6 Reasons Russian is easier than you think
26 April, 2019
Just kidding. Russian isn’t easy. – But it’s also not as difficult as many people make it out to be.
Most see a couple of ’weird’ letters, hear a Russian person’s ‘shch’ during a conversation or watched one of Putin’s speeches on the news and might think: “Well, that language sounds difficult. And those Russians, they’re so different to us…”. But if you look further and actually go a little deeper into the language, you’ll find that it has many advantages that your average Spanish, French or German learner won’t have.
Excited? Let’s find out!
#1 There are no articles
“I put the pizza in oven.” “We’re sitting in bar.”
Everytime you hear a comedian do a Russian accent, they always get everyone cracked up by skipping the articles. For a logical reason: Because Russian does not use them at all. Forget “the”, “a” and “an”. There are no translations of these words in Russian. You can simply ditch them all together.
Why is this awesome? Simple. It makes everything much clearer. You won’t have to remember to add little words before each noun. This frees up valuable mental power to think of actual words to add meaning to what you’re saying.
And remember those French classes where you were struggling whether you needed to add “le” or “la” before a noun? You don’t have that with Russian. By the way, that brings us to the next advantage you have as a Russian learner:
#2 Russian noun genders are surprisingly… regular
“Excuse me miss French teacher, why is the word for “desk” male and not female?” (le bureau in French)
That’s just an example of the randomness some languages have with their nouns. Except for Spanish-which is more or less regular-French, German, and Dutch all assign genders seemingly without thinking. This makes things unnecessary complicated, since most of the time the gender of the noun doesn’t really have an impact on anything else, except for the article and adjective. But it requires a ton of brainpower to constantly think of it and make the right choice.
Luckily for us, it’s a 100 times easier…
- If a noun ends in a consonant or ‘й’, it’s masculine
- And if it ends in ‘а’ or ‘я’ – feminine
- Lastly, nouns ending in ‘е’ or ‘о’ are neuter.
Sure, there are some exceptions, but if you follow these 3 simple rules, you’ll be correct 98% of the time.
Why is this awesome? After several Russian lessons, these rules will become so ingrained, that you won’t even have to think about them. And you’ll just be using the right form of adjectives and past tense for each noun.
Again, you can focus your (limited) attention while speaking on choosing the right words to add to the sentence instead of thinking about seemingly archaic rules, that might have mattered more in a past version of the language.
#3 The word order is flexible
“You Russian order of words today I’m teaching”
Exactly. In English we NEED word order, otherwise our sentences become a complete mess.In Russian this sentence would be considered grammatically correct: “Тебя русскому порядку слов сегодня я учу”
Now, the reason Russian gets away with this is because it uses cases. Each noun (and adjective) can have 6 different endings depending on the function of the word in the sentence. Admittedly, it is one of the hardest things when you’re learning Russian. But it gives you the poetic flexibility to place words wherever you want.
Why is this awesome? Again, instead of thinking about metarules where each word has to go, or which should logically follow the other word, you can start speaking your sentence with the first word that comes up to you. Then you can add more words as you think of them. And there’s a big chance you’ll actually make a cool normal Russian phrase if you do this.
#4 You either love or hate Russia
Russia is a very polarising country. It’s one of the most mysterious countries in the world. It’s also the biggest country in the world and most outsiders know little about what’s going on there.
This either makes people incredibly curious for what exactly is happening there – or completely turns them off because it’s too different and possibly slightly scary. So what I mean by that is since you’re reading this you probably already are quite interested in Russia in general, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article about learning Russian, right?
Interest in the culture, history, people and mentality is one of the main predictors of whether you will successfully learn the language. If you don’t care about the people, and find the culture weird, then how would you keep up your motivation for several years to learn the language well?
It’s just not going to happen.
Why is this awesome? If you don’t like Russia, then you don’t have to bother learning Russian. And if you do like Russia, chances are that you’re very interested in the country – so you have a very compelling reason to do your daily lessons.
#5 Russians don’t speak English that well
The level of English in Russian is pretty low compared to many other countries. The younger generations do know English, but you can consider yourself lucky to find a person 40+ that knows any English.
There are several likely reasons for this:
- English teachers not having access to good English learning materials in the USSR (unfortunately still the case in many public schools)
- Mentality: “Why would you want to learn English if you’re going to live in Russia all your life?”
- Russia not being a top vacation spot (luckily this has changed after the soccer World Cup in summer ’18!)
Why is this awesome (for us)? For one, you HAVE to speak Russian if you go to Russia. Otherwise you’ll get lost.
I’m Dutch, and the main complaint from people who are learning Dutch is that they do not get the opportunity to speak Dutch with Dutch people because Dutch people switch to English all the time when they hear that a person is non-Dutch. It’s horrible: when I go for a drink in Amsterdam, the staff starts talking to me in English. You won’t have this problem learning Russian. Instead, everybody you talk to will appreciate it a lot that you are taking the time to speak their language.
Russians don’t smile a lot. But if you learn some basic phrases and try your best to speak, you’ll have a very high chance of putting a smile on their face.
#6 You can find Russian everywhere in the world
There a lot of Russians out there, and when you add the other post-soviet states, the number of Russian-speaking people grows even larger. Wikipedia lists it as the 7th most widely spoken language with approximately 265 million people who speak it (both native and second language). And since Russia has been through quite some rough decades, many people have emigrated to other countries. That’s why virtually everywhere in the world you can find Russian communities. Wherever I go in Europe, I’m always surprised how often I hear Russian on the streets.
Why is this awesome? Because you get the chance to practice more often. Go to a Russian store that’s near you. Chances are that someone near you is willing to be your personal teacher (paid).
And also, it’s also quite likely that you have a Russian speaking person as your colleague, or meet them at the gym for example. Maybe you become friends and then you can often practice with them just when you’re hanging out or at work.
Compare that to learning a less widely spoken language, such as Polish or Swedish–it’ll be difficult finding natives to talk to. Or even with languages like Italian or Spanish: if you live in a cold climate, it’s going to be tough finding them.
The writer of this article, Adrianus, is a friend of our Blog here on lidenz.ru. He learned his first Russian words in 2014, but has ever since then continued to learn Russian. He also shares language tips on his website.