There are two school of thoughts here. One says that the Russian language is easy to learn. The other says that is it a difficult language for English speakers to grasp. We can add another thought here – that Russian is either easy or difficult to learn depending on your need to master the language.
Let us surmise that every foreign language, particularly its grammar, will be difficult to learn at first. Even English speakers have to take the necessary steps to learn the rudiments of the English language in school. You do not automatically know it.
Therefore, given the differing scenarios, let's explore why the Russian language is difficult to learn (for some) and easier for others.
An easy and difficult language
Russian's pronunciation for many people is quite impossible to emulate. The alphabet is complicated as well. For so long, the complexity of the Russian language earned it the reputation for being difficult to learn.
Russian is the 8th most spoken language in the world, spoken in 18 countries by 154 million first language speakers. It is an official language in the United Nations.
Russian's Cyrillic alphabet looks intimidating, which does not help its reputation. But many people outside the Russian Federation might be familiar with this: Водка. It translates to ''little water" but for those who love to drink, this is means ''vodka'' written in Cyrillic. Individually, the letters are equivalent to:
B - V
O - O
Д - D
К - K
А - A
So there are letters in the Russian alphabet that are similar to Latin, which makes is easier to learn. Overall, the alphabet looks like this:
|Russian Character||English Equivalent||Letter Name in Russian|
|А а||А а||"ah"|
|Б б||B b||"beh"|
|В в||V v||"veh"|
|Г г||G g||"geh"|
|Д д||D d||"deh"|
|Е е||YE ye||"yeh"|
|Ё ё||YO yo||"yo"|
|Ж ж||Zh zh||"zheh"|
|З з||Z z||"zeh"|
|И и||EE ee||"ee"|
|Й й||I i or Y y||"ee kratkoyeh"|
|К к||K k||"kah"|
|Л л||L l||"ehl"|
|М м||M m||"ehm"|
|Н н||N n||"ehn"|
|О о||Stressed: O o
Unstressed: A a
|П п||P p||"peh"|
|Р р||R r||"ehr"|
|С с||S s||"ehs"|
|Т т||T t||"teh"|
|У у||U u||"oo"|
|Ф ф||F f||"ehf"|
|Х х||H h, KH kh||"khah"|
|Ц ц||TS ts||"tseh"|
|Ч ч||CH ch||"cheh"|
|Ш ш||SH sh (hard)||"shah"|
|Щ щ||SH sh (soft)||"schyah"|
|Ъ ъ||Hard Sign||"tvyordiy znahk"|
|Ы ы||I i||"i"|
|Ь ь||Soft Sign||"myagkeey znahk"|
|Э э||E e||"eh"|
|Ю ю||YU yu||"yoo"|
|Я я||YA ya||"yah"|
It may look easy but it could also get complicated when there are longer words to construct. However, just like other languages, such as Japanese, Korean, Arabic and Chinese, language learners will be able to crack these almost undecipherable letters in time. Some of the letters of the Russian alphabet should be familiar with you.
It just seems that Russian language is more difficult to learn for English speakers because English and Russian, despite coming from the large Indo European language family, are not mutually intelligible. Russian comes from the Slavic branch and a member of the East Slavic group, which also includes Ukrainian and Belarusian. Moreover, Russian and the other Slavic (Slavonic) languages, is grammatically and lexically different from the English language.
But English has also affected the Russian language of late, especially in the realm of media and business. Today you will hear such words as ''фейс контроль'' or face control,
''брокеры'' or brokeri (brokers) and стейкхолдеры or stakeholderi (stakeholders).
B. GRAMMAR AND PRONUNCIATION
The English language continues to influence the Russian language, so it is possible that it will become an easier language to learn in the future. Russian verbs, dates and numbers can also pose difficulty for beginners. However, there are several exceptions that could help.
Stress on a letter or a syllable also presents a problem for many learners of the Russian language. It can be confusing because no rule exists on where the stress is to be placed because it is variable. Placing stress wrongly can result in a blank stare.
