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25 Tips for English Speakers to Learn Russian

Updated on February 6, 2018

Beautiful Russia

Remote Immersion

As an American with very little access to native Russian speakers, I have spent a lot of time researching how to best learn Russian remotely. Because I was unable to immerse myself in the language as most linguists recommend, my fluency was very limited. Luckily, the internet is available to help bridge the gap. And because most of us can't just hop on a plane and disappear into the beautiful Moscow streets for a few years, I hope that the tips I've learned will help you, too.

Doing the footwork provided me with the necessary knowledge to help other people in similar situations. One of the most difficult things about learning a new language can be not having other people around to converse with, as you would if you were living in a foreign environment. Thanks to websites like iTalki.com, and phone apps like What's App, languages are now a little easier to pick up, because learners are provided with access to native speakers of many different languages.

Although I've written this article specifically for people hoping to learn the Russian language, many of the tips here are also applicable to learning any foreign language.

Why Russian?

Why did you choose to learn Russian?

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Tip Me!

Because it's easy to focus on only one facet of learning, necessary areas are often neglected and result in limited fluency. It's counterproductive to study a limited range of skills, and ultimately will be a waste of time. It is absolutely necessary to have a well rounded program if your ultimate goal is actual communication. Ten minutes of properly studying are far more effective than an hour spent studying incorrectly.

That being said, make sure you:

  • Repeat the words out loud. This exercises your muscle memory and allows you to hear the words. Many times the words 'sound' differently in our heads than when we say them out loud.
  • Write the words, as you say them. This will help you to remember each shape of the word, and will create a visual memory.
  • Think of pictures, or funny ideas to help you associate the words with something relevant to you.
  • Utilize all of your tools––internet, phone apps, multiple books, and other people.
  • Constantly change up your technique. This prevents boredom, and helps you to continue wanting to learn the information.
  • Love the language and culture. It will make you more excited about studying

Below is a youtube video by Russian artist Glukoza. I've included it here because the tune is very catchy, and the song is at a slow enough pace that it is a little bit easier for beginners to learn to sing.

Glukoza

More Hints

  • Work on grammar, while learning vocabulary. Often the same word is spelled many different way because of conjugation. If you don't know why the word is changing, you won't use it or remember it properly and it will be confusing.
  • Study the list of 1000 most commonly used Russian words, and begin trying to use them.
  • Rely on context clues and try to figure out words that you don't know.
  • Listen to Russian music, and watch Russian videos, even when you don't know what is being said. Hearing the language will help you speak it. A very funny Russian show is "Kitchen", which you can find on youtube.com and Amazon.
  • Practice as often as possible, and don't neglect your studies.
  • Talk to your friends and family, even if they don't understand what you are saying. It will help build confidence in speaking the language.
  • Skype with native speaking Russians. They usually aren't shy about correcting your Russian language, and they are generally very helpful. It's easy to meet Russians interested in helping you on italki.com.
  • Try using new words even if you cannot say them in a full sentence. It will help you learn the words by saying something like, " I люблю you". Then you will remember the word for love as it applies to you.
  • Quiz yourself often. Even if you hate taking tests and think you will be okay without them.

Russian Culture

"Demonstration on October 17th, 1905" by Russian artist, Ilya Repin
"Demonstration on October 17th, 1905" by Russian artist, Ilya Repin | Source

Finally the End!

  • Review often. Just because you have learned a word, doesn't mean that it will stick, unless you review it often.
  • Read the Russian word and know what it means, then read the English word and translate it into Russian. For example, ask yourself, "What is the Russian word for 'love'?" This will help you mentally access the words you need.
  • Play games with yourself, and sing little songs.
  • Learn to sing Russian songs. It will help you string sentences together and remember words. It also will help you to become more culturally aware.
  • Take 'tours' of Russia. You can use Google Maps to 'walk' along the streets of Moscow. Seeing what the people are wearing and what advertisements look like can be a fun little adventure.
  • Relax. If you need a break, even if it is several days––take it. You need to love learning Russian, or it will be unnecessarily difficult for you.
  • Stay up to date with Russian words and sentences. Languages change, so make sure you're using the most recent verbiage.
  • Take advantage of life's little intervals, and practice when you have a moment free. That means, listening to Russian music or vocabulary on the way to work in the morning. Or leave one of your Russian books in the bathroom.
  • Label all of the things in your house. This will provide visual reference for items that apply to you.
  • And one more time, review, review, review. You WILL forget what you spent a long time learning. Constantly reviewing will help it become second nature.


Top 3 Helpful Language Learning Websites

  1. italki: Learn a language online You can find language exchange partners, practice speaking a foreign language, ask questions, find free online language resources, and get help from an international community.
  1. Most Common Russian Words - Top 1000 Russian words

    Frequency list of 1000 most common words in Russian. Includes top Russian words with English translations. Learn most used nouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives and other vocabulary words

  2. Learning, powered by imagination. - Memrise

    The Memrise community uses images and science to make learning easy and fun. Learn a language. Learn anything.

Fun Russian

St. Basil's Cathedral
St. Basil's Cathedral | Source

Farewell

Even with all of these helpful tips and exercises, the most important thing to remember is that in order to be successful at anything, you must practice. Most of the time learning a language is very fun, but as with anything, it takes effort to become truly great at it.

I hope that you enjoyed this article, and that you will become wonderful at using Russian. Thank you so much for reading this list of tips and hints. Also, I’d love to hear from you if there are any tips that you would like to add, or things that you’ve found particularly helpful.

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