Russian is the 5th most spoken language worldwide, and one of the most useful languages for any learner to study.
- Because altogether its the first or second language of more than 280 million people,
- Because English is not commonly spoken in the ex-Soviet republics and countries of central Asia, but Russian is
- Despite sometimes rocky political relations, Russia still makes the list of the top 30 American trading partners
Russian teachers and students alike will both admit that Russian is not the easiest language to learn.
In order to learn Russian properly, you must be diligent, persistent and avoid any distractions from the learning process, no matter how difficult it may be.
And under no circumstances should you trust the websites or textbooks that promise you that you can become fluent in Russian in a week, a month or even 3 months.
This is absolutely impossible, despite the fact that there are in fact many effective methods to accelerate the learning process - just not that much!
And so, today, we are sharing our top tips for learning Russian properly…and as quickly as possible.
Learn Russian by signing up for private tutoring
Tried, tested, and practically infallible, finding a private tutor is the best way to learn Russian quickly…as well as any other foreign language like French, Spanish or German.
Group classes are a good way to get started with a language, but like the name says, you won’t be on your own.
Although some students can find learning with others helpful, for other students the lack of personalized help and support quickly leaves them feely like a failure.
Private tutoring offers several advantages:
- A totally personalized class: if you’ve already mastered a lesson, there’s no need to spend 2 hours dwelling on it. And the opposite holds true too - if you’re struggling with the fine points of Russian grammar or how to conjugate a verb, your tutor can slow down and spend more time helping you tackle your challenges.
- A personal relationship between the teacher and student: you can get to know your teacher much better than during a group class! And in fact, it’s important to choose a tutor who’s a good fit for your learning styles. It’s important to be comfortable with your teacher and not be afraid to ask questions in order to improve your Russian.
- Flexible schedules: a group class will always be held at the same place and time, which isn’t necessarily true for private tutoring sessions. If you or your tutor have a sudden scheduling change, there’s nothing to stop you from rescheduling the session for a more convenient time. The times, in general, are often more flexible too. Your tutor may be available in the evenings, at weekends, and during school vacations.
All of this means that you can improve your Russian faster when you take lessons with a private tutor instead of going to a group class where you may feel helpless, lost and consequently lack motivation.
Your private Russian lessons will also help you learn to speak quickly, correctly and with the correct pronunciation.
However, it’s always good to find a language partner in Russia who can speak with you in Russian and with whom you can speak in your native language. These types of exchanges work best via online apps like Skype.
In order to learn Russian more effectively, you can even organize get-togethers where you do exercises together, watch Russian videos and talk about specific topics, etc.
Define your goals
Before you can start learning Russian, it's important to know what you’re hoping to achieve! A good way to learn a language quickly is to set and follow a SMART goal. It's a mnemonic, certainly, but it helps us know if we’re moving in the right direction:
- S for Specific: in order to achieve an objective it must be clear. For example: acquire the vocabulary you need for the office. If the learner wants to become bilingual, that's fine, but that’s not a very specific goal. Ask yourself: Do I want to be able to have a conversation with a friend? To read a book? To take an exam?
- M is for Measurable: Everyone likes to tick an item off a list! You have to choose a measurable goal. For example: memorize a certain number of words a day, speak Russian for so many minutes a day, achieve a certain score on a language test ... All of these milestones are useful to evaluate your progress,
- A is for Achievable: do not aim too high! Start small with easy milestones to avoid becoming demotivated. For example, learning 100 words a day is usually not possible! Five to ten words is already a great goal.
- R is for Relevant: the goal must be relevant to you and your life. If you find learning Russian boring and start to see studying as a chore, change your focus! An uninteresting or irrelevant goal will not work!
- T as in Time-bound: give yourself a deadline! Learning a foreign language can be time-consuming but you’ll be surprised to see that by giving yourself deadlines, you will improve faster!
There’s no point in taking an intensive course to learn the Russian language, you’ll need to work step by step!
Head to Russia for full language immersion
It's no secret, to learn to speak Russian (or any language) quickly, immersion in the country is always the best option.
After learning the basics of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, speaking the language with natives is the best way to improve your vocabulary of Russian words, better understand their usage (pronoun, adjective, preposition ...), improve pronunciation and learn how to cope on your own in daily life.
Full language immersion is also a great way to deepen your knowledge of Russian culture in a much more engaging way than going to a Russian class.
You find yourself in real life situations, immersed in Russian and enriching your understanding of the language.
So what are you still doing here?
Get yourself on a plane to Russia!
Find a Russian language partner
Of course, in Russia, you will have ample opportunity to improve your oral expression and meet other Russian-speaking contacts.
But if you do not have the means and/or the time to immediately jet off to this transcontinental country, here are a few other ways to practice speaking with Russians:
- Forums: you would be amazed at the number of people who want to learn English in exchange for helping you with your Russian! A win-win way to progress in a foreign language and make a new contact for a future journey perhaps ?
