"When the hour of doubt is at its darkest, I question the fate of my country, and, you, are my only consolation, my only support; O Russian language - great, strong, free, and earnest! "

Ivan Turgenev, The Russian Language

Studying the Russian language in America is immediately seen as chic and distinguished. This language refers to a culture that is as powerful as it is impressive, rich with centuries of history and rich with innumerable literary and artistic masterpieces.

The Russian accent is very pleasant to English ears, whatever the language in which we hear it. And we could say the same of Russian writing: the Cyrillic alphabet used in the Russian Federation attracts many foreigners.

The Russian Cyrillic alphabet is exotic to those in the West. Latinists may be drawn to it because Ancient Greek and Latin are too close to their languages.

This alphabet, which is composed of 33 letters, is a whole world to explore and meditate upon while learning to read...but also learning how to write Russian!

Trust us. Thanks to the right tools, you will find writing Russian even more appetizing than math class or geography...

Writing Russian on a Computer or on Paper?

A century ago, obviously, this question regarding Russian writing did not arise.

The typewriter was used then inside of the USSR (as the larger than life archives left by the Soviet regime seem to testify). However, Western Russophiles learned to pen the letters of the Russian language. The Cyrillic alphabet was learned with a ballpoint pen, old-school style.

Today, it is technically possible to learn Russian and even speak it fluently without ever having to write it in handwriting.

You should know that some American schools don't even have children learn handwriting anymore, as everything is done digitally.

Russian Graphology | The comparison between cursive and digital characters.

This could remain a possibility for you, but it is better not to limit oneself if one really wants to learn a foreign language and have it penetrate one's mind fully.

Typing on a qwerty keyboard key is easy enough. You need just enough Russian language skills to identify the letters...

What you will need here in terms of technical instruments is a computer station (desktop or laptop), or a tablet or smartphone.

On the other hand, drawing the curves of the Cyrillic alphabet on paper demands new requirements. On top of being a new skill, it can be considered an art form.

The Tried and True Methods: A Writing Manual

To learn how to write, rigor is required.

TED translators have some great tips to learning a foreign language:

  1. Get real. Decide on a simple, attainable goal to start with so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. German translator Judith Matz suggests: “Pick up 50 words of a language and start using them on people — and then slowly start picking up grammar.”
  2. Make language-learning a lifestyle change. Elisabeth Buffard, who in her 27 years of teaching English has always seen consistency as what separates the most successful students from the rest. Find a language habit that you can follow even when you’re tired, sick or madly in love.
  3. Play house with the language. The more you invite a foreign language into your daily life, the more your brain will consider it something useful and worth caring about. “Use every opportunity to get exposed to the new language,” says Russian translator Olga Dmitrochenkova. Label every object in your house in this language, read kids’ books written in it, watch subtitled TED and TEDx talks, or live-narrate parts of your day to an imaginary foreign friend.
  4. Let technology help you out. Dmitrochenkova has a great idea: “A funny thing like resetting the language on your phone can help you learn new words right away,” she says. Ditto for changing the language on your browser. Or you can seek out more structured learning opportunities online. Dutch translator Els De Keyser recommends Duolinguo for its gamified approach to grammar, and Anki for memorizing vocabulary with its “intelligent” flashcards.
  5. Think about language-learning as a gateway to new experiences. To Spanish translator Sebastián Betti, learning a language has always been about focusing on the experiences that the new language would open up, from “visiting theme parks, attending air shows, enjoying cowboy poetry and folk-rock festivals, to learning about photo-essay techniques.” In other words, he thinks of fun things that he wanted to do anyway, and makes them into a language-learning opportunity. Many of our translators shared this advice. Italian and French translator Anna Minoli learned English by watching undubbed versions of her favorite movies, while Croatian translator Ivan Stamenković suddenly realized he could speak English in fifth grade, after years of watching the Cartoon Network without subtitles. So the next time you need a vegan carrot cake recipe, find one in the language you’re trying to learn.
  6. Make new friends. Interacting in the new language is key — it will teach you to intuitively express your thoughts, instead of mentally translating each sentence before you say it. Find native speakers near you. Or search for foreign penpals or set up a language tandem online, where two volunteers help one another practice their respective languages.

Writing is a question of much debate in all academic sectors. It must be perfect in order to be revered by academics.

But the Latin alphabet has been deemed immoveable for a long time.

