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Is Learning Russian Hard?

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Russian > Russian, a Hard Language to Learn: Myth or Reality?

According to the Mosalingua ranking of 2015, Russian takes 3rd place on their list of the most difficult languages to learn in the world, just behind Arabic and Mandarin!

Suffering from its negative reputation, the Russian language is only very little known to our compatriots. An unpopularity that can be explained by its complicated grammar, incomprehensible alphabet and vigorous accent.

  • But is Russian really so difficult as people claim?
  • Is it really impossible to become a polyglot in Pushkin’s language?

Here are our answers!

The Ease of Learning the Russian Language

Belonging to the sub-category of Slavic languages, Russian is one of the Indo-European languages, in the same way as Spanish, French or Italian.

The Russian Cyrillic alphabet may be different, but it’s not so difficult to learn as you might think.

It is easy to imagine that the common historical context of the countries of Europe has played a role in possible similarities between languages.

Indeed, the official language of Russia includes, certainly, its own specificities, but also some similarities with the French language!

Moreover, according to a survey conducted by the Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies in 2014, 10% of Russians believe that French would be the most useful language, after English, German and Chinese.

The Russian population is, therefore, already seduced by the learning of French, mastering the language in just a few years thanks to the concomitance of both languages.

Why not make the reciprocal true and find a Russian tutor?

The Russian Alphabet is Simpler than it Seems

The basis of learning Russian? The Cyrillic alphabet, of course!

Although this unknown alphabet may, at first, frighten the English-speaking reader, the Cyrillic alphabet is actually much easier to remember than it suggests.

The Russian alphabet has 33 letters (only 7 more than the Latin alphabet) and is composed of:

  • 7 latin letters,
  • 9 Greek letters,
  • 15 Russian letters,
  • A soft sign and a hard sign.

For any anglophones who have studied Ancient Greek at school, the first 16 letters of the Russian alphabet can be assimilated into just one or two sessions of Russian classes in New York (or elsewhere).

Calligraphy is also easy to access: the Russian signs are very similar to variations in our capital letters and are very easily reproducible, unlike the signs of kanji for example, which change direction according to the orientation of a trait.

What’s more, learners of Russian can choose to study Cyrillic cursive writing that allows you to learn Russian calligraphy more naturally and quickly, although typographic writing is still essential for working on the computer via the Cyrillic keyboard.

The Russian Language: Easy Rules to Learn

As in our mother tongue, the Russian language is a bicameral language, composed of vowels and consonants.

The Moskva River is Moscow’s central waterway.

The student will be able to find a common base for English in terms of word formation!

At the level of conjugation, the student with a latin-based understanding of conjugation will be able to blow through their studies in just a few minutes: the Russian conjugation, is far from being as complex as the French conjugation (for example)!

Russian speakers use only two simple forms:

  1. The present,
  2. The past.

And four modes:

  1. The indicative mode,
  2. The imperative mode,
  3. The gerund mode,
  4. The participle.

As in Molière’s language (French), there are six Russian personal pronouns:

  1. я,
  2. ты,
  3. он,
  4. мы,
  5. вы,
  6. они.

These three singular and three plural pronouns are in fact virtually unused by the natives, since the conjugated forms of Russian verbs are quite different, and cannot really be identifiable without personal pronouns.

Finally, the syntax of Russian words is easier to master than the English syntax: Russian does not recognize a defined or indefinite character to a subject. The lack of article is palliated by the place of the subject in the sentence, indicating if the latter is defined or indefinite.

In an interview with Russia Beyond Headlines on January 27, 2017, Russian student Anna Soloviova explains:

“If foreigners put themselves in Russian language classes from their childhood, (like Europeans do) for English, it would not seem difficult for them. In Russian, the horror of grammar stops at A2 level. After, it’s freedom and unlimited pleasure to speak, read and write an absolutely beautiful language. “

It’s simple, we tell you!

What are the Challenges of the Russian Language?

Almost Impossible Pronunciation

For young learners of the Russian language, the most complicated part of learning is pronunciation!

Members of the Kremlin Regiment, Russia’s honor guard.

The Russian language is an accent language, unlike English: the tonic accent of Russian words moves from one form to another, making learning difficult for English students. To become a true Russian-speaking expert, it will be necessary not only to learn the Russian alphabet, but also the international phonetic alphabet (IPA), particularly useful for using English-Russian dictionaries.

Here is a small summary of the pronunciation of the Russian alphabet:

 

Complex Linguistics

Unlike English, the Russian language is an inflectional language, that is to say that Russian words change their form according to their grammatical relationship to the other terms of a sentence. These unpublished rules are a real headache for our compatriots!

Within the Russian language, there are ten grammatical declensions:

  • The nominative,
  • The genitive,
  • The dative,
  • The accusative,
  • The instrumental
  • The prepositional.

Before going to the oral expression, therefore, the student must each time make the effort to think about the form to give to the word. It is therefore his whole system of linguistic thought that the pupil of Russian must modify, most languages not being inflectional languages.

Another concern for anglophone students is the formation of verbs!

In Russian, there are two forms for a verb:

  • The perfective, which describes a past action that is totally finished, or a single action, or a future action.
  • The imperfective, which describes a present action, an action that repeats itself in time or an unfinished past action.

In an interview with Russia Beyond Headlines on January 27, 2017, Russian student Natalia Blinova explains:

“I remember reading my illustrated book a hundred times in a row. But I always hesitated: he came where he came from? What is the meaning ? Where is he now? Has he stayed or is he already gone? For example, to translate the Italian verb andare (go), we have different verbs in Russian, because it is sometimes “going to a specific place” sometimes “going there by means of transport”. “

What’s more, students must take into account the prefixes that can suddenly change the meaning of a word.

It will therefore be necessary to be motivated to speak Russian fluently as a true native of the country of Tolstoy!

How Long Does it Take to Learn the Russian Language?

To become a bilingual Russian and English speaker, the student will have to acquire all the basics of the language of Dostoeivki.

Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery.

It will be necessary for them to be unbeatable on:

  • Russian grammar,
  • Russian culture,
  • Russian expressions,
  • Russian greetings,
  • Russian pronunciation,
  • The phonetic transcription of new Russian words,
  • The Russian Cyrillic alphabet etc.

At first, the Russian student can choose to learn the language as an autodidact to revise the most basic Russian vocabulary. The student will have to make the effort to learn alone, even if he takes Russian lessons London or elsewhere around the UK, in order to facilitate his memorization of words.

To remember the Cyrillic alphabet, it takes about 1 month to know by heart the calligraphy and pronunciation!

Using interactive exercises makes learning more fun, but also and above all can help you to to learn Russian for free. However, it will usually take the standard Russian courses to learn the language properly.

The student can take Russian classes:

  • In language school,
  • In high school,
  • In College
  • In University (undergrad or postgrad),
  • In private lessons outside or at home (learn Russian in Bostson, New York, Chicago, Miami …).

With personalized support, the student can remember all the basics of the language in less than 6 months!

Finally, the most recommended way to learn Russian quickly is to travel to Russia. During a language immersion study, the student will be able to discover not only Russian culture but also all the linguistic expressions of Russian everyday language.

It takes 1 year of language training for a student to perfect their Russian and be able to hold conversations with a native, while it takes at least 2 or 3 years for a student staying in the United States. Moreover, the language exchange allows one to work on their Russian pronunciation and their tonal accent.

What are you waiting for? Maybe a good reason to learn Russian?

 

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