As already suggested by Yuliana, one of our favorite teachers here at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg, another way for students to learn Russian outside the classroom is by watching cartoons. After all, I believe that when learning a language, it is best to do it as children do – simply by hearing how language is used. Later children complete their knowledge by studying the grammar, and thus learn why the language is used that way. This, I think, is the more organic way of learning, and also the most effective.
Here are a few examples of popular cartoons from the past and the present you might choose from, to keep absorbing the Russian language in an entertaining, practical way. I like how the Russian (especially the Soviet) cartoons are made on a significantly lower budget than their American counterparts, but compensate for their simplicity with their inventiveness and emotional effect. The language is kept simple, the characters speak slowly and clearly, making it a great tool for learners to widen their vocabulary and know how sentences are structured.
This one was suggested by Yuliana, and is more recent compared to the ones I list below. A cartoon series about “little round people” and their adventures on a farm.
Krokodil Gena (Gena the Crocodile) (1969)
One of the most beloved stop-motion animation films of the late Sixties, it tells the story of Gena the Crocodile’s search for friendship, which he eventually finds in the similarly lonely Cheburashka. Here is a clip of one of the most famous songs, which has become a fixed item at Russian children’s birthdays:
Another Soviet classic, Umka is a short cartoon about a curious little polar bear and his first encounters with the outside world.
The Jungle Book
This 1967 animated version of Kipling’s classic is quite different from the Disney one most of us know. A saga in five parts, it has a very different animation style, and significantly less jazzy and upbeat than its later Disney version. For all that it has all the ingredients of a great cartoon, it is emotionally engaging, and the characters speak nice and slow, making it easy to understand, especially with the help of subtitles. Watch it here.
Hedgehog in the Fog
This 1975 stop-motion classic won prizes the world over, and the hearts of both children and adults. The story of a little hedgehog who gets lost in the fog, and encounters different more-or-less friendly creatures there.
Yuri Norshtein made several more cartoons, also available on Youtube.
Based on a Swedish tale, Carlsson is the story of a lonely boy finds a friend in an eccentric flying man named Carlsson. Watch it here.
The story of a city boy, a stray cat and a dog who through a series of circumstances end up living in the countryside at Prostokvashino. Watch the whole series here.
BONUS: besides cartoons you could try children’s movies as well, and coincidentally, this week there will be the XI International Festival for Family and Children Movies “V Krugu Sem’i” – a floating cinema on the Neva! If the weather permits, it should make for a really nice evening. If you feel embarrassed going there as an “adult,” well… ask your host family to join, or just go with a group of other students and laugh your way through it. It’ll be good for you!
(This article is brought to you by Esther – intern and student at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg)