work, why? Because we are not immersed, and already think in another language.
Yes, of course Russian children can speak Russian before school. But it's true that they learn their grammar extensively at school and many struggle with it; here in England we don't study our grammar, nor is it difficult to not make mistakes.
Evgueny, I am glad we do not stick to 14th Century rules of spelling, because English would look quite different to how it does today! English is something of an oddity - not too difficult to learn to speak it but very hard to master for a non-native. Nearly every foreign person I know how has complained about its spelling!
I guess most languages have their own special difficulties for all learners or especially those who speak a certain language. But I stand by Russian grammar being difficult - if you're aiming to learn it and you believe it's easy, you're not going to feel very good about yourself during the learning process...
mthomson, when I said " If my brain had never been exposed to any language before I reckon it would more readily absorb Russian." I was thinking more about the big differences between RU and ENG. If you have learnt Russian yourself from a young age it would probably be hard for you to really understand what I mean and it's difficult for me to explain. I've heard people say before things like "you have to think in Russian" and I guess that's what I mean. For me Russian language has introduced a totally new and different way of conceiving language. I never knew language could even work the way it does until a couple of years ago. E.g the way so much information is compacted into one word in Russian when the same information would take a whole sentence in English is something my brain hasn't really encountered before and it's something it's had to get used to. Or things like how you can "open a door to" someone (otkrila dver tebe, if that's even right) in Russian but not open it "for" them like you can in English (otkrila dver dla/za). I guess what I mean is, your brain gets stuck in its old ways of thinking, like old habits die hard and it's difficult to introduce something new to it, but I do also believe the brain is very much designed as a language learning machine and no one is ever too old to learn a language or pretty much anything.
Hi btotheb: You're right...For sure, having a clean slate helps. As does round-the-clock, on-location immersion. (i.e. Growing up in a house full of native Russian speakers.) And as does the fact that an infants brain has twice the number of neurons as an adult brain. Those are all huge advantages.
And you're also right that learning to speak Russian by memorizing complex declension charts and tables feels impossible. Unfortunately it's the lazy ay of teaching used in so many courses and textbooks. Most native speaking teachers especially love to make new students memorize declension charts, (precisely because that's how they remember being taught in grade-school. But again, as is my main point: That's not at all how they actually learned to speak Russian grammatically.)
Because, as you pointed out, btotheb...As a child, did you learn to speak English by memorizing charts and cases? (English, after all, occasionally uses cases as well.) Nope. As I described above, you absorbed the patterns of how English words change and are used together at a very young age. For example, at age three, did you know when you were using a phasal verb? Not likely. Heck, most adult, native speakers of English don't know what phrasal verbs are...but they darn well know how to use them, and -- like all native speakers -- effortlessly apply the patterns to any new phrasal verbs they encounter in the future.
But to address your final point, btotheb, you wrote: " If my brain had never been exposed to any language before I reckon it would more readily absorb Russian."
It's not the exposure to English that has made it tough for you to absorb Russian. The human brain is a language learning machine. Instead, it seems the course you're using is focused on charts and tables and memorization. Therein lies the problem.
lol evgueny, what do you mean by "Why do you stick to the rules of 14th century in spelling???"
I read one time that Hungarian has like 100 cases or something but they aren't considered true cases and the true ones would be like 14. Anyway, I've looked a little at Hungarian grammar and it looks INSANELY HARD to say the least, but...if I weren't learning a Slavic lang I would definitely learn Hungarian because I think the grammar is kinda amazing. I mean, the reason I love Russian/ Slavic langs so much is because of the cases and how you can have a free word order. In English we don't have all those cases so they make a language seem beautiful and poetic to me :D
...Only trouble is actually learning them all :S
It's interesting that the most of people who complain of the difficulty of Russian or Russian Grammar are the English speakers, not the Germans that also have cases.
Cases are natural for many languages, they were also in Latin from which the most of european languages descended.
German has 4 cases, Russian has six cases, Polish and Czech have 7 cases, but Hungariane and Finnish have much more - 13 or 14 cases!
But nobody complaines about other languages, only about Russian!...
However, English has 16 active tenses and 10 passive tenses, together 26 tenses!!!..
And Russian has only 4 and practically 3 tenses.
THe English phrasal verbs are the headache of all English learners because they have often too many meanings that are impossible to remember!!!
