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Welcome to Russian Q&A

A place for students, teachers and native Russian speakers to discuss Russian grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and other aspects of the Russian language.

What is best to start with as a beginner?

+2 votes

Quote from Facebook: What would you recommend a beginner to start with? First of all I think I want to learn speaking Russian, meaning the spelling is less important...thus Russian Greetings are just fine but if I want to make a sentence I have a bit of a problem.

I have been doing some more Greetings since I wrote this on Facebook, it's a piece of cake. I started with the Russian alphabet earlier today and it goes well too. However, there's a part I don't understand..I quote.... "Excellent question! In short, you should start with the alphabet and pronunciation. After you can read in Russian, move on to basic grammar concepts (gender, pronouns, plurals..."..I in Russian, it's the hardest things of them all. To start with I have to learn all the different spellings of the russian words, is it just to start learning all Russian words in the dictionary and then I will do fine?

Thanks in advance.

asked Jan 15, 2013 by jenordfoto (140 points)

5 Answers

+1 vote

Being a Russian teacher, I never start with alphabet and pronunciation (although they´re also important), but with new common phrases (normally personal information, like introducing oneself, age, profession, etc). New languages are normally learned to be able to communicate with somebody, and personal information seems to be a good topic to start with. Of course, it´s important to know how they´re pronounced. The main reason for that when a student knows how to communicate correctly from the beginning, it makes his (her) life easier in the future, he (she) is already sure he (she) can say some useful stuff. In this way, the learning process isn´t so frustrating and it´s just fun!

If you´re a self-learner, I would recommend you to learn a pair of useful expressions everyday. They can be learned by heart first, without knowing their grammar content. But note that it´s extremely important to know their pronunciation and their exact place in speech.
Another important tip: make sure all the new words you learn have a context, a common phrase they can be used with.
Kind regards,
Yulia Amlinskaya, Russian Language Teacher.
answered Jan 15, 2013 by RussianTeacher (19,690 points)
0 votes

Reading in Russian is easier compared to English. Russian language is almost phonetic, which means you read alll the letters in the word. In English word 'daughter' you rponounce only half of the letters. In order to be able to speak in Russian you should understand the logic of the language. And you are right - you cannot create a sentence in Russian if you don't know the grammar. (A couple of sentences, like greetings, you memorize by heart.)

Therefore you have to find a good course together with a good teacher and move forward! There is one great series of books, written by an experienced teacher, called 'Russian Step By Step'. There are no bulky rules and the grammar explanations are simple. And it also accompained by really good audio. Check it out: Russian Step By Step

answered Jan 15, 2013 by monikam (140 points)
0 votes

Here are the steps that I suggest for self-study:

  1. Alphabet and Pronunciation. If you want to speak correctly you need to become familiar with the sounds that exist in Russian. Alphabet is your guide to exploring all the sound inventory. So spend some time to at least explore the alphabet and sounds behind each letter. Some sounds will be similar to English and shouldn't cause a problem. You don't have to dive deep into the alphabet but you'll be able to read some words rather quickly. You'll be surprised. Examples: мама (mum), кот (cat), том (volume).

  2. Learn new phrases. Pick simple, useful and common phrases like "Как дела?", "Меня зовут...", etc. Also, learn as many new words as possible. Use flashcards, word lists, or whatever method works best for you.

  3. Learn the grammar behind new phrases. The very basics of grammar include: The gender of nouns, Plural nouns, Absence of the verb "to be" in the present tense, Subject pronouns, Statements and questions, Cases of nouns (genitive, dative, prepositional, etc.), Tenses (past, present, future), Verb aspect, conjugation, agreement of nouns.

  4. Speaking and Listening. Try to immediately put to use whatever you learn. Use the phrases and words when you get the chance. Find a language exchange partner (skype, chat). In addition, work on your listening skills. There's plenty of resources on the internet (podcasts, news broadcats, videos, music, etc.)

answered Jan 15, 2013 by Alex (13,670 points)
+1 vote

The problem is there are different ways to approach learning language in general and Russian in particular. You can start learning from theoretical grammar and then slowly move to real texts and conversations. But the problem is that Russian in comparison to English has much more complicated and contradictory formal grammar full of exceptions and exceptions from exceptions, and you can be lost in theory before getting any results.

On the other hand you can start from learning some basic roots and trying to catch general idea of simple texts using vocabularies. The more you will do it the better intuitive feeling of the language you will have. And when your intuitive feeling is enough good to understand the essence of simple texts easily, you can move to formal grammar.

The real learning course should be a kind of compromise between these two approaches. I recommend you to find one of the approved learning courses and follow it insistently. (Can not give my recommendations which one though.)

answered Jan 15, 2013 by it-ogo (18,220 points)
+1 vote
I think it depends on the kind of learner you are and whether you have any experience in learning foreign languages.

Audio based courses such as Michel Thomas and Pimsleur are great for getting an intuitive feel for the language.

Most people without a language background fall down exceptionally on grammar, even in simple languages like Spanish or Italian, and so completely flounder in Russian without a solid grammatical foundation.

I'd recommend a combination of audio courses and trying to get a solid foundation in the following: cases, aspect, and verbs of motion. Get those right and you're winning! Good luck :)
answered Jan 23, 2013 by cmccabe (410 points)