Posts Tagged ‘how to learn russian’

The Best Way to Learn Russian

February 21st, 2010

I get asked that question a lot: “Say, what’s the best way to learn Russian?” What a lot of people will say, almost flippantly, is, “Go live in Russia.”

Gosh, thanks buddy. Real practical advice.

And you know what? Even if you could easily just move to Russia, that would NOT be the best way to learn, at first. I know many American and British men who live here in Sevastopol, and they all know scarcely a word of Russian between them. So, living here is not going to do anything. You can learn Russian right at home, where you live now. It’s not where you live, it’s how you learn and how you study that makes the difference.

First, you need a multiple-attack plan for learning. You don’t want one of those Audio Only courses, nor do you want one of those only Pictures programs. No One Trick Pony is going to work. You need to be learning on different levels, with different approaches. For example, some words are best learned through mnemonic devices. (See my learn Russian phrases PowerPhrase videos, for example.)

But there’s lots more words that don’t fit neatly into such sentences. You need to learn them — and all words, really — through the contextual method. (Click here for some articles about Contextual Learning and how it helps to learn Russian.) Not that learning Russian has much to do with learning words.

Yes, I probably need to repeat that: Learning words is not the same as learning a language. Language has rules for how words need to change, and how they can go together. These rules are called grammar. If you really want to learn the language — to be able to have conversations and to understand what people are talking about — you need to be shown Russian grammar correctly.

Unfortunately, most courses either ignore teaching grammar (because it IS devilishly hard) or teach it totally wrong, using charts and tables as if it were chemistry.

So, you need a course that teaches words and phrases in various ways, depending on the words themselves. And a course that teaches grammar as simply and clearly as possible. This is done via Pattern Recognition. You are shown the patterns of the language, and learn how to extrapolate. But what you don’t need to be bogged done with are all the laborious names and nomenclature for grammar. Do you know what modal verbs are in English? Perhaps not, but you certainly are a master at using them, even new verbs, because you understand the patterns.

Finally, you need a course that takes careful review into account. By careful, I don’t just mean a course that asks you the same question each week. No. You can (and should) do that on your own study time. The course itself needs to have you work with your Russian vocabulary. Ask you questions where you are forced to use existing vocabulary in new ways.

That’s what a superior course in Russian should do, and is in my opinion the best way to learn Russian fast, or any language for that matter.

Don’t settle for less.

How to Learn Russian: Contextual learning Part 2

February 20th, 2010

Let’s learn some new words online today related to language. We’ll be doing this by seeing the words in context and deducing the meaning naturally. if you missed the first part of this series called How to learn Russian contextual learning part 1 check it out. Here goes part 2…

I didn’t know the meaning of the word “obsequious” so I looked it up in the slovar.
(Pronounced: sluh-VAR)

English is my native yihzik, but I’ve been studying the Russian yihzik for seven years now and speak it almost fluently.
(Pronounced yih-ZEEK)

I always forget how to spell the slovo “tomorow.” Are there two R’s or just one?
(Pronounced: SLOW – vuh)

Z is the last bukva of the alfaveet.
(Pronounced: BUKE-vah and al-fah-VEET)

In this restaurant the other day, I was very unhappy with the food and the service, so I told the waitress, “Excuse me, I’d like to govoreet with the manager.”
(Pronounced guh-var-EET)

I always have the Russian news station playing on my satelite radio because it’s important to slushat to lots of Russian speech.
(Pronounced SLEW-shut)

Let’s review those words.

What is a slovar? A slovar is a book which has the definition of virtually every word in a particular language.

What does yizik mean? A yizik is a systematic means of communicating using sounds or written symbols.

What is a slovo? A slovo is an utterance, or its representation in writing, which communicates a particular meaning based on context.

What is a bukva? A bukva is a written symbol which represents a spoken sound, or part of a sound, and is a component of an alphabet. A bukva doesn’t usually have meaning on its own, but is placed together with other bukvi to spell words.

What is an alfaveet? An alfaveet is the letters of a language, arranged in order by custom.

What does govoreet mean? Govoreet means to express something with speech.

What does slushat mean? Slushat is when we make an effort to hear something.

Let’s use them in new contextual situations. “Mom, how do you spell the slovo ‘exaggerate’?” — “I don’t know. Look it up in the slovar.”

The English alfaveet has 26 bukvi, but the Russian alfaveet has 33. The spelling, though, of Russian is easy. It’s the grammar that makes it such a difficult yizik.

When the telemarketer called, a little girl answered the phone. He told her, “Hi, I’m calling from Wizard Marketing. Can you give the phone to your mommy, I need to govoreet with her.”

The guitarist turned away from the stereo to yell at his noisy roommates. “Hey, can you guys be quiet? I need to slushat to this song, because I’m performing it next week.”

Note how we didn’t actually define what these new words meant. We used them in context, which is the only way Russians know these words, too.