THe English spelling is horrible!!!... Why do you stick to the rules of 14th century in spelling???
Look through the window - it's now the 21st century!.. THe time of changing your spelling is over 300 years ago!!!..
But if you speak seriously: the Russian Grammar is hard, but I repeat: You NEEDN'T to learn all grammar. Something you can receive just from listening and reading, something you pick up from your Russian friends automatically, but some basic rules you can read in the t5hinnest Grammar student book ot take from my courses here in the Russian library of Lingq, like РУССКИЙ С НУЛЯ (Russian from zero) and Первые шаги (First steps).
Perhaps you can't go so fast ahead like with English, but step by step you'll be able to reach ther Intermediate level that is quite enough to communicate with Russians and to visit to Russia.
At least my results as a teacher and results of my school in St Petersburg confirm it.
I always thought to myself...how do kids get so good at Russian despite the complex grammar. I'm sure they learn the same way we learn English, but I figured it's because their brains are like clean slates for language to go into whereas for my brain, which up to a couple of years ago only knew English, is used to only English patterns and concepts, so trying to conceive the Genitive case for e.g, especially when learning from grammar tables, just feels impossible at first. If my brain had never been exposed to any language before I reckon it would more readily absorb Russian.
Roseta Stone? Paolos...Who ever said anything about Rosetta Stone? I didn't. Rosetta sucks. They don't teach via pattern recognition, in fact they don't *teach* at all.
You then wrote, Paolos, that, "Russian children spend years learning grammar at school..."
That's not true. Russian children are absolutely fluent in all the basic patterns of spoken Russian before they ever set foot in school. Do they know all the *terms* like genetive case, and "1st person singular." Nope. That, as you said, does take a long time, but it's not grammar. That's essentially "pattern labeling" and comes after the primary patterns of speech have been learned.
Here's an example of what I mean about children learning patterns very early on. A 1 yr old Russian brain has noticed that, "Hmm, every time a speaker says the sound "ya" the next word -- an action word -- ends in an "uu" or "yu" sound." This pattern of Ya + something-something + uu or yu means he is talking about some action he does in general or is currently doing, or will do. (He then learns in school at age twelve or so that this pattern is known as the present or future tense conjugation of the first person singular for both perfective and imperfective verbs.)
Or this pattern: "Gosh, every time a speaker starts with the sound of "ti" there is an action word that ends with an "ish" or "eesh" sound. This pattern of Ti + something-something + ish or eesh means he is talking about some action that **the person he is talking to** does in general or is doing, or will do. He further notices that the person being spoken to is always young, or always a friend or relative of the speaker. (He then learns in school at age twelve or so that this pattern is known as the present or future tense conjugation of 2nd person singular for both perfective and imperfective verbs.)
What I've written is a transcript of what goes unspoken in the child's brain. At age 1, of course, he isn't using language himself. But he damn well is noticing these recurring patterns in the speech of those around him. And this is how he -- how we ALL -- learn grammar. By noticing the recurring patterns of how words change.
Paolos - "in England we no longer learn grammar and it is something less based on rules and more easily picked up through communication" Right. You are picking up the grammar naturally...like a child does...learning the grammar through patterns as you communicate. Not learning rules. Just as mthomson said.
I pick on that point because the concept is pretty simple (and obvious) really. Memorizing grammar rules is not how the brain best learns to speak. Great for passing grammar tests, but not speaking. So if you approach Russian grammar with a rule focused approach, your ability to speak will suffer or be delayed. As most teachers use a rule based approach and not a pattern based approach, of course the students are left confused. At the same time the teachers (even experts) are thinking that it's extremely difficult. Anything in life is made more difficult when using an inefficient method.
I have met many students of Russian language and several expert teachers, and never have I heard that Russian grammar can be easy. "By noticing the pattern of how words change, and would work together" is precisely what is so difficult in a language as complex as Russian, there are far too many combinations and possibilities, combined with trying to learn spellings, pronunciations and meanings, for it to ever be an easy task. Do not make the mistake that rosetta stone make, learning a language as an adult is different to a child. Russian children spend years learning grammar at school and some don't even fully get it, in England we no longer learn grammar and it is something less based on rules and more easily picked up through communication.
