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ca   Canada

One Year Update on Russian - how far I got and observations

June 20 at 19:44

I've done two six months stints trying to learn Russian listening comprehension with a goal to being able to understand netflix.

My method is a little different than most lingQ folks because I'm not really too focused on reading. In fact I'm mostly using lingQ to click on words consecutively so I can "hear" the sentences. I've also used the mini-stories mp3s and listened to them repeatedly over and over and over. My main method is mp3 words in anki (from the top 10,000 frequency list and here and there when I see a word I "like" on lingQ).

So here's how far I got and then I'll give my observations:

Quantitavely I have 15K words on lingQ. I have 7500 words in anki. I have about 700+ hours listening.

Qualitatatively I can just about read children's books (something around the level of the Narnia books or somewhere less than Harry Potter). I wasn't too too focused on reading, however, so I've mostly gotten this as a side-effect of seeing the cyrrilic repeatedly while I'm hearing the word in anki (or in lingQ).

On the spoken side I can understand schoolteacher style Russian pretty decently. I can understand this conversation pretty solidly:


I have a harder time understanding telenovelas (the "easy" level of TV shows). This one I can just about understand but not quite:


I can't understand my target TV show (Better than us) on netflix though I can get snatches of it here and there (most sentences I don't understand everything, at most 30%):


I think I'm a pretty solid intermediate level on listening. My spoken skills are there (I can string together sentences) but they are weak. My active grammar sucks (though I can understand it pretty well).


I spent very little time on speaking, very little time on reading, zero time immersed. All of this has been from my computer. Almost purely audio/video input and anki.

This is the third time I've done my method. I've done it twice before with Spanish and also with French.

Both for Spanish and French I did the same as for Russian with anki. I spent six months cramming anki.

In the case of Spanish at six months I essentially used the Will Hart method: I immersed. A year or a little more after that I probably hit advanced. My Spanish feels like English to me and I'm solidly functional in it without having to do any further studies.

With French I stopped anki at six months and I didn't do any more.

With both French and Russian, differently than for Spanish I did no immersion and essentially no speaking.

So my takeaway is this: you can get to a solid intermediate level of listening purely by input combined with audio anki in six months with an "easy" language and in about a year with a "difficult" language.

I can't say (because I haven't done it except with Spanish) whether it is a requirement to immerse to move the language from intermediate to solid advanced/fully functional.

Next Steps:

Although both French and Russian were "experiments" I don't plan to "drop" Russian like I did with French because I want to get it to a solid level.

I don't, however, want to be studying for another x years. I want to get it to "done" so I can move on to another (probably mandarin).

So, since I don't plan on getting myself a Russian girlfriend nor do I plan to immerse in Russian culture, I'm left with figuring out how to get to a solid level from my living room.

I'm going to spend the next six months continuing with lingQ as well as additional anki and also do something like glossika as well as chat with Russian speakers through something like italki.

I hope that will be enough to get me over the finish line in six months more. If not I'll just continue on lingQ after that.