To say I have been away from my blog for a while would simply be an understatement. I am not going to lie, I have been going through an extremely busy patch in my life where life doesn’t seem to want to slow down and honestly, I am okay with that. Naturally I am a busy person who adores being kept busy. Through my personal study, language learning, reading, tutoring and joining a brand-new language learning company, it has been exciting yet chaotic.
Today I am writing about my experience with the Russian language after having studied the language for three months. I would like to be very clear and honest because I have gone through times of doubt and times of immense joy. Are you studying the Russian language? Are you curious as to whether or not fellow learners also feel your pain? Let’s get started!
To begin with I will talk about my motivation for studying Russian. Russian and I have a mixed relationship. I have always found the Russian language intriguing and I have always found the language to really capture my attention. While I would make the bold statement and say that I love all languages, Russian is a language that hit me differently. I am an individual who has a large interest in history and so Soviet history has always intrigued me. I am fascinated by the different cultures represented in the Ex-Soviet Union. I am interested in Russian politics and current affairs, I enjoy reading Russian literature in English and I wanted to attempt the original versions of Pushkin’s poetry, I have many students who reside in Russia and therefore it would make my job a little easier and finally, I have the opportunity to practice Russian daily. This wasn’t just going to be a language I learnt for a while and then never spoke (throwback to my Hungarian adventure in 2017). Russian is a language that I can access easily. As I mentioned previously, I have an interest in the former Soviet Union and so it is a dream of mine to visit many of these countries that exist today. For a few years I have been conducting my own research into Russian culture, Belarusian culture, Kazakh culture and Azeri culture. I have been lucky to have so many students who have given me a cultural insight into their lives and this has only encouraged me. My motivation may be different to someone else but that is completely normal. I constructed a list of ten motivations I had and proceeded to get learning.
A few years ago, I started to “study” Russian, but I only got as far as the alphabet and basic greetings. This time would be different. My motivations were clearer, and I realised how this language could benefit me in the long run. During the start of lockdown in the UK (mid-March), I logged into Babbel and started learning. I have never been a huge fan of online websites or applications when it came to my language learning but Babbel impressed me. I loved how useful the items of vocabulary were and I also appreciated the ability to jump around the course when I wanted in order to learn language that I felt I needed. I started right from scratch. After a few weeks, I felt steady progress. In case you’re interested, I was studying for roughly three or so hours a day, however this is just an average. I know that everyone has different circumstances, but I was loving the process of learning Russian and I decided that while I was motivated and, in the moment, I would try to learn as much as I possibly could in that time. Three months is usually the period of time where I feel most motivated after having just started a language. I was using Babbel mainly but where I felt I needed the help; I would look for explanations on YouTube. A fabulous channel would be “Be Fluent in Russian”. Another channel that helped me to improve my listening abilities is “Russian Progress”. My vocabulary was improving and my ability to understand was improving when looking at topics that interested me. A month of learning eventually past and I decided to reach out to a Russian teacher on italki. I explained that while I was in lockdown and had less work to carry out than normal, this was as good an opportunity than any to make a start. I explained that I had been learning for a month and that I hadn’t. yet talked with a Russian speaker. Why? I prefer receiving input and then producing output. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked well with me. I entered the lesson and we began to talk in order to asses my level together. I had more to say because of the amount of input I had but of course, I was making continuous mistakes.
My teacher was lovely and made me feel as though I wasn’t crazy when I didn’t understand something. I took two lessons a week and before long, my ability to speak began to improve steadily. Outside of the lessons I was given regular homework to carry out which I appreciated. I asked her questions about aspects of Russian I couldn’t quite comprehend when I was learning alone. I found that by being consistent in my learning, I was able to improve quicker than I expected. As learners we are all different and so how I learn isn’t always going to work for everyone else. I just stuck with what worked for me. If I had to learn new vocabulary, I used apps like Memrise or Quizlet. I am a very visual learner so that helped me a lot. I never usually use a textbook for A1 study. I much prefer lessons, videos and apps at that point. I started a new, fresh notebook and within two and a half months, the notebook was full.
Like many other Russian learners, Russian cases really trip me up daily. They appear to be a lot less scary now that I have become used to them, but they still cause me trouble. I have accepted that the learning process requires time and commitment and I still feel incredibly motivated. There were days where I had to take breaks in order to save my head from exploding. It has been a tough yet rewarding experience. When I speak in Russian to some of my students, they always reassure me and motivate me to continue. I have now been learning for three months and I do believe to now be at an A2 level roughly. It took a lot of frustration and motivation to get this far in a short amount of time, but I don’t regret my decision. Russian is a truly remarkable language that comes with a lot of interesting culture. Sometimes I feel as though the whole of Russia is ready to assist me when I need it. My teachers have been great and have encouraged me to progress.
I recently purchased “Russian Tutor” by Teach Yourself. This series is designed for learners of an A2 level, so I hope to obtain a lot more practice and structure by using this material, along with Babbel. I try to have an equal balance of practice. For example, I now listen to Russian for at least half an hour a day (usually Easy Russian on YouTube), I keep a somewhat regular diary in Russian, I practice speaking with teachers and students and I try to read beginner texts with audio input. This language has kept my attention and I feel incredibly motivated to go far with this language. It is a feeling I have only felt with German (the language I love the most due to my connection to the culture and people). I can see myself progressing with Russian but as I progress each day, I feel the challenge becoming tougher. I knew this would be the case but there are good days and bad days.
To conclude, I am extremely motivated right now and this language makes me very happy. I am enjoying the process and I feel as though I am making steady progress. There are days where I am less motivated and there are days where I feel like giving up, but this language has always drawn me back. I am excited to update my blog in three months time to talk about where I am in my learning journey and how I am getting on. To all of my readers, I hope you are well and are keeping safe. We are moving forward and I appreciate your time.