5 fun ways to boost your Russian language skills
Learning Russian can be a daunting experience and can sometimes seem downright impossible. Russian grammar is notoriously tricky (the three words ‘verbs of motion’ still fill me with dread!) and it is easy to get disheartened. However, there are plenty of ways to make it fun!
1) Watch a Russian TV show or film
This is a great way to get a sense of how real Russians talk. Although the speech will tend to be quicker, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you begin to understand the gist of the conversation. I like the TV show ‘Физрук’ (‘P.E. Teacher’). It’s a comedy so it makes learning Russian that much more enjoyable. Russian cartoons are really useful as they are designed for children, so the characters speak slowly and simply. My favourite is ‘Чебурашка и Крокодил Гена’ (‘Cheburashka and Crocodile Gena’) – Cheburashka is just so cute!
2) Read Russian books and newspapers
Now, I’m not saying that reading ‘Война и мир’ (‘War and Peace’) in the original is the best way to learn Russian, but reading short articles or novellas is! Short literary works, for example Chekov’s ‘Три сестры’ (‘Three Sisters’) introduce you to a whole new range of vocabulary. Newspaper articles contain contemporary vocabulary and keep you up to date with current events in Russia. I like the ‘Метро’ (‘Metro’) newspaper, as the articles are short and you can get it for free on the metro.
3) Listen to Russian music
In a language where the stress of words is inconsistent, this is really helpful in learning the rhythm of speech, and memorising lyrics is a lot easier than trying to remember a list of words. The Eurovision-friendly sound of contemporary Russian pop music isn’t to everyone’s taste, so instead try listening to older or slower music. Children’s songs are useful too – I don’t think I’ll ever get ‘День Рождения’ (‘The Birthday Song’) from ‘Чебурашка и Крокодил Гена’ out of my head!
4) Change the language of your social media or smartphone
This forces you to engage with Russian and digitally immerse yourself in it. Seeing the same phrase several times a day (e.g. уведомления (notifications), лента новостей (news feed)) really familiarises you with their meaning. Changing the language is a great way to easily and conveniently learn new words.
Having to think about case endings, verb perspectives and pronunciation at the same time as you’re speaking can be really hard! However, you just have to be confident and not worry about making mistakes. Talking to native Russian speakers is the best way to improve your speaking and listening skills. Don’t be afraid to order some food at a restaurant or ask someone for directions! Although these situations can be nerve-wracking, they really help you to focus on what you’re actually saying.
So the next time Russian starts to feel a bit overwhelming, try out some of the suggestions above! These small steps can make a huge difference to your language skills and makes learning Russian a bit easier. Please check out the Liden & Denz blog for more tips on improving your Russian!
This post was brought to you by Tilly Hicklin, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz, St. Petersburg.