- Skype: What better way to communicate with your new friend than to talk to each other via Skype? Set up a weekly call, and you will quickly see the results!
- Social networks: Thanks to Facebook, you can easily find groups where you can speak Russian with a native. It’s well worth looking into!
Learn a few basic phrases
As you make plans to speak with native Russians, it is a good idea to learn a few simple sentences that you can pull out of your sleeve.
Being able to introduce yourself and say please and thank you is always important in any place.
- Hello ‘Zdrastvooyte’ or Здравствуйте
- Thank you is ‘Spaseeba’ or Спасибо
- Goodbye is ‘Da sveedaneeya’ or До свидания!
- My name is… ‘Meenya zavoot …’ or Меня зовут …
- Please is ‘Požalujsta’ or Пожалуйста
- Where is ‘Gde’ or Где
It’s worth mentioning that Russian letters have a consistent pronunciation, unlike English or French.
The 33 letters of the Russian alphabet are phonetic, which means that they sound like they look.
The pronunciation of these letters is always the same, no matter what words they are in.
This is different from English, where each letter can have several different sounds.
Knowing exactly what each letter that you see sounds like helps you learn and pronounce new words quickly.
In Russian, you always know how to pronounce a word because there is no question about how each letter is pronounced!
Keep in mind that the Russian alphabet is Cyrillic, which means that the letters are very different from English.
It’s a good idea to have a look at the Russian alphabet written out so you have a better understanding of all the Cyrillic letters.
Focus on the noises and pronunciation for each letter because this is what defines the pronunciation of Russian words in general.
In Russian, you need to stretch out the sound of each vowel, like when you’re calling your mother from the other room - “Mo-o-om!”.
Learn Russian online and using textbooks
It’s totally possible to learn Russian online! And when combined with private tutoring, it’s a very efficient way to learn a language.
There are many excellent websites available to help you to learn Russian:
- 50 languages: this site offers 100 lessons, organized by theme and with supplemental audio files available to help you improve your Russian pronunciation. Key phrases are taught with an emphasis on learning practical language. Beginners will start with understanding the languages basic structure, and there’re also free apps available for Android and iOS so you can take your learning with you wherever you go!
- Busuu: this very thorough website offers a series of short lessons that can be adapted to any learner’s goals. Vocabulary covers different needs like business, travel, and daily life. Students can also use the site to have conversations with native speakers to learn and improve their language skills faster. Classes are personalized and you can also access music and film clips to really immerse yourself in Russian culture. The website is available as an app on Android and iOS, with a monthly fee that starts from just $5.41 a month and decreases when you commit to a longer period.
- Everyday Russian Language: This website hosts a large library of bite-size daily lessons that cover vocabulary, grammar, and everything in between. Many articles are written, but the website also contains a wealth of audiovisual resources as well to make learning Russian more interactive. And best of all, it’s totally free!
If you prefer a more, IRL resource, there are some great textbooks out there that can help you improve your Russian quickly. Why not try out the tried and tested Assimil method, or check out Russian for Dummies? It’s a bit more difficult and requires more dedication than the online resources, but they are great resources to gain some more knowledge about Russian culture and history!
Learn Russian and have fun!
20 minutes ran a special about it in 2015: it’s much easier to learn a language when it seems like entertainment, and it isn’t surprising! We learn much easier and faster when learning is fun, otherwise, it’s hard to stay motivated.
Why not try a few different language learning apps? There are some great ones that aim to make language study into a fun and easy habit you can do every day!
Try out Duolingo, and practice Russian for 5 minutes every day! This app has made learning languages fun for millions!
The learning is personalized and topics are repeated at regular intervals to jog your memory. Corrections are immediate and the student is rewarded by learning new words and grammar without even realizing it.
The app is 100% free. One study even found that 34 hours spent on Duolingo is the equivalent of 1 semester of language study at university!
You can also do quizzes in Russian. There are many different ones available online where you can test out your knowledge, and you’ll learn without even realizing you’re doing so.
Want to try out a new TV series?
Why not put watch some TV in the original Russian and add English subtitles or watch it dubbed in English with Russian subtitles, depending on what you want to work on?
It’s an excellent way to acquire vocabulary without feeling like you’re studying! And of course, it also works with Russian films too!
- Taking private lessons is the most effective way to quickly improve your Russian. You will find classes starting from an average of $25 an hour on Superprof.
- Remember to define your goals and use the SMART method to make sure you’ve chosen appropriate objectives!
- If you have the opportunity, head to Russia to learn the language from the source!
- But if you can’t do that, don’t worry, it is possible to speak with Russians from the comfort of your home!
- And don’t forget: learning while having fun is much more effective! Websites, YouTube videos, applications, quizzes ... They’re all good ways for you to improve your Russian language skills!
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