How should a beginner learn Russian?
Russian is an East Slavic language native to the Russians in Eastern Europe with over 258 million total speakers worldwide. It is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and is used widely throughout the Caucasus, Central Asia, and to some extent in the Baltic states. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages, one of the four living members of the East Slavic languages alongside, and part of the larger Balto-Slavic branch.
Russian was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 26 December 1991. Russian is used in an official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states. Russian is the largest native language in Europe, and the most geographically widespread language in Eurasia. Large numbers of Russian speakers are residents of other countries like Israel, Tajikistan, Moldova, Gagauzia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and Mongolia.It is also recognised as a minority language in Romania, Finland, Norway, Armenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Russian is the seventh-most spoken language in the world by a number of native speakers and the eighth-most spoken language in the world by a total number of speakers. The language is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Russian is also the second-most widespread language on the Internet, after English.
The earliest known writing in Russia dates from the 10th century and was found at Novgorod. The main languages written on them in an early version of the Cyrillic alphabet were Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic. There are also some texts in Finnish, Latin and Greek. Russian started appearing in writing regularly during the reign of Peter the Great (a.k.a. Peter I) (1672-1725) who introduced a revised alphabet and encouraged authors to use a literary style closer to their spoken language. The ‘Moscow dialect’ was used as the basis for written Russian. Russian literature started to flower during the 19th century when Tolstoi, Dostoyevskii, Gogol and Pushkin were active. During the Soviet era knowledge of the Russian language was widespread though the subjects authors could write about were restricted.
Let's now discuss how beginners can get their hands on to the Russian language!
Beginners need to hold their ground and not be threatened and intimidated by a new language, its usage, nuances, nitty-gritty or its grammar. A beginner cannot aim at being fluent in Russian right away, but they are likely to step up working steadily by being patient, and consistent! Having said that beginners must never lose faith in themselves or their confidence!
Treat every interaction as important. Celebrate each little achievement, you make in Russian as a step towards the bigger achievement and be proud of it!
As a beginner, there are several things that you need to chalk out for yourself before attempting to learn a language. These are the most crucial steps that a beginner must ensure in place so as to aim for success! Of the many important things, it is important that a beginner sets realistic timelines for himself or herself, realign his or her schedule to fit in daily learning/practice time for the language, define and acknowledge the necessity to learn the language and finally determine their precise goals!
If a learner is interested in learning Russian with an academic perspective in mind, then I suggest learning it with books, through the structured lesson by the lesson plan, starting from the grammar rules.
However, if the need is to grow with the language then, I suggest, a beginner must learn to speak Russian in a first; just like a child mimics his parents and learns the language without having to read or write it, if and only if, they are truly interested in learning the language, whether for business conversations, travel, to speak with peers, friends, anybody! In other words, they must make Russian a way of their lives! To achieve this we recommend getting hold off as many reliable audio resources as possible online or offline. A learner could select from one of the spoken dialects that appeals to him/ her and pursue learning to speak the same. There are millions of relevant and appropriate audio resources such as podcasts, videos, audiobooks, music videos, songs, talk shows, news channels available to learn from.
I recommend concentrating on spoken Russian to all learners by enriching your vocabulary, improving your pronunciation, getting stronger clarity on alphabet identification and usage of words, expressions, phrases, commonly used slangs and connecting them directly with their meanings without having to translate them in the head from a mother tongue to Russian.
Maintain a diary or a journal to capture commonly used expressions or phrases that will help the beginner build small but meaningful conversations at the earliest. Focus on the verb forms and make a list of relevant day-to-day used exchanges. These, however, will not empower you to engage in complex conversations. So don’t fret over it. Stay positive and motivated, you will be there soon! Take a day at a time.
To study Russian effectively through audio lessons I recommend using audios that possibly are structured and addresses the following needs of a beginner:
Help a beginner, introduce himself, with appropriate greetings and politeness, asking relevant questions, ordering food, talking about themselves, their family, work and hobbies.
Encourages them to implement both traditional and modern Russian pronunciations.
Set the foundations of Russian grammar in a clear and logical, step-by-step manner: like building blocks, by giving plenty of examples so one can also learn the Russian context.
Helps the learner stay organized, enabling them to prioritize important aspects of language over other things.
Enables the beginners to achieve a decent accent.
I recommend enthusiastic and serious learners to join classes online or offline that follow the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) directives to have a better grasp of the Russian language. CEFRL, is a guideline that is used to describe the achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and in other countries. The CEFR is also intended to make it easier for educational institutions and employers to evaluate the language qualifications of candidates for education admission or employment. It was put together by the Council of Europe as the main part of the project “Language Learning for European Citizenship” between 1989 and 1996. Its main aim is to provide a method of learning, teaching and assessing which applies to all languages in Europe. In November 2001, a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up systems of validation of language ability. The six reference levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) are becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency.
As a beginner, I recommend you stay focused on your priorities to speak good Russian, and not get lost in trying to be a nerd starting off with grammar that’s not going to get you any closer to speaking good Russian. On the contrary, the tough grammar and Cyrillic script is likely to demotivate you and deter you from continuing on your learning, presenting it to be too tough to learn! Refrain exploring the tenses on your own because they are likely to send you completely off tangent. It’s more complicated and you may need a little more help than just self-study. So do not try to jump the gun trying to learn the grammar on your own!
Choose a learning method that helps you reach there sooner, with simpler, smaller sentences conveying the same meaning as complex ones. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. All beginners must time their learning in order to stay on track. With a lot of free resources, the online one is likely to lose focus, hopping from one link to another. This is especially true when watching YouTube videos. A huge part of your success in learning the Russian language will depend on time management.
Beginners beware! Before you get into a situation where you have trouble in understanding the Russian when they speak, and they don’t seem to understand you, please research well to learn the real Russian or the ‘Street Russian’ as some call it! Street Russian is quite different from the enunciated traditional Russian pronunciation (like a TV news host would use) – and it’s also likely to be different from what you have learned in school. Enunciated Russian version works great when you are learning traditional Russian pronunciation as this slower version can help you capture the right pronunciations to repeat! You must aim to learn from a Russian school that explains how to form the sounds: how to place your mouth, your tongue, your lips, so on and so forth.
Your trainer must himself or herself be well versed in Russian to be able to explain the basic grammar rules to you clearly; because there are many rules such that if you don’t know them, you can’t invent them. There are rules, and then there is the reality! As a beginner, I would suggest you ignore the glidings, so the Russians can understand you when you speak. This would make you more respect-worthy rather than using a lot of glidings that may sound a bit weird coming from a beginner with limited learning! There are many more “street” glidings in Russian nowadays.
In a short recap, I suggest, Russian beginners, must:
Set realistic goals for themselves,
Find a structured audio method that doesn’t assume you are a grammar genius and explains everything clearly,
Get plenty of audio practice: repeat, repeat, repeat,
Understand and respond appropriately to basic conversations in specific situations
Reach to a level of fast-reflex-responses when speaking and gain confidence to use your Russian in conversations.
Keep your priorities straight.
There’s an amazing new way to learn Russian! Want to see what everyone’s talking about!