So you are thinking about learning Russian, but when you say it loudly and decisively sometimes you start to receive comments about unattainable skills and difficulties in learning this language. How to struggle with it? And where to start?
Let’s get a line Russian and have a look at some difficulties that may terrify learners at the starting line.
Ok, you want to explore Russian. You first step is probably to look at the Russian alphabet.
Pay attention to letters that differ from English ones.
It will always confuse you. Sometimes, it leads you to other words and diverse meanings. As soon as you understand that it is not the Latin alphabet, it become easier to learn new words and explore the new language (You know, Russian speakers have the same problem when starting to learn English).
You may even write and pronounce a word with a mistake just to correct yourself loudly saying: “no, I do not say POT in English meaning, actually I do say mouth in Russian!”
(pот in Russian means a mouth).
You don’t have to learn the word “Zdravstvuyte” in your first lesson. It is not the easiest word to pronounce and it should not discourage you when you are a beginner. Sometimes, you may see this word on a demotivator, saying that Russian is difficult in every example. You may find some special difficulties about every language in the world. There is no need to make it complicated and a bit scary, or hard to come by. It would be better to try to take it simply and with play.
You may simply say “Privet”.
At the beginning, you may hear that Russians speak extremely fast. According to some researchers upon language speaking rates, Russian is not among the rapid speaking leaders. Actually, come to think of it, it is a kind of illusion, Russian words are usually longer than in English or some other languages and all syllables are pronounced in words. When you learn Russian words and use it to practice actively, it becomes easier for you to recognize spoken words.
We do have a free order of words in Russian sentences.
It is a bit unusual for some language speakers. It doesn’t mean that we always speak in a poetic style (if it is not for a joke). Usually we inverse the word order to make an emphasis, to mark an important part of speech. Thanks to the Russian inflection system we can understand the meaning of a sentence in a free word order. It is like a puzzle where we add suffixes to each word to get the meaning.
Start to experiment from the beginning and change the word order in your sentences to get the difference and not to be misled by familiar word order in your native language.
We use sentences not just for expressing thoughts but also feelings.
So, another important point about inversion in a sentence is to show emotions. You may hear the same sentence with quite different intonations. The best way to practice the correct intonation is regularly listening to dialogs, podcasts, movies, audio books and radio, repeating and imitating actively.
When you read something in Russian try to read it out loudly to practice articulation and get more fluidity in speaking. It will help to make speaking with native speakers less stressful.
In Russian sentences we can have missing subjects or predicates. It means that we can say in a sentence.
Да, это он.
Темнеет. (it gets dark).
For example, we don’t need to have the verb “to be” or some other verb.
We do not use the verb “to be” as often as English speakers do. Usually, you can get the verb from the context.
Try to use multiple resources and text books. Some sites for learning Russian have good texts for reading, some provide good dialogs with conversational phrases and collocations and others have simple explanation of grammar.
Don’t learn everything about one grammar aspect at once.
Sometimes, learners try to deal with the most challenging language topics in the same order or at the same time. For example, learners of Russian try to struggle with 6 Russian cases following the order Nominative case, Genitive case, Dative case, Accusative case, Instrumental case and Prepositional case. Meanwhile, these cases format in different ways and some of them have more options to be used than others. So it would be easier to start from Nominative, Prepositional, Accusative, Dative, Instrumental and Genitive case. Genitive case is the most frequent case that’s why it contains a lot of application rules.
Also, there is no reason to learn all the cases in a complex way, trying to memorize all the rules and forms. To be able to communicate we should also talk about plans, wishes, feelings, actions. We cannot speak just in nouns and adjectives.
Why not combine learning cases with other grammar topics and alternate learning each case while learning new verbs?
For example, Russian past tense is really simple and you can get useful knowledge to make small talks about your past travels, events and hobbies!
Try to always pay attention to what you can say now, right after your lesson, what are your new possible phrases to talk about your interests and ask about the interests of others.
What about learning verbs of movement?
It should be really hard to remember all the prefixes and feel the difference at once.
Try to take several pairs of verbs of movement and do not keep standing still! Use it in situations you are walking or you are going to a shop and name these actions three-four times. It will help you to distinguish what verb to choose from a list of perfective and imperfective verbs.
Of course, it is quite safe to follow a plan in a course book, but most of all try to learn the topic you’re most interested in at the moment and you can practice it. Make your own plan and think what you would like to say and what topic you want to cover. Sometimes, it’s really interesting and curious to jump to a future topic in your text book and to learn the subject beforehand, in your own way.
For learning new words, you may use such great resources such as memrise or anki.
Also here you may find right images for called objects https://babadum.com/play/?lang=8&game=1
Do you know that there is a lot of foreign words in Russian language, that you may already know?
There are a lot of international words in Russian concerning IT, business issues and other fields.
For example, you may change some words in English with ending -tion (or Italian -zione, French – tion) and get the same words in Russian by just add the ending —ция. These words are motivation, globalization, decoration, situation, emotion, reaction etc.)
Experienced learners may find false friends (faux amis) here for translating http://sch-yuri.ru/transltn/false.htm
I am sure that you want to speak naturally and in modern style. But please make sure that you get the right conversational phrases even if you hear some words many times in songs and your friends use it. Try to check your understanding of the slang words and ask several people questions before using it “can they say it to a friend, in the company of their parents and in a talk with a boss on an official meeting”.
Do not miss learning words in creative and memorable approaches. You may try to connect different words such as chalk and cheese just in one sentence. These words may remind you of something or you may find a new unusual shape for a subject. Most of all, learning a language is not just about a goal and ability to speak language, but it also a process. And it should be a pleasant and inspiring regular activity.
Learn words with funny stories and interesting examples.
Your imagination can do more.