Expect More Russian Learning Content Next Year

I wrote a few posts about the Russian language this year, some of which were somewhat popular, but it seemed that most of my readers were either people interested in Italian, or people interested in language-learning in a broad sense. Thus, I didn't make Russian much of a focus in my writing this year.

However, I have always been very enthusiastic about the Russian language, and I have no doubt conveyed a lot of that enthusiasm in various ways, both through what I write here, and with the things I do and say elsewhere. And I find it really exciting that many people seem to have picked up on my enthusiasm for the Russian language!

I have received several messages, comments, and emails from people telling me they're interested in starting on Russian in 2011, and asking for my advice and/or help. For me, this is really exciting, because I think Russian is a beautiful language, but the perception of its difficulty sometimes scares people off from learning it.

Is it difficult? No. People in Russia speak Russian fluently at 5 years old. If a 5-year-old can do it, so can you. It's not difficult, it's different. In order to speak and understand Russian, it's necessary to learn a new way of thinking. And that's the part that isn't easy. Lessons, and courses, and teachers all teach the language, but I've never seen one that teaches how to think differently.

It requires work. Did I learn to speak Russian in one year? Yes. But am I much better after two years? Yes. And do I still have trouble sometimes? Yes. Learning new vocabulary, learning new pronunciation, learning new sounds and grammar... these things aren't so difficult. But learning a new way to think? That is a real challenge! Fortunately, I can promise you it's a challenge that's worth the effort.

Thus, while Russian obviously is not my language choice for the coming year, it will be a subject to which I will dedicate more time and attention, in hopes that those of you learning Russian can benefit from the things I've learned, and also from the mistakes I've made.

As you'll learn soon, I've also got an exciting new strategy for language learning in the next year which I think will be particularly helpful for langauges like Russian, which are so very different from our own. If you're a subscriber to my email list you already know about this exciting new strategy. And if you're not a subscriber, this is just an example of what you're missing out on... so go fill in your info over there on the right, and get subscribed to the email list!

To all of you who have discovered a fascination with the language that has changed my entire life, stay tuned! I can't wait to help you learn all the beautiful and interesting details of the Russian language which continues daily to capture my soul.

Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.

Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • Hi Randy,Just wanted to share some of your excitement about Russian - and I totally agree that is a beautiful language! On top of that, there's a good number of other Slavic languages sharing quite close similarities with Russian (Ukrainian, Polish, Belarusian) and whenever you'd have to communicate with, say, a Polish person who doesn't speak any other language, it would actually be possible by using Russian, I know it from my own experience!I have to admit that I haven't been actively using Russian for many years since I live in Ireland. On those rare occasions when I have to speak it I'm struggling big time. Unfortunately if you don't use it, you slowly lose it... My understanding, however, hasn't changed and I can fully understand Russian in all life situations, which is amazing considering I don't use the language at all. It's probably down to the fact that I learnt it when I was little and at that age language does ingrain itself very deeply into one's brain...Anyway - it would be great to read more of your experiences with using Russian next year, keep the blog posts coming! ;-)

  • Good news, Randy, but I can see it's a "side project", right? I bet you will select yet another language to become fluent in, in 2011? (Sorry if I am somehow managed to miss your next mission announcement)And if you want to practice your Russian - я всегда к вашим улугам! ;)

  • Right, I've learned how to read it (it doesn't really take long) and am now reading texts, looking up words in a dictionary and also listening to podcasts in Russian (albeit not understanding anything). Is this a good way to start?All the words seem to be squashed together when I hear Russian, sounding completely different from the transcripts I've found for them. Do I just get accustomed to this the more I listen?Finally, what would be the best online Russian dictionary you could recommend? I downloaded a free one on my iPod but it's just english to russian, and not the other way around.edit: With regards to your e-book: Are you going to put a price on it like Benny did or are you going to give it away like Ramses?

  • Sounds like a very good way to start.All the words are squished together in *any* language you don't know. :)
    You'll get more accustomed to it over time.Best online dictionary: www.wordreference.com/ruen/
    On iPod I use: enga And regarding the e-book, it won't be free, but it won't be outrageous either.

  • Спасибо!
    Да. Главный проект на 2011 я еще не сказал здесь. Но, те люди которые записались на моем майл-лист уже знают. ))

  • That's just the tip of the iceburg -- if you don't mind a bit of indirect language. I've got a lot of other exciting things planned for 2011!

  • Yeap, I know - and I really look forward to your brand new method of learning a language 100% natural way. It's something I haven't done myself, and to be honest I don't know anyone who has. You'll be a perfect example to point out to any traditional methods proponent!

  • That's what I'm hoping for! Well... specificially, I'm hoping 1) to be successful, and then 2) to use that success as an example for others. This experiment has the potential (I think) to turn language-learning on its head.

