For English speakers and for most South American and European countries, learning Latin and Anglo Saxon languages is rather easy. But when faced to learn something that doesn’t share the same grammar rules, alphabet, genders or verb tenses, we’re in a bucket of trouble. That’s why Russian, next to other “different” languages such as Japanese, Chinese or Korean is considered hard and many people don’t even get a “day 2” in their free online language lesson course for Russian, simply because they give up on something that seems way to hard to understand, not to mention learn to a point where you’re fluent with it. But if you take things slow and don’t let learning Russian overwhelm you with its complexity, you should pull it off.
Step 1 – Mastering the Russian Alphabet and Numerals
First of all, before you can move to anything related to vocabulary or grammar, you need to get acquainted with the Russian alphabet. The Russian alphabet contains 33 letters, of which 21 consonants and 10 vowels, the remaining two letters being without sound. One of the confusing bits about mastering the Russian alphabet is that some letters look like those from the Latin alphabet and have the same pronunciation, whereas others look the same but have different sounds. For example, the letter “M” from the Russian alphabet is pronounced “ehm”, just like in English. On the other hand the letter “X” in Russian is a hard “H” and not the “ecs” sound from English.
Step 2 – Learning the Basic Set of Russian Words
Each language has approximately 1,000 words that form the base language used in daily conversation. This does not include technical or specialization terms. In Russian, 1,000 words form up around 70-75% of the normal language used so you’ll have to learn as much of these possible if you want to progress to more advanced phrases or grammar.
Try learning what you would teach your child to say in your native language first: colors, mammals, fruits, vegetables, greetings, farewells, days of the week, months of the year and so forth. Keep it basic and try to learn every word in a context, not just from a list. If you get hold of some English-Russian translations (or well, mother tongue-Russian translations if you’re not a native English speaker) you can find these words and see the exact context they’re used. This will be a lot helpful later on.
Step 3 – Basic Grammar
Ok, “grammar” is a wide open battlefield and you’ll have to take it down sector by sector. Start out with genders and learn how to spot the gender of a Russian noun. This can be easily done by analyzing the ending consonant(s) of the noun. You should look on the Internet for a list of noun endings for masculine, feminine and neutral and print it out. It takes around 10-15 minutes to get used to determining the gender of a Russian noun, but it will prove to be an important thing to know in the future.
Verb tenses are a different story and it won’t be easy to understand and analyze them like you did with the noun genders. Russian tenses have certain aspects that make it harder for you to spot the exact tense at first. I would suggest you just skim through a set of tense rules and terminations (as long as there are examples for each tense) and try to learn them “naturally” later on, by the ear.
From hereon, you’re on your own. You already know the alphabet, the basic vocabulary and the basic grammar rules, so all you need to do now is practice a lot by reading and listening to Russian. I prefer reading as a starting point, since listening has its flaws, although if you want to start pronouncing words correctly you’ll have to hear them spoken first.
When you reach a stage where you can already read an article or newspaper bit in Russian, that critical moment when you almost quit on your second day will be long behind you. Now all you need to do is increase your vocabulary and if possible, engage in a few Russian conversations as they will prove vital in your quest to achieve fluency in the Russian language.
Increase your Russian language vocabulary at Russian lessons at Internet Polyglot by playing online games.