The Russian language is lyrical. No wonder several poets that are known around the world are from Russia –Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Count Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Alexander Galich, Alexander Sumarokov, Alexander Vertinsky, Anatoly Marienhof, Andrei Voznesensky, Anna Akhmatova (Anna Andreyevna Gorenko), Izabella Akhatovna "Bella" Akhmadulina. The latter is a short story writer, poet and translator.
Russian culture is very exciting and interesting to learn along with learning its language. Its cultural history is very rich, long and very visual, steeped in classical music, painting, ballet and literature. Its religious symbols are very ornate and colorful, as well as its traditional costumes.
D. LEARNING METHODS
The best way to learn the Russian language is through immersion. It could be a very exciting experience because of the grandeur of Russian's landscape, as well as its iconic landmarks. Here are some things that you can do.
- Constantly practice speaking and writing Russian, whether you have someone to talk with or just yourself. It is one of the ways to commit the words to memory. It is also important to review what you have learned at the end of the day. Practicing the habit of reviewing what you have learned each night helps you to remember what you have learned more.
- Try to think in Russian. If you have to say something in English, try to also think about how this should be said in Russian.
- Remind yourself of words and phrases in Russian by writing them down or printing them and placing them in several places around your room or home. Do this as well for words that you find difficult to understand and commit to memory.
- Listen to recordings of your Russian lessons while commuting. Use every opportunity you have to study your lessons or even just to practice pronouncing some words. Flashcards also help. You can print Russian words on one side and its translation in English on the other side.
- Do not be too hard on yourself. It is all right to make mistakes, but with constant practice you'll find that you'll be making less and less errors. Keep in mind that when learning Russian, it is important to practice speaking and writing.
Other methods that help
If you accept that the Russian language is difficult to learn, then use every opportunity to face the challenge. With every step you take in the right direction, you will be able to master the language that many also say, is easier to learn than you think.
Keep in mind that grammar structure is something that is difficult to grasp whether you are learning Russian or another language.
To help you along, here are some things to know and do:
- Learn the Russian alphabet. Once you've mastered it, you can accurately pronounce most of the words, because the pronunciation is indicated by the written form. The alphabet is phonetic.
- There are no complicated structures when making sentences in Russian. Like in Korean language and Japanese language, you can mean something using only a few words. In English, it takes longer to ask for something. You can say, ''Please pass the salt.'' In Russian, you can simply say, ''give salt please.'' The ''please'' is added to make the sentence more polite. It makes it easier to listen to and understand the phrase
- In terms of ''cases'' the Russian language also uses cases although the rules regarding the order is not very strict. Just remember that you just have to change the nouns' ends. It does have quite a few – 15 in all.
- There are no articles in Russian and there are fewer tenses as well.
- Russian words have genders – masculine, feminine and neutral, which is easier to find, once you have looked at the last letter of every word.
- As mentioned, there are letters in Russian alphabet that are the same as the letters in the English alphabet. Some of the letters are Greek letters while some are quite unusual. The alphabet also has two markers or signifiers.
Hard sign - Ъъ
Soft sign - Ьь
They are like placeholders or sign to indicate that the consonant before the marker is palatalized or not (hard or soft) in pronunciation.
To help you understand that the Russian language is easy to learn, remember that it is better to listen to the lessons instead of reading your textbook if you are learning pronunciation. The instructions could confuse you, so find recorded lessons instead. This will help you learn Russian faster and aid in your reading ability as well.
For example, this word: ''мат'' would be pronounced like you would in English – as ''mat.'' While if you see ''мать'' that has a signifier after the consonant, this means that it should be pronounced like ''matye.''
Russians rarely speak English except when needed. Therefore, if you are doing language immersion, it is important that you speak to them in Russian, which is also one thing that will help you to learn the language better.
Despite the differences between English and Russian, there are plenty of cognates, which can help you to learn the language faster.
There are some false friends as well, such as:
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