  • you sound like a real american, think you can speak a language when you can order a drink in the bar :) haha

  • At least I don't sound like a douchebag... like you.

  • Russian is definitely on my hit-list so I'll be interested in hearing your take on it. I definitely like some in-depth analysis on just WHERE Russian is useful (besides, obviously, Russia) because I've heard a lot of conflicting data on this: it's spoken to the exclusion of just about anything else in Ukraine (that is, most people there use Russian as their day-to-day language instead of Ukrainian), no wait they mostly speak Ukrainian there Russian is "the language of the oppressor" so don't use it, they use it in Lithuania and Latvia, no wait they prefer English actually, etc. etc. In other words I know it's useful in other Eastern European countries but I'm really confused on just where and when it's supposed to be useful exactly.Cheers,

  • WTF? He didn't even say that. You're a fucking idiot, go away.

  • Russian was, obviously, the de facto language of the Soviet Union. So those who are old enough to have grown up under Soviet education are likely Russian speakers. But in many of the FSB countries, there is indeed an air of hatred toward that "Russian oppressor".What you find is that people over 30 speak Russian first, and their country's language second. Whereas people under 30 speak their country's language first, and (often) English second.Ukraine is an interesting case, because in spite of being one country, it is really for all practical purposes, two different nations. West Ukraine speaks Ukrainian and has no love for Russia. East Ukraine speaks Russian and often has allegiance to Russia.I don't know about Latvia, but you could ask Robbie! Russian is remains as the main language of Kazakhstan, and is the primary language in use in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.But for practical purposes, all you really need to know is that 200 million people in the biggest country on earth (and one of the most economically powerful) speak only Russian.

  • It's like the holidays bring out the idiots. Nah... they're around all the time, but i swear I've seen more hateful posts this December.

  • Meh. It's life. When more people read, more of those readers must, by mathematical law, be idiots.

  • I am so excited! I absolutely love Russian! I tried teaching myself Russian a few years ago but quit because I was studying another language in school at the time. Then a few years later I moved to Ukraine for a couple of years. I learned quite a big of Russian there, but not as much as I wanted to learn. So I'm still studying it. I'm taking a class, but trying to keep improving on my own because most of the class is pretty far behind me. The other day I was actually thinking of e-mailing and asking for a couple of suggestions. The only one I remember at the moment was, "Is there any Russian music you would suggest?" I'm looking forward to reading more about Russian!

  • It depends on what you like. For Russian, I dig their pop music, even though most people would tell you it's kind of bad. So I'm into Звери and Тату, and a bunch of other crap that I could never admit to in public! :) If you liked Ukraine, you might dig Бумбокс — they're really good, but more of their songs are in Ukrainian, and fewer in Russian. I'm also a sucker for "shanson", and the biggest name in that is Михаил Круг.Please feel free to email any time. That's why my email address is public.

  • Thanks! I like a lot of different music. I'm not too much into constant angry screaming, but other than that I'm not too picky. I hadn't heard of Звери before. I checked them out on youtube and they sound pretty cool. I'll definitely be looking them up more later. :) I looked up Бумбокс and the first song I found was one I'd actually seen on tv while I was in Ukraine. So that was a cool flashback. :) I heard a lot of cool songs, but since I didn't watch the music station as much the second year and didn't understand much the first year, I don't remember a lot of singers or songs. I'm listening to Михаил Круг at the moment. :) I mostly have Ани Лорак, Потап, and New 'Z' Cool for Russian music at the moment, so now I'll have some more to look into! Thanks again. :)

  • With your post, you've summed up what I think of Japanese.
    The vocabulary isn't more difficult than any vocabulary in a new language. The grammar is pretty much consistent and logical (IMO, more than in English or French). The writing system is what it is: you like it or you hate it, but if you want to get by in Japanese you don't need to dug to deep in it.
    For me the main point is to learn to think like Japanese people do in order to speak "Japanese" Japanese, not a foreign version.I'm looking forward to hear more about Russian and new learning processes in 2011!

