Want to Know the Most Useful Russian Phrase?

July 3rd, 2009 by Mark Leave a reply »

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Power Phrases Lesson #1
All Power Phrase Lessons | All Russian lesson audio & mp3 downloads

Let me give you a little history about how I came across what I believe to be the most useful of all Russian phrases.
I love the Russian language. It’s more poetic than English, more beautiful than French, and can be as aggressive sounding as German. And it’s compact, meaning it can say a whole lot with very few words. And it’s just…



I got into it in 2004, teaching myself from a variety of books and CDs I bought. Why? Well, I’m a very independent guy and wanted to visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and didn’t want some tour guide telling me how long I could stand in front of Rembrandt’s masterpieces. If that meant learning enough Russian to rent an apartment and hail a cab, then so be it.

And then a funny thing happened.

I fell in love.

With the language, I mean.

I know what you were thinking. And yes, I fell in love with the women, too. Let’s put that right out there, right at the start. The women here are incredible, and I won’t pretend I wasn’t motivated by the affect my speaking Russian had on them. (I say “here” because I moved to Sevastopol, Ukraine in May 2008.)

But this blog is NOT about the women.

It’s about the system I created to help me learn Russian

. The problem I was having was this:

I just couldn’t remember the words. They were these alien sounds which had no connection in my mind to their actual meaning. That was one problem.

The other problem was pronounciation. I know, I know you should listen to native speakers

…but that wasn’t helping me. I needed to hear an American pronounce them, but I found no such tapes. So I used my ear.  I’m a professional guitar teacher by trade, with a good ear to transcribe the sounds myself. And that is what’s doubly cool (I think, anyway!) about my system for learning Russian:

It helps you remember the word in Russian, and helps you pronounce it.

As you’ll see, the system uses stories which contain within them the sound of the Russian word, and it’s meaning.

That’s it. Memorable sentences. Sometimes whole stories, sometimes just a quick phrase. Like this:

In America, trains are poised to make a comeback.

The Russian word for train (as in, Amtrak and railroads, not “to prepare for a mission”) is поезд, which sounds very much like the word “poised” in English. The main difference is that there’s a bit less of an ‘ee’ sound in the Russian word. (If you listen to yourself say the word ‘poised’ slowly, there’s a clear ‘ee’ sound. That ee sound becomes more of an ‘eh’ sound.)

Still, even if you say poised, you’ll be understood. And that’s all we care about. We will never speak without an accent, and it doesn’t matter — neither will they. I know Russians who’ve been living in the U.S. for twenty years, and though they speak English fluently, they still have a thick accent!

Heck, what does it even mean anymore, to speak English without an accent? Which is the true pronounciation? Brooklyn? Boston? Kentucky? Texas? Maine? London? Austrailian? South African? As long as we are understood, that’s what’s important.

But getting back to the system:

If you want to learn Russian, and are wondering what Russian word you should learn first. I suggest…
The most useful Russian phrase: May I. Have a look at the first video and you’ll see just how useful it can be.

In the first video, yo’�ll see that I make a promise: If you watch each video, and make the flashcards as I describe (and study them a bit each day), YOU — WILL –  LEARN — RUSSIAN.

Isn’t that encouraging? Aren’t you psyched?! I am! I’m excited for you, because learning Russian is good for your brain, good for your self-esteem, and good for your love life. (Even if your partner speaks English, you can still talk to him or her in Russian and it will be very sexy!)

So no more reading! Please watch the first vid!

Cheers from Sevastopol!


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  1. Boris says:

    Hey. You have me real motivated to learn more. I like how you fell in love with the language first and then the women. I am discovering the beauty of the language. I hope you maintain the blog…

  2. Mark says:

    Hi Boris! I will definitely be maintaining the blog. Tell me more about the resources you’re using to study.

  3. Sami Abdullah says:

    I am a tour guide in the holy land and I want to speak and guide russian tourists to holy sites

  4. Miisha says:

    Good show dude! Love your blog!!!

  5. Daniel says:

    Awesome blog. Keep up the good work.

  6. Davy says:

    I’ve just found your site and think it is wonderful! I have been looking for a method to learn Russian for a long time and now I have found it. Thank you for all the time you have put in to this course to pass your knowlege on to us.

  7. Greg says:

    Hi Mark, I have been trying to learn Russian since November last year and have found it frustrating to do so, even though I have school students that I teach who are also Russian.I found you quick example on the words for train,snow,rain and may I amazingly simple to remember. Thanks!!

  8. tim says:

    helow mark ive veuied vidieos on verious sites teaching russian and havent found them verry helpfull ive been fasanated by the russian laungauge and its culture for years and would love to learn more of this wonderfull laungauge but ive anly grasp a few simple words and despratly need help with this

  9. Sophie says:

    привет!! Such a beautiful language I’ve been trying to learn on and off for 4 years, but still cannot completely remember mainly because of the grammar. I hope this helps,

  10. Monica says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thank you for your site. It is very helpful. I have been learning Russian with a private tutor for a year and a half. I love Russian.

    I have a question relating to the use of Russian in Ukraine. If I were to spend some time in Ukraine, would I have much opportunity to develop my Russian language skills, or is Russian not as widely spoken in Ukraine anymore?

    Thank you for your time.

    Kind regards,


  11. Now, I will never forget “mozna”. I want to learn more from you!! You are a great teacher!!

  12. Tatyana says:

    Please email to me a link to your website, cause I do have a friend who would love to learn russian, yes it is a guy!;) I live in California. G8 site!:)))

  13. Ben says:

    I’ve been learning languages for many years, learning Finnish, Mandarin and German (all to varying degrees). I say this as I don’t want you to take this lightly. You are by far one of the most personable and motivating language teachers I have had the pleasure of learning from. All your video’s are concise and accurate, whilst not making me feel as though I’m being dragged along whilst I’m still struggling with pronouncing the first words.

    Superbly well done, Thank you so much.

  14. MikeH says:

    Very helpful site Mark I also learn useing pharses. Also I agree with you about the difficlulties of Russian which I find harder then Egyption Arabic. The main stumbling blocks for me are the long words, 6 cases and that some vowels change with stress which some books do not include.

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