It doesn't have to be. If explained properly, Russian grammar can actually be pretty easy. The trick is to learn it the same way you absorbed English grammar as a child: By noticing the patterns of how words change, and work together. What you want to be sure to avoid though, is memorizing rules and lists of case endings. It's unproductive, and certainly not how native speakers learned to speak.
True, by learning grammar through patterns you'll occasionally make mistakes when a word follows some exception. But native speakers will understand why you made the error and will gently correct you. No big deal. (Think of the English speaking child who says,"Look, mommy, I **eated** the cookie!" That mistake is very telling because the child is simply applying the general pattern he's noticed, namely: When talking about the past tense, people seem to add an "ed" sound at the end of the action word. As a native speaker, you understand why the child said "eated" and you gently correct him: "We say 'I **ate** the cookie.")
It's easier to explain thisi dea of grammar through patterns with a video than by text alone, so if you'd like, you can watch a video I made on this topic here: http://russianmadeeasy.com/russian-grammar-made-easy-through-patterns/
Hope this helps!
After 2 years of learning Russian it's still hard for me but definitely not as hard as it was when I first started. Russian is my second language so going from Eng to RU has been way more difficult for me than someone going from a lang with more cases than Eng has. At times, in the beginning, learning the grammar felt impossible especially when you find there are a number of exceptions in the grammar rules. After a while it starts to make sense and the ride is smoother.
It's difficult enough to deserve respect and to not be disappointed by seemingly slow progress at the start. I'd say the case system is objectively complex, and the vocabulary is almost totally opaque, with only very few recognisable cognates (apart from modern politics / economics etc. where certain terms are shared in most european languages).
To some extent these things are subjective. I found Russian grammar the most difficult of all the languages I had studied up to then. Czech is similarly difficult. It is not just the endings, it is also the verbs of motion, and the aspects of verbs that give trouble. However, I loved learning Russian, and since much of my learning was passive, reading and listening, the grammar difficulties were no real obstacle. Gradually I became more familiar with the way Russian works, and after going back to the grammar explanations and examples often, especially using some of Evgueny's great grammar courses here at LingQ
and Учебная грамматика русского языка. Базовый курс. 53 модели
and after studying Czech, I am getting closer to the elusive mysteries of the grammar of Slavic languages.
A delightful journey which has greatly enriched my life.
Every new grammar is difficult and sometimes strange for non-native speakers.
For me the French and Spanish Grammars are very difficult and sometimes unlogical.
In Englesh there is an awful spelling and too many phrasal verbs and each of them has a lot of meanings.
THe German Grammar is more logical, but also not easy.
But we don't need to learn all Grammar of the languages.
We need actually not so much Grammar to make first phrases and to understand the others.
That's why don't be afraid of all Grammars including Russian Grammar.
Listen more, read more and gradually all the basic Grammar would be comprehensible for you.
My new teacher is a native Russian who speaks Arabic, French and English fluently and he believes that Russian grammar is indeed one of the most difficult in the world. To sum its grammar up as simply "having different word endings" rather does its complexity an injustice! However in terms of learning to speak it is not as such, though of course still difficult :) Being able to speak does not rely on being an expert at grammar. I am around B1 in Russian and it has taken me 3 years to get here (learning on and off), so don't be so hard on yourself Happycheeks, language learning is a long and arduous process which will frequently leave you feeling useless and wondering whether you are cut out for it.The main thing is to remember this is a difficult language and try to enjoy the process (otherwise it's difficult to keep going) and keep gradually chipping away at it. I'm looking at proficiency as a long-term goal, if it's more urgent for you there are other options open such as enrolling on a full-time HE course or going to live in Russia, where you could teach English as a FL for example.
Желаю вам успехов!
@ russophile82 :
"It is scientifically proven that different languages operate within different sections of the brain".
"Interesting....... Could you provide a study or an article that explains this fact ?"
I have also studied this in my Psychology courses. I will try to find the article the instructor gave us.
@ russophile82 :
"It is scientifically proven that different languages operate within different sections of the brain".
Interesting....... Could you provide a study or an article that explains this fact ?
Yes, Russian is very daunting for the English speaker at first: with the Cyrillic alphabet, different pronunciations, etc. But those are relatively quick and easy to master. In fact, Russian is a lot easier to read in terms of pronunciation than English (which is fairly irregular.)
