Is it really that hard to learn Russian?

Learn languages June 12, 2018

With the World Cup coming up, all eyes are turned towards Russia. Maybe you’re even headed there yourself to cheer on your favourite team! Learning a bit of the local language can make a huge difference while travelling, but you may be wondering, is it really that hard to learn Russian? We’ll break it down for you so you can decide if taking the plunge and learning a little Russian is right for you!


1. Start with the alphabet

First things first… start with the basics. Although the Cyrillic alphabet may look scary to some, there are only 33 letters! That’s nothing when you consider that there are over 3,000 characters in the Chinese language. Once you put in the time (which shouldn’t take long) to memorise the alphabet, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable travelling around Russia where all the signs will be in the Cyrillic alphabet.

2. Pronunciation is phonetic

Another reason why it’s not as hard to learn Russian as you might think is that Russian pronunciation is phonetic. So, once you’ve committed the Cyrillic alphabet to memory, all you have to do is sound out the words! This will come especially in handy with some of Russian’s famously long words, which, admittedly, can be a little tricky… If you get overwhelmed, just break the word into pieces and work on pronouncing each piece before you put them back together.


3. Lots of loan words

English speakers will appreciate the amount of English cognates in the Russian language, but there are also plenty of loan words from the German, French and Italian languages. They’ll appear totally different at first because of being written in Cyrillic, but once you say them out loud, you may find yourself recognising more words than you think!


4. Many rules, few exceptions

Yes, it’s true that Russian is a language that loves its rules, and not to sugarcoat things, there are many rules you’ll have to learn. Once you do, however, you’ll be pleased to learn that with Russian, rules are rarely broken! This especially applies to gender (which in Russian, can be masculine, feminine or neutral), so all you have to do is memorise the rules that apply to each.


5. Less verb tenses and no articles

Depending on the verb, it will only have two (past and future) or three (past, present and future) tenses. Combine this with the fact that there are no articles in Russian (a, an or the) and learning the language is starting to sound a bit more manageable, isn’t it? You will, however, have to learn all about the famous six declensions, or noun cases, but once you master them, you’ll have overcome one of the main difficulties in learning Russian!


6. Learn faster in Russia

It goes without saying that studying in immersion is the fastest way to learn a language, and Russian is no different. Contrary to other countries, however, there are fewer foreign language speakers in Russia, so you won’t be able to fall back on your native language as easily, forcing you to practise your Russian. The good news is that the locals love it when foreigners try to speak Russian, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes! And, if you’re keen on travelling around, you can also speak Russian in Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.


So, is it really that hard to learn Russian? Well, the answer is yes and no. Like learning any language, having the desire and motivation is the most important part! So, see you at the World Cup?

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By Leah Ganse

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