Russian, as a part of the Slavic language group, has a reputation for being difficult to learn. The question is, how difficult is it to learn Russian, really? Is Russian hard to learn?
In this article, you’re going to find out how difficult Russian is for English speakers and what you should focus on if you want to learn it quickly.
Why should you learn Russian?
If you’ve searched and found this article, the chances are that you are already thinking about learning Russian, or you may have already started.
In that case, you must have a few reasons of your own as to why you decided to pick up this beautiful, yet complex language.
There are many reasons why you might want to make Russian next on your language-learning list:
- you love traveling and can’t wait to explore one or more of the many Russian-speaking countries and mingle with the locals
- you have a Russian background and want to learn your language of heritage
- you are planning to move to a Russian-speaking country
- your partner is a native Russian speaker and you want to be able to communicate in their native language
- there is a large Russian-speaking community in your area that you want to connect with
- you love a good language learning challenge and Russian seems a good place to start
Whichever your reason for learning Russian, make sure it’s a strong one to keep you motivated and persistent. Here are a couple of reasons that might help you get and stay excited:
Russian is a great place to start if you are interested in Slavic languages
Learning Russian can greatly aid in the learning process of other Slavic languages. As a Slavic language, Russian shares many similarities in grammar and vocabulary with other Slavic languages such as Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Czech and Bulgarian.
For example, many words in these languages are very similar or even identical to their Russian counterparts. This means that once you have a grasp of the Russian vocabulary and grammar, it will be much easier to pick up new words and grammar rules in other Slavic languages, since most of them share a lot of the same grammar features such as verb declension, verbal aspect, etc.
In summary, learning Russian can be a great way to get a foothold in the world of Slavic languages, as it will give you a foundation in grammar and vocabulary that will make it easier to learn other Slavic languages.
Because of the Soviet Union, Russian is spoken in many countries
Not only is it one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, but it’s also spoken in a variety of countries due to the Soviet Union’s past.
Think about it, as a Russian speaker you have access to not only Russia but also countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Belarus, and even some parts of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This means that you’ll have the opportunity to travel and explore different cultures, all while being able to communicate with the locals in their native language.
Knowing Russian can give you a significant advantage in the fields that have connections to Russian-speaking countries.
In short, learning Russian is not just about understanding the language itself, but also getting a glimpse into the diverse cultures and histories that have shaped it. So take advantage of the fact that Russian is spoken in many countries and explore the world!
Is Russian hard to learn?
People often ask if a certain language is hard to learn. There usually is no simple answer, since it depends on whether you already speak a foreign language and if you already know a language similar to the one you want to learn.
Russian has a reputation for being a difficult language for an English speaker to learn.
This, however, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve.
For an English speaker, the Foreign Service Institute places Russian in category IV (meaning it would take approximately 1100 hours to learn), along with other Slavic languages.
In comparison, Category I languages, which are most closely related to English (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.) will take you up to 600 hours to learn. Russian, in comparison, will take almost twice as long.
There are a few reasons why Russian is more difficult for English speakers than some of the other languages that are more closely related to English:
Complexity of grammar
Compared to English grammar and grammar of the languages closely related to English, Russian grammar is quite complex.
- Russian has 6 cases (compared to the three cases in modern English),
- There are 3 word genders (masculine, feminine and neuter),
- Perfective and imperfective verbs will definitely give you a headache,
- Adjectives and adverbs are very similar,
- Prefixes and suffixes will take time to master.
Flexible but not so flexible word order
In simple sentences, Russian follows the SVO (subject-verb-object) word order, just like English.
S + V + O
Катя читает книгу.
[Katya] [is-reading] [book].Katya is reading a book.
Although the word order seems quite flexible, some constructions will sound more familiar than others. But in general, due to the existence of the case system, you can usually move words around. For example:
Я поцеловал Марию.
[I] [kissed] [Mariya-(accusative case)].
I kissed Mariya.
Марию поцеловал я.
[Mariya-(accusative case)] [kissed] [I].
I kissed Mariya.
Both of these sentences are grammatically correct and mean the same thing, just with a small nuance of emphasis. Because it is the object of the verb “to kiss”, we can see that the name “Мария” (Mariya) is in the Accusative case, and changed to “Марию” (Mariyu), and because of this change, the order is irrelevant, we know immediately who is the subject and who is the object of the sentence.
Learning a new alphabet can be intimidating, but for those who are interested in learning the Russian language, the Cyrillic alphabet is not as difficult as it may seem.
First of all, it’s important to note that several letters in the Cyrillic alphabet look very similar to their counterparts in the Latin alphabet. For example, the letter “A” in the Latin alphabet is very similar to the letter “А” in the Cyrillic alphabet. The letters “M” and “T” and some others also have similar counterparts in the Cyrillic alphabet. This means that you already have a head start in learning the alphabet.
Even the letters that may not look familiar at first glance are not that hard to learn.
The Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters in total, and many of them are formed by combining simple shapes, in a very similar way to what the Latin alphabet does. With a little bit of practice, it’s easy to learn the shape and sound of each letter.
One helpful tip for learning the Cyrillic alphabet is to practice writing the letters by hand. This allows you to form a strong association between the shape of the letter and its sound. You can also practice reading and writing words in Cyrillic, which will help you to become more familiar with the letters and their combinations.
It’s worth noting that in addition to the printed version of the Cyrillic alphabet, there is also a cursive version used in handwriting. This cursive version is called “рукописный стиль” (rukopisnyy stil) in Russian. The letters in this cursive version are connected and flow together in a way that makes them appear quite different from the printed versions. However, like the printed version, the cursive version is not as difficult to learn as it may seem at first glance.
The key to learning the cursive version is practice, practice, practice. Start by learning how to write each letter in the cursive style, paying close attention to the way the letters connect to each other. Once you feel comfortable with individual letters, begin practicing writing words and sentences. With time and patience, you will be able to read and write in the cursive Russian style with ease.
It’s important to note that the Russian cursive is not mandatory to know, as people tend to use it less and less in everyday life, but it could be helpful to learn it if you plan to read old Russian texts or handwriting
What are the easy aspects of learning Russian
1 The word order
I have mentioned that there are exceptions to the flexible word order, but the word order in Russian most often follows the same word order as English: subject – verb – object.
This is pretty much all that you will need to know about the word order when you first start studying Russian. Once you get to higher levels of the language, you can tackle the more complicated non-flexible word order.
2 It’s an Indo-European language
Russian is a part of the Indo-European languages which means that you will be familiar with word order, grammar, and even a lot of the vocabulary.
If your native language is English or any Romance language, you also have a big advantage. The French language has had a significant influence on the Russian language throughout history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, French was considered the language of the elite in Russia, and many members of the upper class were educated in French. As a result, a significant number of French words and phrases were adopted into the Russian language, particularly in the areas of literature, fashion, and cuisine.
Many French words were adopted into Russian without any changes, and are used in their original form. For instance, “chapeau” became “шапка” (shapka) in Russian and “café” became “кафе” (kafe). The influence of French can also be seen in the use of French loanwords and French grammatical structures, which are still in use today.
Even though Russian has complex verbal aspect system, just like other Slavic languages, it comes with a bright side: unlike Romance or Germanic languages, which are filled with different verb tenses, Russian only has 3 tenses:
- Present tense
- Past tense
- Future tense