The same phenomenon is true of Russian.

The American learner in Russian writer wants to learn the code of the Cyrillic alphabet above all to be understood by the Ukrainians and other Slavs...if he were not understood, then he might be laughed at. And nobody wants that.

It is important to learn the classic rules of Russian writing so you can then break them later.

The Scribe's Workshop | A bit of austerity can sometimes help writers. | source: upload.wikimedia.org

Whether you are a traditional reader who prefers neighborhood bookstores to the net's giant online book traders, you will have no trouble finding one of these classic Russian language learning books:

The New Penguin Russian Course, Penguin;
Russian for Beginners, Charles Duff;
Russian for Dummies, Andrew Kaufman, Serafima Gettys.

Proven to Work: The Private Tutoring Lesson in Russian

While language books can be very effective, you still need to find the motivation it takes to set aside the time to sit at home in front of your tablet or pen and paper.

The millennials - very numerous among the learners of the Russian language - have difficulty when trying to pay attention for a long period of time.

However, tools are available to whip their learning into shape:

a private lesson with a Russian teacher;

a group class or internship with a professor of Russian calligraphy.

This last suggestion will largely depend on where you live: no need to run to Moscow or St. Petersburg, because language schools are not uncommon in major US cities.

You will find Russian classes London wide for beginners in Russian writing.

However, if you live in the countryside, Lake Baikal or Eastern Siberia, you may have to resort to finding a native Russian or Russian-speaking graduate to teach you to write in Cyrillic cursive, which requires quite a bit of concentration.

Internet Solutions in Order To Learn to Write in Russian

Nowadays, new technologies also offer worthy writing tools in order to learn Russian writing.

Online courses should not be overlooked, especially as writing the letters of the Russian alphabet is less complicated when doing so on a computer.

The free online resources on the Learn Russian website are very popular with lovers of the Russian language who wish to learn this language and have an excellent PDF writing in Russian handbook.

Search for "learn russian online" and find loads of free resources.

Orthodox Icon | A handwritten calligraphic text in Old Cyrillic | source: Wikipedia

The digital Russian alphabet is clearly different from handwritten Cyrillic cursive. However, these sites can teach you to read handwritten notes, which can be extremely useful during a trip to Russia.

There are very important learning tips in order to avoid bad habits: for example, the tip of the pen should never leave the paper until a word is finished.

As a student of the Cyrillic alphabet, you have to copy every letter (lowercase first, then the capital letters), and you will have the space you need to do this. It is practice that will allow you to master Russian calligraphy. You will end up very proud.

After learning each and every character, you will become familiar with composing entire words, which will sometimes prove easy, sometimes very difficult.

You can work on the words with checkered worksheets, then with lined notebook papers.

By gradually increasing difficulty when writing in Cyrillic, the Russian language will become more and more familiar to you.

Interactive Apps in Order to Learn Russian Writing

Smartphones and tablets are the hallmark of the 21st century, and are now indispensable tools for this connected generation.

In addition to the classic web resources, our transportable devices make applications available to their users. Some are a bit like video games: there is no better way to memorize or trace the Russian characters than with one's finger on public transportation!

Being bilingual | Writing Russian is necessary, even for graffiti! | source: visualhunt.com

Anki, Memrise, Mosalingua, and Italki are all avenues to explore, here!

But be careful not to believe that apps can entirely replace conventional exercises. Studies show that human memory is more adapted to paper than screens.

This is a point to remember if you seriously want to learn Russian rather than forget what you've learned a few weeks after your lessons.

Writing to Native Russians Via the Internet

It is not enough to excel "theoretically"...You must be able to proceed to writing Russian in real life, otherwise your achievements would remain unnoticed forever!

If you are wanting to talk to Russians, a Russian keyboard will be very useful for chatting on forums or chatting websites. You will have no trouble finding what you love depending on your passions!

It would be a shame, however, to stop at the Russian computer keyboard.

Why don't you try and find correspondents who you can write handwritten letters to? This is an old method that will allow you to train your hand in proper cursives - while also exercising your grammar, vocabulary, and syntactic skills.

Specialized platforms will assist you with your research. There are websites such as penpal-tradition.net, swapasap.com, studentsoftheworld.info, and mylanguageexchange.com.

And what can be better than a linguistic exchange to top your learning off? Would you be willing to go live in Russia a few years?


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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.