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How to learn Russian, fast

by tim on November 16, 2012

This week we take a break from Trips and Tales and our relentless romp through Mongolia to look at learning Russian, which may come in handy while on the Russian leg of your Trans-Siberian trip

Russian is one of the Slavic languages and is spoken by around 170 million people worldwide. It is also a second language to a further 100 million people. It is spoken in some 30 countries other than Russia itself. It is also a language that has been used to write some of the world’s greatest literary works, from Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky.

You may want to learn a few local phrases to help you get by if you are going on a trip to Russia. But if you want to spend time mastering the language and becoming fluent for some other reasons, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that Russian isn’t a difficult language to learn. You will be able to pick up the basics in no time if you use natural and intuitive approaches to learning it.

Strolling in Moscow - knowing some Russian phrases may be of helpLearning by speaking

Practice speaking the language as much as you can by using audio files or CDs. By using repetition you will start to memorise usable words and phrases and also start to pick up the flow of the language. If you focus on voicing the words you start to hear the differences between them and how they are used in relation to one another. Listening and speaking are the basic ways to learn any language.

Here are some links to language learning services on the internet:

Learning by reading

Once you have started to learn the basics of speaking Russian the next stage is to learn how to read Russian.

The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet and the earliest records of the language date back to the 10th century. The earliest versions were Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic. Modern Russian took shape during the reign of Peter the Great (1672-1725), who introduced a revised alphabet for Russians to use.

Initially, try to read simple words and sentences where the meaning of them is clear, and then move onto more difficult words and sentences. A good piece of advice is to not learn the alphabet first as this won’t really help you to learn to read the language.

Learning to type Russian is also a good way to learn the language quickly. It won’t take long to learn the Russian keyboard and this will help you to become familiar with the letters and words. If you use this method as soon as you start to learn the language, it will help to commit letters and words to your mind in a practical way.

The most important thing is to practice as often as you can and to enjoy it.

Common obstacles when learning a language

The following are a few things to avoid if you don’t want to become frustrated by the process of learning Russian.

  • Trying to learn too much too soon. Rather than learning the language faster it can actually cause confusion, which can lead to frustration and be a turn off. When you begin you need to take baby steps and then gradually build up as your understanding becomes more acute. When it comes to language the act of cramming doesn’t work.
  • Russian is no different to any other language in that it can be quite confusing at times. Don’t be discouraged by this as it will all make sense in time. The grammar can seem far more complicated than it actually is and the rules and principles will become clearer the further you come to understanding the language.
  • Don’t waste lots of time trying to get your pronunciation correct. This will improve over time the more you use the language and interact with other Russian speakers. The most important thing is that the Russians you speak to understand what you are saying rather than how you are saying it. Your pronunciation will improve in accordance with your improving understanding, so stay focused on learning and speaking the language.
  • Use as many possible methods to learn the language as you can. Don’t just use one. Use online courses, go to classes at your local college, spend time mixing in Russian communities or listen to Russian TV. There are so many ways to help you learn the language, so don’t get fixated on only one method as you may become frustrated with it and give up. If you have quite a few methods to use and one doesn’t work for you, then you have others to keep you on track.

[Photo by Ken and Nyetta]

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