  • Hi Andrew, I'm a native Latvian and here's what happens behind the scenes in my home country (I guess the scenario is similar in other former USSR republics more or less).About 30 - 50% of the country's population (I've no real figures, this is just my guestimate) are native Russian speakers.During the soviet industrialization there was massive migration going on throughout the whole USSR. Typically a factory of some sort would have been built and a town made of of apartment houses would follow shortly. To supply this great number of factories with workforce, the obvious choice was to move people over from other USSR republics - Russia, Ukraine, Belarus etc.Quite naturally, Russian was the common language, and EVERYONE spoke it back in the days - ethnic Latvians as well, because it was, as Randy said, the de facto language.After the republics gained their independence, Russian lost its official language status in many of these new countries where national languages are spoken - Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania (sorry, I'm not sure about the rest...) but it was still being used, of course, by Russian speaking communities, and it still is!Chances are that if you walk the streets of any former USSR capital, every second person you'll bump into is going to be a Russian speaker.The story is different with younger folks from the native speaking background - as Randy said, many under 30's these days don't need to use Russian as it's not the official language when dealing with authorities etc.However, the Russian communities have their own young generation growing - and they ARE Russian speakers. In many Riga's suburbs, for instance, you'll hardly hear any Latvian spoken at all, but many small towns, on the other hand, would be nearly made up from Latvian speakers.Realistically speaking, Russian is spoken throughout the former USSR (and also partially in other former soviet block countries like Poland etc. - but I guess only the older generation would know it) unless you hit a SPECIFIC region where it's not used due to a very high % of native language speakers.As for English - the only county I know where it would really come handy is Estonia - they've very close ties with Finland (same language group, close economic relations) and it can be actually considered similar to Scandinavian countries where English is used much more than in the former USSR. (Also Estonians would actually dislike Russian language so I'd say you're not going to hear it used that often in Tallinn.)In my country, for instance, English is of course taught as a second language at schools (instead of Russian which was a compulsory subject 20 years ago) but there's a HUGE difference.Russian was used (and still is used) in REAL life. If 50% of population in Riga are Russian speakers, you'll definitely meet a Russian speaking bank official, shop-assistant, etc.No so with English - it's not USED in Latvian daily life apart from nightclubs where there's loads of British tourists taking advantage of cheep booze ;-), and my own story tells how 'well' a typical foreigner can speak having studied English exclusively at school. I thought I was a good speaker until I arrived in Ireland - I realized that real-life English is so much different...Lastly - a small correction on Randy's comment that people over 30 would speak Russian first and their country's language second. It's only true if we look at native Russian speaking people. (Also many of them wouldn't speak Latvian at all because they didn't need it back in the days when Russian was the official language.)If we look at those over 30's who are native language speakers (like me - I'm a native Latvian), Latvian would be their first language, and Russian second.Hope this sheds a bit more light on your query! ;-)P.S.
    Have to also add that Russian is very similar to a number of Slavic languages like Ukrainian and Belarussian so even if you happen to visit a local village of native Ukrainian speakers, for instance, you'd still get by using Russian - and their possible dislike towards Russian as an opressor's language would be definitely mitigated by the fact that you're not a native Russian speaker!

  • Thanks for the small correction. I spoke too broadly there, and you definitely put it much better than I did.

  • No bother at all! Hет проблем! ;-)

  • WOW, thank you so much for that, that was extraordinarily informative and useful. I really would like to travel through Eastern Europe and I've always wondered if it would be possible to generally get by pretty well with just English and Russian, as opposed to having to learn every single local language (Estonian, Latvian, Ukrainian, etc.). Sounds like I would be ok.Now, a question to clarify, I would primarily be interested in being able to speak to younger people (under 30 or so), so...would most of them be able to fluently speak either Russian or English, even if they don't often use either, or would it really be either the local language (Latvian, Ukrainian, etc.) or nothing? If I want to live in, say Latvia or Ukraine, for 6 months or a year and be able to socialize with the younger crowd there, do I need to learn the local native language or would Russian suffice? I suspect I'd have to learn whatever the most commonly used local language was.Thanks again.Cheers,

  • I keep hearing that about English, which is a damned lucky thing for us English speakers, we really did get amazingly lucky with English being the current lingua franca of the world, it makes traveling immensely easier for us (plus there are a lot of places where speaking English is seen as a status symbol and consequently being a native speaker of it automatically gives you a bit of status).Cheers,

  • Thanks!

  • Hi Andrew, no probs, I'm happy to help!If we talk about GETTING BY, English combined with Russian would definitely do! First of all - if the crowd you communicate with are native Russians living in that country - they'd speak Russian of course. Secondly, if they're local natives, many of them would also be Russian second language speakers, and most of them would also understand and speak English because it's taught at schools and we also have to factor in the influence of English media (music, films, Internet).What I meant in the previous comment by saying that you won't get to talk to locals in English is that you won't probably get to chat with them at a near-native level similar to that you can expect from a Russian conversation with a local under 30's chap who speaks Russian as a second language. For travelling purposes and to get by, however, it'll be more than enough!But hold on... Am I trying to discourage you from learning local languages on a language learning blog? :-)) Of course, if you want to cover all eventualities, you can learn the local language in case you're stuck with a bunch of uneducated country-side natives who don't speak/understand neither Russian or English.Assuming, however, that you'd be probably living in the capital of the country and hanging out with modern and open-minded younger folks, speaking Russian and English will get you through 99% of situations.

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