Приве́т! Have you downloaded the new MosaLingua Russian app? Are you ready to get started? Follow these tips to learn Russian and give yourself the best chance for success.
Attitude is Everything
Here comes one of the simplest tips to learn Russian that you’ve ever heard: stay positive. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already motivated to start (or continue) learning the language, which is great. A good attitude about the Russian language is key to getting off on a good foot. Do this for me: grab a pen and paper, or your tablet, and jot down a list of all of the reasons you want to learn Russian. What attracts you to the language? What do you love about it? How will you be a better person once you can converse in Russian? Great, now keep this list somewhere handy.
You have a positive outlook now, which is awesome. But attitude is just as important throughout the process as it is at the beginning. Face it: language learning can be frustrating. Think back to this article in 3 months when you’re in a slump or feel like you aren’t making progress as quickly as you’d like to be. Refer back to that list of reasons you wrote down for why you started learning Russian in the first place, and what you love about it. Remember that language learning is a process, and doesn’t happen overnight. This blogger shares a touching story about how he got rid of negative thoughts about learning German and persevered.
Don’t Waste Your Time
All of these tips to learn Russian also apply to other languages, but this one is particularly important for Russian. As you may know, Russian is a complex language. Later on, when you really want to achieve fluency, you will need to spend time memorizing verb endings for the six different cases. But on day one (or even day 100), don’t waste your time with too much grammar. This is the best way to get down on yourself and give up.
We really suggest defining some goals before you start learning, and adapting the content you learn to these specific needs. Ask yourself practical questions such as, “How much does it matter if my accent is perfect?” and “How much does proper grammar matter?” as well as, “What kinds of things might I need to talk about?”
Going on a business trip to Russia? You’ll need lots of professional and formal vocabulary, as well as some basic social skills. Your accent needs to be good enough to be understood, and your grammar should also be at a professional level. You probably don’t need to focus on pick-up lines. Do you want to travel to a Russian-speaking country for vacation? You may need to know some restaurant and hotel vocabulary, and how to ask for directions. You probably don’t need to know how to read Russian literature.
At least in the beginning, focus on small wins (like the Pareto principle: learn 20% of the things you’ll be able to use in 80% of situations) and not nit-picky details of the language.
Get Hip to the Times
We live in an amazing era. In just the last thirty years or so, the average person’s access to knowledge and information has grown exponentially. Instead of using this access to spend hours chuckling at silly memes or stalking your ex-boyfriends on Facebook, use it to learn Russian! (Note: we do not condone stalking.)
Before the advent of the Internet, Russian was a fairly inaccessible language to learn. Although it did go through a hike in popularity around the time of the Sputnik launch, interest in the Russian language quickly faded and those who were still interested in learning it had to rely on hard copies of textbooks, or if they were lucky, trips to Russia. Due to Russian’s rather complex grammar, it is difficult to learn on your own this way, and easy to get discouraged (see above!). If you needed more explanation or exercises beyond your books, good luck to you!
Well, we now have the great fortune to be living in 2017. This means nearly unlimited access to content, motivation tools, and support that can all give you the boost you need to succeed in learning the Russian language.
Why People Don’t Trust the Internet, and Why You Should
Some old-school learners might be hesitant to turn to the Internet for language learning. This attitude is largely due to the fact that language is taught in schools. Thus, we tend to equate language with “school subjects,” along with things like math and science.
But language learning is actually almost always more effective outside the classroom. In fact, there are lots of reasons why traditional language classes aren’t as beneficial as you think. First, the curriculum is usually set in stone, so learners don’t learn what will actually be useful for their unique circumstances. Also, classroom learning will hardly ever move at the perfect pace for you – you may need more time to master a certain concept, or you may spend weeks going over something you already know by heart. Another reason is that it just isn’t usually very fun; I’m sure you have *fond* memories of grammar drills and spelling tests. Enough said.
All this to say, give e-learning a try. There are tons of apps to help with language learning, websites to find language partners, and just plain fun content in Russian (and even plenty of other tips to learn Russian).
To a Russian! Marrying a Russian speaker is by far the best way to learn the language. Just kidding. Well, kind of. Finding a Russian conversation partner is an excellent learning strategy, which we’ll discuss a little later. But you don’t have to take your commitment as far as marriage in order to successfully learn Russian.
“Getting engaged” simply has to do with how you approach language learning. Language learning is an active process, not a passive one (although it may be possible to improve your language skills while you sleep, or even under hypnosis… but that’s a topic for another time). It’s great to read about a language, and study its grammar rules and vocabulary, but when it comes time to actually speak it, this method won’t get you very far. Successful language learning requires hands-on practice.
Putting Our Tips to Learn Russian Into Action
This is why we encourage learners to vary their learning activities, especially for Russian. Always think about how you can make your learning more active. For example, watching movies in Russian is a great way to improve listening comprehension skills and learn about culture. How can you take this activity a step further and really engage with the content? Practice watching it without English subtitles, or tell a friend (in Russian, of course) about the plot and what you thought of it after you finish watching.
Interested in music? It’s great to add some Russian songs to your YouTube playlist, but how can you engage with the music? Well, first try listening to the song and picking out words or phrases you understand. Hum along without reading the lyrics in order to pick up on the correct pronunciation. Then, read and translate the song’s lyrics, and sing along. As a bonus, organize a Russian karaoke night with your friends!
We suggest tons of other Russian resources, most of which you can access online for free, on this page. Also, be on the lookout for MosaLingua language challenges in the near future.
Phone a Friend
Last but not least, one of my favorite tips to learn Russian: make a Russian-speaking friend! Or several! This goes back to the idea of engaging with language and putting your skills to work. Find a conversation partner and throw yourself into your first Russian conversation. People on these types of exchange websites won’t judge you, because they are language learners, too! You can always prepare for your conversation ahead of time by practicing specific vocabulary or expressions for topics you think you might like to talk about.
Your conversation partner will prepare you for real-world situations, too, and you will be less likely to clam up if you really need to communicate something in Russian. They can correct your mistakes in an informal and relaxed setting, and share more about their culture with you. Find out how to get the most out of your conversation partner experience. Who knows, you may even develop a long-distance friendship with your partner, and get the chance to visit them in Russia!
Keep these tips to learn Russian handy as you begin your language learning journey. Good luck, and happy learning!