How to Learn Russian Quickly: Tips for Beginners
The Russian language is considered as widespread as it is hard to learn. Currently, there are around 155 million Russian native speakers in the world.
And that is no small number: out of the entire world’s population, around 2,4% of people spoke Russian, making the language the 8th most-spoken in the world.
There are plenty of reasons one would want to learn Russian: politics students choose it for its career prospects; travellers would like to better understand Eastern Europeans; journalists covering Eastern Europe for media companies rely on Russian as they often live in native regions; literature fans love to read their favorite Russian writers in their native language.
So, today we will talk about how you can start learning Russian in the most effective way. Let’s dive in!
How Long Does It Take to Learn Russian?
Let’s take our rose-coloured glasses off: it won’t be easy. If we were to answer the question “how hard is it to learn Russian?”, we would definitely point out its reliance on Cyrillic alphabet and gender-based nouns.
There’s a worldwide “rule of thumb” when it comes to figuring out how hard the language is to learn. Foreign Service Institute bases its estimates on the level of differences between the language in question and English — another major international language.
So, according to that rule, Russian belongs to Category III — meaning it is a language with “significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English”.
Let’s take the alphabet, as we mentioned before. Sure, it’s not Arabic, but there are still a lot of differences between how certain letters are written and pronounced. For instance, the letter “H” is present in Cyrillic, but it is pronounced as “N”. To learn the Russian language quickly, you will have to understand those differences.
Another big difference is the articles. There are none.
Instead, the Russian language has genders: the words can be masculine, feminine, or neutral.
The verbs have perfective and imperfective aspects, meaning the language doesn’t need complex tenses. So, there are only basic past, present, and future forms.
But it’s not that bad.
For instance, the word order in Russian is flexible: the meaning of the sentence won’t change if you mix up a couple of words. The language has six cases, which provide better flexibility to link objects, actions, and subjects in the sentence.
And one more thing about cases: six is not many at all. For instance, Hungarian has 18.
So yeah — it is doable, if you stick to the solid course and keep the routine up. Beware of those trying to convince you that it is possible to learn Russian in a year. That is a lie.
Foreign Service Institute estimates that a person can become an efficient and fluent Russian speaker after having completed around 1100 hours of study.
Depending on how you distribute those hours along your schedule, it can take you anywhere from 1,5 to 3 years to learn Russian. We would recommend studying not over 2-3 hours per day.
How to Learn Russian Faster: The Best Tips to Get You Started
You already know the best way to learn Russian fast: it’s total immersion in the language. With that, you will get comfortable with it more quickly and start understanding it in no time.
Here’s how you can start doing it:
Figure out how to learn the Russian alphabet first. That is the gateway to reading and writing in Russian.
Yeah, there are some services that offer transcriptions for Russian, but they actually do more harm than good. Russian phonetics are not that hard: there are no silent sounds or diphthongs that require transcriptions.
Just learn the alphabet and don’t waste your time: it is the quickest way to get into the language.
Use Russian media
One of the best ways to understand the language is to surround yourself with it. This way you will get used to hearing Russian speech and start making sense of it much quicker.
Try listening to Russian music. Watch some movies with subtitles in your native language — as you get more comfortable, you can switch them to Russian, and then turn them off completely.
You can also read Russian media and literature, listen to podcasts, find Russian YouTubers, or even switch the system language on your phone.
Start with the common words first
When thinking about how to learn Russian fast, learning common words is the first thing that comes to mind. Having the most-used words in your vocabulary, you will be able to put them into sentences in no time.
Practicing the sentences goes a long way as well: it can act as a point of entrance into Russian grammar. As you go further, it will be easier for you to build more complex sentences.
Look into cognates and loanwords
Just like any other language, Russian shares some words with others.
It is a crucial point in getting to understand Russian speech. Cognates and loanwords can be found in other languages, even your native one, making it much easier to step into the Russian vocabulary.
Stay consistent with your practice
Consistency is key to achieving anything, and it is no different for learning languages.
So, how to learn the Russian language? “Keep learning it” would be the best answer.
As we have mentioned before, Russian is not an easy one to master. It is important to keep your brain on its toes with new vocabulary, grammar rules, and Russian content on a regular basis.
The Russian language is quite hard to learn, since it differs a lot from other internationally recognized languages like English.
Those differences include the alphabet, phonetics, noun genders, verb cases, and a ton of other aspects.
But we aren’t here to say that it can’t be done. Sure it can. Moreover, there are a lot of things that you can do that will make the learning process as efficient as possible.
Dedication and commitment are your best friends from now on. Sticking to the routine is hard at the beginning, but you will get the hang of it as you progress through classes. Don’t give up!
The Internet is your best friend here. There are a lot of websites that offer free materials you can use to learn, as well as online Russian courses and classes. You can also find online communities that have native Russian speakers helping the learners polish their skills.
The Russian language is hard. It takes a lot of time to make sense of the way it works. The most optimistic estimates argue it would take around 3 months to master the most basic level of Russian.
It’s best to start with the most basic topics that are described in basic words. Those are much easier to remember, translate, and pronounce. Then you can work your way up to more complex concepts. You can use cards, smartphone apps, and quizzes to help you memorize the words.
In order to speak the language fluently, you would need around 1100 hours of practice. With the least demanding schedule, it translates to 3 years of studying.
Being immersed in the language environment helps a lot. It makes you practice the language passively as you go about your life. Try consuming more of your content in Russian: that means listening, reading, and watching. Try getting somebody, preferably a native Russian, to talk to you in Russian about all kinds of things.