What Are the Best Tips to Learn Russian?

Renee Booker
Renee Booker
A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.
A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.

Russian, the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, can be very difficult for native English speakers to learn. For anyone who decides to learn Russian, however, it can be both enjoyable and potentially profitable. Traditional methods used to learn Russian such as classes and computer or audio programs may be effective; however, non-traditional methods such as immersion or study-abroad programs, private tutors, or even Russian language programming may increase a student's ability to learn the language.

As one of the original Slavic languages, Russian is spoken by natives of numerous eastern European countries such as Latvia, Estonia and Belarus. Once the official language of all former U.S.S.R. member states, Russian is still spoken by many, despite having lost its "official" status. For anyone planing to travel to Eastern Europe, at least a rudimentary grasp of Russian will make the trip much more enjoyable. In addition, as eastern Europe continues to develop, the ability to speak Russian can only help in the job market.

Traditional classes are always a good way to learn Russian, although they have their limitations. Language classes typically only meet for an hour or two a week which makes progress very slow. In addition, very little personal instruction is available for a student who is either behind or ahead of the other students. While a private tutor may sound expensive, it is often actually rather cost-effective as a student generally learns the language much more rapidly than in a classroom setting.

Using a computer or audio program to learn Russian can be effective; however, its effectiveness can be increased by using the program more often than instructed. For example, try sleeping with the program running either through the use of earphones or computer speakers. Information often sinks in better when we sleep than when we are awake.

Along with the audio programs, Russian language television programming can be a great way to learn Russian. If available, try watching cartoons or Russian soap operas. Not only are they easy to follow, but they are often entertaining and give the person watching insight into the culture as well.

Study-abroad or immersion programs may be the best way to learn Russian in a short amount of time. Either option allows the student to live with a Russian-speaking family or in a university setting where the language is spoken around the clock. By combing traditional classes with a firsthand education in the culture, a student gains a complete understanding of Russian.

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    • A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.
      A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.