10 unconventional ways to improve your Russian
30 October, 2018
Поздравляю! Reading this article, you either are or would like to learn the Russian language.
This can be quite a challenge and with many hours of classes and self-study one can quickly find oneself considering giving up their new year’s resolution. But learning a language can be much more fun than most people would anticipate, and in this article, I will share with you a few tips I’ve acquired along the way.
- Watch and Listen
This tip is not revolutionary and many people are already putting it into practice yet it is important for me to emphasize just how valuable it can be.
From my experience everybody loves to procrastinate and just spend one day (or two) binge-watching a good TV show. So why not combine your studying with this guilty pleasure. There are so many Russian TV shows available and many broadcasting networks have their own websites and YouTube channels where you can (on demand and for free!) watch whatever your heart desires. If you are new to this, here is an article by Philipp Ludat about his favorite Russian tv shows. This should help you get started.
Another great way would be to follow some Russian vloggers online. This is actually how I taught myself English by spending hours watching English and American vloggers. Your Russian doesn’t even have to be that elaborate for you to follow the content of these videos as the right mix of daily life Russian, images and cool personalities they provide will help you enormously.
Another thing I incorporated into my daily routine is to simply listen to some Russian radio when I’m at work or at home. Whether to discover popular Russian songs or to listen to the news broadcast, there are many Russian radios available for free online. Even though I do not understand half of what is being broadcasted it helps me to develop a feel for the language and its pronunciation as well as to revise the words that I have already learned.
- Sing your heart out
Spend one night out in Russia and you will notice just how popular and beloved karaoke is here. Even if English songs are available, I would like to challenge you to try out a Russian song or two.
- Read everything
Now don’t get me wrong, we all know how outstanding, extensive and world-renowned Russian literature is but reading everything around you is, I think, a more modest recommendation.
If you have the chance to be in Russia or a Russian-speaking country just look around you. From your breakfast cereal box or the many commercial leaflets and magazines you get by simply walking in the street to the commercial glued inside the metro and the free metro newspaper you have an enormous amount of free reading material composed of simple sentences to gradually improve your Russian.
- Go to bed like a pro
If like me, you love a good bedtime story consider investing in a few children’s ones. The slower speaking pace, the exiting story and the background sounds will surely keep you entertained, and you will not feel like you are studying at all! There are also a vast number of children’s audiobooks available for free online. If you’d like to learn more about the educational benefits of listening to audiobooks click here.
Whilst I could recommend you pray to improve your Russian, let me start by encouraging you to attend a church service in Russian. There are many churches in St. Petersburg and Moscow to choose from and the limited vocabulary used during service, the textual aids (English and Russian bibles) as well as the opportunity to practice your speaking skills without any stress (mostly due to the fact that everyone will be speaking in unison) will provide a great and unconventional way to improve your vocabulary.
Now this is tip for you party animals out there! I personally love pub quizzes event though I do not possess the talent to get the answers right. There are many pubs and bars in St. Petersburg hosting pub quizzes in Russian and these will not only help you to get to meet some locals but also to practice your listening and speaking skills whilst having a great night!
- Social media
Yes, you can learn Russian on social media! I have two tips for you regarding this.
Firstly, try to use region-specific social media not only to stay in touch with your new Russian friends but also to improve your reading and writing skills.
Secondly, on your regular social medias (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) follow Russian bloggers and your Russian friends and, every day, try to read and understand their bios, posts and comments. These are usually just a few lines and will therefore not be too overwhelming.
Moreover, if like me you have the guilty pleasure of sometimes checking out gossip websites, try and find a Russian alternative to combine pleasure with education.
- Post-its mania
If you were to step a foot inside my apartment you might get a tad overwhelmed. From the fridge and its content to the shower and the mirror, tiny colorful post-it’s with Russian words can be found. Now this didn’t happen overnight, and it took me quite a few hours to complete but every time I use one of these apparatuses I am confronted with its Russian name and – almost like a good advertisement that you see every day – I end up learning the word quite naturally.
Another technique I started to incorporate was to take notes and organize them in Russian. From writing the date and the topic of the lesson, to adding various sections to my binder, everything has to be done in Russian. While this was quite hard for the first two weeks and it took me quite a bit of an effort, it now has become as natural as writing the date in English. I highly recommend you give it a try!
- Go shopping
Being living and breathing humans we have to eat. But why wouldn’t you try and do your weekly grocery list in Russian. Start by replacing one or two of the items listed by their Russian words so you actually don’t forget what you had to buy (I learned this the hard way) and before you know it you will master all the words related to food, drinks and toiletries.
My last tip might not be for everyone. I personally remember vocabulary best by speaking the words out loud, but simply reciting my notes can sometimes become too monotonous. I therefore started to act certain dialogues either on my own or with friends and this has been more than helpful. Indeed, it has been forcing me to speak out loud and the informal context has helped me and my friends relax. I challenge you to give it a try! If you’re interested many dialogues can be found online or even on YouTube in a video format so as to make sure that you pronounce it right.
How about you? What are your unconventional tips and tricks to improve your Russian? Leave them in the comments below as I’d love to try them out!