Russian is one of the most widely spoken native languages in Europe. It belongs to the Slavic group of the Indo-European language family. The total number of Russian language speakers around the world is estimated to be from 255 to 285 million.
Russian is one of the five official languages of the United Nations and ranks as the major world language along with Chinese, English, Spanish, and Hindi. It is the native language of 142 million citizens of the Russian Federation, the world’s largest country.
As the language is widely spoken and ranked in the major languages of the United Nations there are many benefits from being able to communicate with all kinds of people in all types of situations in Russian-speaking countries and beyond.
Listening Skills may be more important than you think
Learning how words sound and practicing how to use them are both invaluable skills to develop, but people often forget that in addition to speaking, writing and reading we have to develop our listening skills in a foreign language as well. This is a common issue that all language learners face at some point or another.
The truth is, it’s actually a good problem to have because only students with a higher level of scale will experience it. When you know a lot of the language, but face trouble understanding native speakers, the problem is always with your listening skills. Mastering a language is a slow and gradual process. You have to be able to read, write, listen and speak in the language to become fluent at it.
Enhancing your listening skills has the unique ability to build your confidence – you’ll feel that you can tackle any situation without fear of being embarrassed by not understanding something.
The objectives of extensive listening are to:
Increase your ability to quickly recognize spoken Russian words
Build connections between written and spoken Russian
Help you tune into intonation and accents
Experience the pleasure of listening to Russian, which is instrumental in your motivation to learn its mechanisms
In this blog, we will introduce to you some terrific ways to improve your Russian listening skills.
How you can become an effective listener
Become a Gluttonous Passive Listener
Okay, these were active ways to improve your listening… So what’s this about being passive? Well, by consuming lots of radio, music, films and TV, you’re proactively immersing yourself in a Russian-speaking environment.
Put Those Vocal Cords to Work
It sounds strange, but you can improve your listening skills by speaking—even if you’re just repeating what you hear. In particular, practicing your Russian pronunciation will help sharpen your ear to distinguish words from the string of babble it might sound like otherwise. You might feel silly talking to yourself, but it works. Bonus: if nothing else, it improves your accent.
Too Fast? Use Technology to Slower Down
If you have a copy of a Russian-language audio file, audio editing programs such as free software allow you to slow down the playback to a more manageable pace. That means you can enjoy all kinds of authentic Russian content at the best place for your individual proficiency level. Isn’t technology great?
Embrace the “Let It Pass” Strategy
The benefit of “let it pass” is that it keeps you focused on what you do understand, which helps you stay confident and motivated. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose that essential four-part mindset.
Train Your Ear with Scripts and Subtitles
Why not listen and read at the same time? It’s not cheating. When you watch a Russian movie with same-language subtitles or listen to an audiobook while reading along with the print version, you can compare the words as they’re written to the words as they’re actually spoken.
That’ll train you to recognize full sentences even when some of the words get under-stressed or “swallowed.”
Challenge Yourself to a Summary
To improve your focus while listening to a given audio or video resource, assign yourself a summary of the main points and/or details afterward.
You can do this by writing or speaking, although saying the summary aloud also helps you practice tip number two. Knowing that you’ll have to summarize will force you to listen attentively. On top of that, however, you’ll get practice mentally organizing and recalling what you hear. This is a very important skill if you need to take a proficiency test in Russian (especially for academic purposes).
Become a Ruthless Interrogator
If your listening resource comes with comprehension questions, great—do those! Otherwise, you’ll have to ask yourself questions.
During and after your listening, keep notes on words, phrases, or ideas that you didn’t quite understand. Try to pinpoint what exactly blocked your understanding—maybe it was a specific word or phrase, a speed issue, or a nonstandard pronunciation. Once you’ve identified the problem, take care of it by looking up meanings or repeating the difficult parts aloud.
Talk to People Face-to-face
The nice thing about talking to real people is that you can ask them to slow down, without resorting to software. On top of that, you can check your understanding in real-time by asking questions, discussing specific meanings, and observing your language partner’s facial expressions and gestures.
Look for local Meetup groups or other language exchanges that might be happening where you’re located. You might also check out your local schools and universities to connect with students interested in Russian conversation or language exchange.
Listen in 3D
Most active listening resources encourage you to listen for content—that is, information. That’s important, but there’s a lot more going on when people talk than just the relaying of information. What emotions are they conveying? What unspoken meanings lie between the words? Very often, picking up on these subtleties is the difference between understanding the words and understanding the meaning. That’s why you should practice listening not just for information, but also for the speaker’s emotions and implied messages.
Don’t Do All of This at the Same Time
In case you needed a reminder… focus on one technique at a time, even if you use several techniques in a single session. Doing too much at once can hurt your focus. The more you practice and develop your skills, the more comfortable you’ll eventually become at employing multiple techniques at once—don’t force yourself.
Don’t just stick to one type of input. Branch out! Have fun with podcasts for learners, podcasts for native speakers, films, TV shows, and real conversations with language partners, online or offline. Enjoy information and entertainment, pre-recorded and live speech, learner-directed and authentic materials.
Use a “Surround and Conquer” Plan of Attack
Diversifying your resources is great, but you should also diversify your approach. Even if listening is the one language skill you want to improve the most, you should come at it from all sides, building all four traditional language skills simultaneously. That means listening, speaking, reading, and writing. You may find that all your skills overlap and boost one another, rather like in tips number two and number five.