It’s easy to teach yourself Russian, as long as you have a powerful motive for learning, and a proven method to follow. You obviously have the motivation – a compelling reason to learn – or you wouldn’t likely be reading this. Be it the prestige that comes from speaking an exotic language, the money that will come by taking your business international, or just the adventure that awaits you in Russia, you need to dwell on your reason. Dream a little every day about the thing that pushed you here – the prestige, the success, the adventure – and that dream will fuel your daily study.
“I’m motivated!” you exclaim. “Now how do I start learning Russian?”
Well, you’re going to start at the end of this article. Right after I explain how to teach yourself Russian. There are five things you need to do:
Learn to read Cyrillic. Daphne West has a great book on it. I have no affiliation to Ms. West or her publisher, and I don’t sell the book. Go to amazon.com and type in “learn Russian”. You could also watch my free videos here on How to read Russian.
Learn the most useful and practical phrases first…the ones that relate to you and your situation. If you’re learning for business, you should start with basic phrases about meetings and contracts, etc. (Again, go to Amazon.com and type in “business Russian”.)
If you’re learning for travel, I recommend learning these 30 words first.
If you’re corresponding with a woman on the web, you should know basic expressions useful in these kinds of relationships. I have a short article on this to get you started, called 17 Russian Phrases For Love (http://russian-video-blog.com/17-russian-phrases-for-love/).
Next, make flashcards. There’s no way around this. English on one side, Russian on the other. There are electronic devices which do this, plus applications for iPhones and whatnot, but I still recommend actual cards. The act of writing the cards yourself is part of the learning process. Study your cards in short intervals throughout the day. Try associating study time, perhaps, with mealtime. Instead of reading the paper at breakfast, you can study your cards. This way – between breakfast and lunch – you won’t need to set aside much additional time for studying.
You need two forms of audio to augment your flashcards. One type needs to be a recording where someone prompts you, “How do you say _____ in Russian?” You need to then hit pause until the answer comes to you, then listen to check the answer.
The second audio you need is a growing collection of the words and phrases you know, spoken first in Russian, by a native speaker. You again hit pause, and try to determine what was said, before hitting play for the answer.
Much of my time that I spent studying Russian was simply the preparations of these recordings and flashcards. But you are learning as you prepare them. You are, after all, your own teacher.
Finally, you need feedback from a native speaker. For most self-learners, this is the toughest part. Often, a student won’t get any feedback at all on their pronunciation until their first trip! But there are alternatives. For example, I went to my local university and placed an ad in the student newspaper looking for a Russian tutor. I didn’t want lessons, I just wanted to be sure she could understand me.
If you don’t have a university handy, you might find a Russian speaker online who could help, but services like Skype are not nearly as common in the FSU as in the USA. Getting feedback is the toughest part of the self-teaching process. If you don’t have any luck finding help, you can always feel free to try our innovative program, the R.A. Method.
So there are the five things you need to do. With those five things, and solid motivation, you absolutely can teach yourself Russian!