Russian is spoken by 260 million speakers and is considered the third most complex language to learn according to the MosaLingua learning platform.
So what are the best ways to learn to speak Russian like a local?
Are you lacking the budget needed to join a Russian language school? Is this a personal challenge?
In any case, know that it is possible to learn Russian on your own, but that it requires a lot of motivation and work.
So, how does one achieve it?
The internet is your friend here, which is not a first. Websites, applications, original language movies, the classics of Russian literature via PDFs… All media is useful when trying to learn Russian for free (or almost) and especially trying to learn Russian on your lonesome…
Among the tried and tested applications, we recommend without hesitation Memrise in order to progress with Russian vocabulary. Language learning can be done in a number of fun ways and Memrise is one of them. The memory card game allows you to learn quickly and have fun. And besides – it’s free.
Among the essential websites that will help you to learn Russian, trust in Easy Russian. It is certainly the most complete in terms of lessons, and contains playful articles and cultural essays about Russia.
Finally, do not hesitate to listen to news, listen to the radio, watch movies in their original language, watch your favourite series in Russian with subtitles, read the newspaper, and maybe even change the language of your phone…Immerse yourself in the Russian language…this is the best way to progress with the language in preparation for a trip to Russia or a job awaiting you there.
Challenge accepted? Let’s go!
Don’t despair! There are some difficulties when learning Russian, but these can be overcome!
Rest assured, the Russian alphabet is much easier to learn than the Chinese characters. Of the 33 letters, 7 are Latin and 9 are Greek, which can facilitate learning. There remain 15 Russian letters as well as a hard and soft sign.
The pronunciation of Russian is sometimes problematic. It is easier to learn a language when you are a child because our brain, our language, and our palates are still malleable and can easily adapt to the phonemes of different languages. Phonetics in Russian are very different from those of English. The tonic accent for example can be a concern for an English speaker since it moves across the word according to the declination.
If you have done Latin, Italian, or German, the declensions will not be a problem. But if you have not, they can pose some difficulties. In Russian, there are 6 declensions:
They modify the ending of an adjective, a pronoun, or a name according to three criteria: the cause, the genre, and the number.
Finally, the last aspects that are difficult to all language learners are, obviously, grammar and conjugation. Often the worst of them all, Russian grammar presents only two possible forms for a verb:
On the other hand, the verb “to go” poses more difficulties. If in English it is be used for everything (going to school, going to the movies, going to the supermarket…), there are specific verbs in Russian for each of the actions it can describe.
It is almost impossible to predict how quickly a learner can master a language. It depends on many different criteria, starting with the basic objective of why this person is learning the language.
What level in the language does the learner want to reach?
Knowing how to speak Russian fluently will have a different connotation for each. It may simply be knowing how to cope with everyday life and having conversations about basic topics with natives, but for others it will be holding Russian conversations on complex geopolitical topics without flinching.
Depending on the objective, the learning time and the number of hours required will not match up.
Second criterion to be aware of: how much time can you devote to learning the Russian language?
Learning a language requires rigor and work. The most effective way to progress and learn Russian words is to work every day. Twenty minutes a day can be enough and way more effective than an hour a week.
There never seems to be enough time to go around, but I think it’s just a question of priority. What are you doing on your way to work (public transportation)? Nada? There’s a 30-minute ride you can allocate for Russian. How much time do you spend on Facebook per day? An hour, two, three–maybe more? This time could be used to learn Russian vocabulary.
It just takes a little bit of willingness and organization to find a free spot in your schedule.
The last thing to consider: your ability to concentrate and your ability to learn a language quickly. Your ability to concentrate will be longer or shorter depending on who you are. It’s up to you to find the ideal time to learn the language. Trying to work at all costs while not being focused is totally counterproductive and demotivating.
And one last question: do you already know a language other than your own? If so, it will be easier to learn a new language. Indeed, you already know what mechanisms help you learn a language and you will be able to activate them for the Russian language.
A good book is essential for language learning.
At first, it may seem complicated to manage in Russia without mastering a single word of Russian in the country of Tolstoy.
Russia is not totally at the bottom of the rankings when it comes to the mastery of English but it is still below France for example. It is the first country to be classified as “low proficiency in English” in the 77 countries classified by EF Education First.
However, these results are to be thought about a little harder:
It will be much easier to integrate in Russia without speaking Russian in sectors such as communications, law, cooking, or baking, because often Americans are sought on these jobs. On other jobs, it is obvious that an employer will favor candidates who already knows how to speak Russian.
Think of the American companies located in Russia! Pfizer, Boeing, Morgan Stanley, Pepsi…
According to Forbes,
Boeing has been in Russia for decades. About five years ago, it announced plans to invest $27 billion over the next 30 years. In July 2015, an agreement was signed between Russian titanium manufacturer VSMPO-Avisma Corporation, Boeing and the Ural Federal University for joint research and development projects.
Ford has been in Russia for 13 years. In April 2015, the joint Russian-American venture Ford Sollers launched the production of the Ford Transit. The American brand launched four new vehicles in Russia last year,including the Focus and Fiesta models sold here.
There are numerous companies and the English language will be privileged by their HR department. Your departure will be further facilitated if you are already working for the company back home in the US.
Take some Russian lessons with a Russian teacher before you go…don’t risk it! When you work in a foreign country, you live there, you may want to look for a tutor, too. You will need to know some generic terms that can help you in everyday life. And then, the least you can do is to try to really get integrated in Russia. Right?
There are enough American companies that are well established in Russia. This will make your job when trying to seek a job easier.
Even if Russian is deemed difficult, if you have a good learning method and great motivation, you can quickly learn the basics of Russian.
After a few Russian language lessons, a learner will master the alphabet and some essential Russian expressions. This means it will be possible for the learner to have a basic conversation with a native after a few weeks or months. The focus will be on speaking rather than on any one grammatical aspect so as not to be discouraging at first.
It will take a little more time for the learner to reach an intermediate level or even an advanced level. We do not master all the subtleties of a language in a few weeks.
Linguistic experts believe that for someone to be fluent in Dostoevsky’s language, it takes about ten years. To boast an advanced level, it takes between 2 to 5 years, depending on, of course, the pace of the learning, the seriousness of the learner, and the methodology used.
MosaLingua or Babbel offer turnkey solutions to take Russian classes online and improve quickly.
Taking some private lessons with a tutor is not useless either, especially if your budget allows it. It will help you pronounce complicated words or learn more about Russian culture, for example.
Searching for Russian course London still produces the most results for Russian tutors but there is a lot more choice if you’re willing to learn Russian online.
Finally, working a little every day, we can not say enough, is the best way to progress quickly and hope to master the Russian language quickly.
If you are going to live in the biggest country on Earth, check out our article about expat life in Russia.