I did have trouble comprehending meaningful sentences for a significant period of time, despite "knowing" most of the words. I no longer have that problem, though - it's just a part of the brain that needs flexing. (It is scientifically proven that different languages operate within different sections of the brain.) I read them slowly, but I do understand them - just as a young child reads their native language. As time goes on, we get better and faster at it.
It's very easy to be hard on yourself during the first year or so with Russian. It's an ego thing. Being adults, we expect to be perfect at everything way too soon. Language is such a deep-seated, almost primitive thing, that, naturally, it takes time to develop second-language acquisition. By that same token, our brains are also wired to learn language - so I don't accept all this negative nonsense about "extreme limitations" in learning a second language.
Who said that grammar = (plurals)/(genders)/conjugation/declension?
Maybe your post was written tongue-in-cheek, but if not, it's not the first post that suggests that grammar=plural/genders/conjugation/declension. Last October, I even read "One can rarely make grammar mistakes in Chinese."
That's a language myth if ever I saw one.
Russian grammar may be difficult, but it's mainly "different" from the grammar you've encountered in your native English. All verbs are conjugated according to person (like French); nearly all verbs come in aspectual pairs (unlike English or French); nouns, adjectives, numbers etc. are declined according to case (i.e. their function in the sentence) (also unlike English or French).
As long as you find that your motivated enough to keep studying Russian, do so.
The grammar of the Russian language is difficult, it's true. But not because it's Russian, because it's a language. The grammar of all languages is about equally difficult, says.....er....Chomsky I think.
The funny thing is, even primary school children can understand the grammar of at least one living language, given only enough exposure to the language.
Keep listening to Russian. You will get there. And make a lot of mistakes in the meantime. Fortunately for us language learners, mistakes don't hurt us. It's not like chopping a finger off with a circular saw.
I will continue to read and listen to russian. But I have learnt french and they have endings to words as well. So surely I'll be use to russian word endings. Thank you everyone for your advice. :)
Yes, Russofile said very well: Time, patience, motivation and daily exposure.
I could only add that Russian grammar is more dofficult for first levels as also the German one, but after that it's easier.
And don't be afraid of endings - yes, all Slawic languages have these endings, but they are unstressed, that's why they are very unclear, so add something like 'e' in all cases, and everybody can understand you.
And after a long exposure to Russian most of the endings will be automatically for you.
Good luck and pleasure with Russian!
It's easier than English grammar in some ways, but harder in others. The order of words is relatively freer in Russian, whereas it's very rigid in English. On the other hand, all the inflections in Russian does make the grammar quite a challenge to grasp, let alone to master. I can only speak for myself, however. I hate the inflections, and I hate learning about them. I'd hate them in any language. I only know them in English because it's my native tongue. But Russian is a beautiful and very logical language, and it's most definitely worth learning. I just hope I can pick up all the proper inflections without having to eventually agonize over grammar books. I've certainly come a long way from only knowing a 100 or so words since using LingQ. I think it's just a matter of time with language-learning - for me it certainly is. Time, patience, motivation, and daily exposure.
it depends on your goals.If you don't need to be fluent in Russian just take it easy and enjoy listening and reading.Forget about grammar,do simple tasks.Steve learns Russian this way and it works
From my mere 4-month exposure to the language, I can testify that Russian grammar is more difficult than, say, English grammar. But then 'difficult' is just a relative term.
Like you, I am motivated. So that doesn't really bother me. I just try to avoid grammatical explanations as much as possible. So far this tactic has been working well for me.
Of course I'm motivated. I still studied russian today.
I feel like I'm getting somewhere in russian but I wish I could achieve my goals without being put off.
You could try to find yourself a nice dark corner where you could hide or you could just continue enjoying chipping away at any language of your choice...
There is no law that says you need to be perfect!
Since it's impossible to learn russian should I just give it up? I should just focus on french. I can't do anything can I? -.-
I don't want to achieve a C2 just yet. I'm aiming for B1.
it's much more difficult than you think.If you want to achieve C2 level you'll have to work very hard with tremendous diligence.
Russian grammar is complicated and it takes a lot of time to learn it even for native speakers
I don't know everything in russian so I can't really translate my question to russian.
We can find it out if you try to translate your question to Russian without mistakes.