Top 10 Russian hacks
Well, it takes time, effort and motivation to master a language; more importantly, it's down to how you study and a positive mindset! Here, we have 10 tailored tricks for people who are learning Russian or are thinking about starting their Russian lessons.
Remember, there's no shortcut to mastering any language. So in addition to these 10 hacks, practice, practice, and practice. The more you practice, the more confident you'll feel about your progress; and the more confident you are, the more invested--and therefore, better--you will be!
Hack #1: Start with Sounds
The answer is simple: sounds. Learning how to hear, pronounce and recognize written Russian sounds is a great place to get started even before you begin memorizing words and their meanings.
Unlike English, most Russian words are pronounced just like they're written. So, it's always a good idea to learn how to pronounce Russian sounds before memorizing vocabulary and studying grammar. In order to do that, you're going to need to learn the Russian alphabet.
The Russian alphabet is not as impossible to learn as you might think. It has even got some letters that you already know! And in fact, some words you will be able to read and understand without using Google translation!
Have a look at some letters here:
Russian letters Pronounced as in English
Can you recognize these words?
Hack #2: Learn on the Go
A great way to do this is by taking advantage of American academic and polyglot Alexander Arguelles' Shadowing Technique.
Check out this video for a sample of how this shadowing technique is done with a foreign language (in this case, it's Chinese) :
If you feel shy or embarrassed to do this in public, find a road or path where you can speak Russian loudly and proudly without many other people around you.
2. Maintain a perfectly upright posture.
According to Arguelles, maintaining a good posture contributes to this method's efficacy.
3. Articulate well and in a loud, clear voice.
This is very important in order to effectively learn the rhythm, structure and sound of the language.
This may feel silly at first, but the results will amaze you. By speaking out loud as soon as you hear Russian sounds, you're developing a sense of how the language is structured and sounds, even if you don't understand everything that's being said.
Don't worry if you can't catch and repeat everything. As you improve, you'll gradually begin developing the accent and rhythm of Russian. You'll also understand more and more words as your studies progress.
Some other great tricks for learning Russian on the go include taking advantage of your morning subway or bus commute by studying flashcards or listening to Russian audio in the car.
Make learning Russian a part of your life, and you'll be amazed how much time you have to study when you learn on the go.
Hack #3: Learn the Practical Words First
The minimum number of words for a Russian beginner is 780. In order to achieve Level 1, which is equivalent to the Key English Test, you need to learn about 1 300 words.
So what does that mean for you as a Russian learner?
By learning the practical words first, you can cut your work load by a half. You'll be able to communicate faster and with significantly less effort.
Here are some of the most common Russian words to get you started... (Note that we recommend the Chrome browser for full voice recognition functionality).
Hack #4: Take advantage of what you already know
The words "Emotion" and "Restaurant", for example, have the exact same meaning in Russian as their English equivalents. They're just pronounced a little differently and are spelled with cyrillic, of course. These cognates can make your language learning much easier and faster. Take advantage of them!
Here's a handy list of Russian words that you already know:
Hack #5: Hooked on Mnemonics
That's where mnemonics come in. Basically, mnemonics involves telling yourself a fun, goofy or memorable story, song or rhyme that you associate with a particular word.
For example, let's say you want to memorise the colour word коричневый (kareecnhivyi) which means "brown". You can imagine a brown biscuit, which is always crunchy..
And remember, if you have trouble memorising a word, phrase, or grammatical rule, you can always invent your own mnemonic device.
Hack#6: Keep a Russian Vocabulary Notebook and Flashcards
Not only does keeping a vocabulary journal help you to organize all of your new words and phrases, but the very process of writing down a word and its translation, notes, image or mnemonic device helps you to memorize it.
Learners who keep vocabulary notebooks tend to recall vocabulary much faster and progress more quickly in their learning.
This notebook can also be transformed into study-friendly flashcards by using flashcard generating programs like Anki for your phone or computer. You can use your Anki flashcards on your phone to learn on the go when you're on the bus, walking to work or simply waiting in line at the grocery store.
Your Russian notebook and flashcards are a fantastic future reference for studying. They can be used anywhere and anytime you have a few free minutes.
Hack #7: Find the patterns
These high number of inflections can be used to your advantage!
Initially, when you start learning a Russian word you might not realise that it could have lots of "relatives", i.e. related words which all have the same root. And, different inflections will create different meanings. By recognising these inflections you'll be able to understand new Russian words, even those you haven't seen before. This quickly boosts your vocabulary.
Let's have a look at some families of words:
холод (noun - the cold)
холодный (adjective - cold )
холодильник (noun - fridge - "device that makes cold")
холодать (verb - to grow cold)
Похолодало. ( It's got colder.)
слово (noun - a word)
словарь (noun- a dictionary)
боль (noun - pain)
больной (adj. - sick)
больница (noun - a hospital)
болеть (verb - to be ill)
письмо (noun - a letter)
письменный (adj. - writing/ written)
письменность (noun - written language)
писать (verb - to write)
писатель (noun - a writer)
записать (verb - to record; to make a note)
Hack #8: The Scriptorium Technique
- Read a sentence out loud.
- Say each word aloud again as you write it.
- Read the sentence aloud as you have written it.
Hack #9: Read, Watch, Listen
Hack #10: Interact...Without Needing to Travel
- Speak with a friend, family member or neighbor in person
- Write a letter or email to a friend, family member, co-worker, or yourself
- Visit a local store or neighborhood where Russian is spoken and interact with the locals
- Join a weekly or monthly Russian conversation group...or start your own group!
- Speak online with a friend, family member, co-worker, or fellow language learner (Skype is great for this)
- Contribute to a blog or forum in your target language
- Sing along with music in your target language
- Watch a movie, series, documentary or video and repeat the character's lines
- Read a passage from a book, newspaper, or magazine out loud
- Talk to yourself in your target language (this really works!)