First a little bit about why I started to learn Russian.
As some of you may know, my wife is Russian and I’m from Norway. She moved to Norway in 2012, and we spoke English to each other when we first met. Gradually she learnt Norwegian, (on her own and at university) as a result of that we started to speak more and more Norwegian to each other. And now, almost 5 years later she speaks Norwegian fluently. So then I decided, now it’s my turn to try and learn Russian. First of all to be able to communicate with her in Russian, but also with her friends and family when we visit Russia. I also do think that learning a new language widens your mind and give you new opportunities in life. I say as Nelson Mandela once said:
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
How I started to learn Russian
Now it’s almost 10 months since I first started to learn Russian. Although, I have to say, the first 2 months I didn’t study as much as I wanted to. There were several reasons for that. When I think back, I think the biggest reason was intimidation. There were so many things that seemed almost impossible. Like how to pronounce words, the Russian grammar and the fact that they have a completely different script than what I am used to.
I know that someone say that they don’t bother to learn the script, because they only want to speak the language, and not to read it. But for me it was essential to learn the cyrillic alphabet first, because I didn’t just want to speak and listen to the language, I also wanted to read it. In fact, right now I’m reading Sherlock Holmes – The hound of Baskerville in Russian, and it’s an absolute pleasure, because I understand things. Of course not everything, but A LOT more then when I first started.
So, I just had to set my intimidation aside and just jump into it. Because I wanted to read it was natural for me to start with the cyrillic alphabet. And to all you out there saying it’s impossible; I can assure you, It’s not! I even dare to say you can learn it comfortably in just some days. There are probably many ways of learning it, but the way I did it was using flashcards. To take an example: I would write the letter Ж (Zhe) on a piece of paper. I would also write an example word next to it containing the sound like the words: treasure
Ж (Zhe) – Treasure
Ч (Ch) – Switch
I think you get the idea. And of course after doing this for some days I tried my pronunciation out in practice.
How I learnt Russian words
After learning the alphabet the next thing was words, you obviously need a lot of words in order to communicate in a language. After some days of searching the internet for suitable courses for beginners I stumbled upon a course “Russian Made EASY” by Mark Thomson. And I have to say, thats a great beginners course. I really recommend you guys to check it out. In fact, I was so satisfied with that course that after finishing it I went on to buy another course made buy him called “Russian Accelerator”. The thing I really like about those courses are how simple he explains the Russian grammar.
After studying Russian for about 2,5 months me and Nataliia went to Russia. For me it was my first time being there. And I knew, not much, but a little of the language, so I had some expectations that I could understand some things being said to me. But I quickly realized it wasn’t as simple as that. I was overwhelmed, because it was so hard to both understand and also to speak. So when we got back home to Norway I was full of motivation, I really wanted to learn this language so that I could communicate in and adequate way.
Therefore I decided to buy another course, Assimil – Russian. And as we speak I’m soon finished with it. By the way, also a course I really recommend. The thing I like about this course is that you know what to do every day! Besides this course I also use a website called LingQ. There I mostly read, but I also listen quite much. As I mentioned earlier I read a book of Sherlock Holmes in Russian at the moment, and I use LingQ when reading it. To me thats an invaluable resource, highly recommended!
Conclusion after 10 months of studying Russian
Besides Norwegian, I speak English, but I really don’t count that as a language I have learnt on my own. Because in Norway we start to learn English from an early age, and we have it everywhere around us here. So I was basically a novice when it came to learning a new language. I had really no clue! I remember I tried to study and remember vocabulary lists, which in hindsight seems ridiculous to me now. I really do believe thats a highly ineffective way of acquiring new words. Also, if I could magically transport myself 10 months back in time I would focus more on acquiring the language through dialogues and texts. I really like that way of learning, in fact, thats the way I learn new words and grammatical concepts today!
Another thing I could have done differently is focusing on “important” things first. And when I say “important” I mean things you will hear often. Things like: “Hi, how are?”, “Where are you from”, “I’m from…” and so on. I think by doing that you will stay motivated. Because when you hear those things being said and you understand them, you will have what I like to call an “Eureka-moment”, a moment when you understand some things.
That was a little bit about my journey so far, I hope you liked it and got something valuable from it. Feel free to leave a comment!