Choosing the right language learning method is essential to success in learning a new language. So, how do you learn Russian? How do you go about choosing between all those language learning methods? There are numerous websites, grammar and audio books and self-teaching guides, software packages, on-line courses and tutors. But which method is the best for you? Could you please share with us what works (or doesn’t work) for you? What are your study habits like?
At 71, I am the perennial student. Though not wealthy by any measure, I have been given the gift of a retirement with abundance. As I am divorced and now live alone, this gives me the luxury of spending as much time as I choose studying - a life-long dream. I do have a hearing problem; so, I avoid speaking the foreign languages I learn. And this will be particularly true as I learn Russian.
So, I gravitate to text books, dictionaries (the best I can find), self-teaching aids and courses structured like those found on busuu.com which I consider to be a God-send! I use the new language as much as possible and, particularly, write in that language - even my grocery shopping list is in Spanish (now) and Russian when my vocabulary permits.
I am particularly thrilled that the writing exercises are "graded" by native students. I also consider it an opportunity, privilege, and duty to be as active as I can in grading the exercises of those learning English. I am excited to say that I have met wonderful people of all ages and both sexes through this program, and I am MOST grateful for those friends.
I study about 6-8 hours a day. Some of the studies are college level courses offered as DVD lectures. I have a DVD-based "novella"-like course in Spanish that is VERY well done! And I now freely include books in Spanish and, soon - I trust, in Russian in my library, both fiction and non-fiction.
For me, corresponding with people in their native language (Spanish or Russian) is another learning method for me. I will spend a lot of time looking for just the right word or phrase in the foreign language to express my thoughts. One of my major concerns about learning Russian is that it appears that I must learn to think in Russian, as literal translation of my English just does not seem to communicate well. Yes! I have worked with a tutor (for Spanish) and that is excellent when they are native language speakers. However, this becomes expensive very fast! Here on busuu.com, I have access to a myriad of tutors from every country where the language I am learning is used!!! And the cost is that of friendship and a willingness to share. How great is that???
Thank you for sharing your experience with us :)
I kept an eye on your idea about writing a shopping list in the learning language. I think I'll do the same with my "to do" list as well.
6-8 hours of learning are really great! I assume you'll be fluent in Spanish and Russian in no time :)
You're quite right that literal translations don't work often. I guess extensive and frequent exposure to a new language helps a lot as you become familiar with common constructions and the way of thinking in general :)
I've always admired the Michel Thomas Method of learning, where you start with a pronoun, a verb and an adjective and build sentences from the off. Then, as new words are introduced, you find yourself making longer more complex sentences fast. Nothing beats using the language. I read and write in Russian all the time, and although it has taken a long time to get used, I don't need to use a dictionary or translator nearly as much as I used to. I'd like to try full immersion someday...
Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Mark. I completely agree with you that his audio courses are excellent. Have you tried Pimsleur Russian course or Learn Russian Step-by-step?
I think the best way is to use a variety of methods.
I'm using Pimsleur and Ruslan as the foundation stones of my study but I also use a variety of other sources.
For audio courses I recommend Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. I loved the foundation Michel Thomas but I'm finding the advanced one a bit harder to use. I have put it on hold until I've done more Pimsleur, hopefully it will then be easier for me.
Books - I use Ruslan and Penguin Russian. I just bought Hugo Russian in 3 months but not really dived in yet. I also use some of the dialogues from Passport to Moscow when practicing wwith a native speaker.
Native speakers - I meet a Russian once a week for language exchange. Also I have several Russian friends on Skype. Every time I hear an Eastern European accent I try to find out where they're from. I have a waitress in the coffee shop who makes me order in Russian and a few Russian friends who unfortunately live too far away to see them regularly, but they do encourage me.
Youtube - lots of video snippets, but the best thing for me is Russian music. I love listening to Russian songs.
Flashcards (commercial ones but in future I'll make my own or maybe get a Russian to handwrite them).
Poster - I just bought a kids poster from Ebay that I'll put on my wall. It's got the names of planets etc in Russian. Choose things that correspond with your interests.
Rosetta Stone - So expensive and isn't as good as it thinks it is. If you can get it free from uni or work or something then worth your time (but not on it's own, use other things too)... but that much money???
For more advanced students (not me yet) try getting hold of a few Russian films, they come up cheaply on Ebay and also if you search you can find Russian internet radio stations.
My main philosophy is to use as many different sources as possible, it keeps it fresh etc. If you have any doubt as to the need to do this, try looking at a few resources for learning English. :) I've been doing that recently at the request of people on Busuu and some of them are hilarious!
Thank you so much for such a detailed post :)
My own feeling is that the different approaches work differently for different people, and that an optimum approach may be to use all of them :)
I have never come across Ruslan and Penguin Russian Grammar books before. Usually, I use either
Terence Wade - A Comprehensive Russian Grammar
James S. Levine - Schaum's Outline Russian Grammar.
Sometimes I take a look at
Using Russian: A guide to contemporary usage by Derek Offord and Natalia Gogolitsyna
These books seem to be very helpful and are highly recommended.
I've used other books in the Schaum's outline series so I would like to use one for languages also. I'm trying to stop myself buying things for now though... until I've used some of the ones I have already bought. The ones I mentioned are just a few of many I have bought :)
I have the same experience with my German studies ;) A huge amount of learning materials creates a lovely illusion that I am studying hard :) I use only a couple (out of 10+) of books though. That's why I created this thread in order to share our favourite learning tools. Thanks again for your opinion.
Oh, I do use them all. It's just that I haven't covered all of the material in any of them yet so why keep buying more? It helps to have a few different books, but that argument can only be taken so far. I think Ольга has it right, it's the illusion of studying hard :)