Are you familiar with a situation when you are studying hard to learn a new language, spending a lot of time and energy on it, but something still doesn’t seem to be working?
You seem to know a lot of words, you’ve learnt the grammar off by heart, you can read texts. But for some reason, your language seems… well, dead. You understand films, songs and the news with great difficulty. All the time it seems as if everyone is talking too quickly, too quietly or too indistinctly. Your speaking skills are even worse off. You find it incredibly difficult to talk to native speakers. Talking on the phone is something that you would rather not think about, it is a nightmare that you try to avoid at all costs.
Why does this happen?
While studying foreign languages, I asked myself the same question many times. It dawned on me only when I became a teacher of Russian to foreigners. I was able to see the day to day struggles and successes of my students and in that moment I understood that languages can be studied completely differently. By not only seeking to understand the spoken language, but also by actively using it.
Now is probably a good time for us to get acquainted. My name is Olesia and I am Russian. Almost 10 years ago my family and I moved to Slovakia where I teach Russian to foreign students.
Most of my students study Russian for their work, business or as a hobby. That is to say that language learning isn’t their main occupation. This means, first and foremost, that they do not have a lot of time to study, and secondly, they need the language for speaking – in face-to-face meetings, on the phone, though instant messaging or emails.
So, how can you study from the very beginning to not only read and write, but to also understand spoken language and to speak? After many years of working with my students, I have come to the conclusion that it is most important to stick to certain principles. Here they are:
- It’s better to study “little but often” rather than “rarely and for a long time”. Even if you do not have a lot of time, you need to practice regularly. 3-5 times a week is ideal. Can you devote 2 hours of your time per week? Wonderful! Split that time up into 4 lessons – 30 minutes per day. This will be more effective than 2 hours on a Saturday.
- Don’t get too caught up in the grammar. Do you know that in Russian: for one rule there are one hundred exceptions. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, grammar is not a goal, it is simply an instrument that helps you to come to better grips with a language.
- Read and write less – Listen and speak more. It’s all very simple. If you want to learn how to read – read, to write – write, to understand spoken language – listen, to speak – talk. Many self taught students often use textbooks which, even though they have audio content, have 90% visual information. Unfortunately. It is not surprising that ultimately, they find it much easier to read and write than to listen and converse.
- Natural speech. For some reason, the learning materials for Russian often have dialogues and texts that seem completely unnatural. What is even worse is that the speed of the spoken language is incredibly slow, with many pauses as well as the elongation of words. I am certain that as a result, this is what makes it difficult to understand spoken speech, because we learn artificial pronunciation and intonation from the very beginning. Therefore from the very first lesson I speak with a normal speed that is common for native speakers.
- Interval recall. I use the word ‘”recall” and not repetition, as this is far more effective. Have you learnt a new useful phrase at the beginning of the lesson? That means that you should try to recall it at the end of the lesson. It is not a given that you will definitely be able to do this – it is likely that you will make a mistake. But that is actually good, because when you hear the right answer and correct your mistake, you will be able to remember the phrase even better. Important: first recall and only afterwards check the answer. Not the other way round! “Recall then check” should be done several times, each time over a longer period of time.
- Getting involved in a dialogue. Dialogues are communications with people. The quickest way “to get a student talking” is by actively engaging them in a dialogue, by asking questions which prompt answers.
The idea of creating the RuRuLand audio course came into my head when I realised that my students found it difficult to find time to practice regularly. Even the most motivated and diligent students could not do that – as I said previously, language learning is not their main occupation. Nevertheless, they could easily listen to audio recordings, for example, in traffic jams on their way to work, while doing sport, gardening or cleaning at home. Many asked me to recommend an audio course to them. I searched carefully for a long time, but I couldn’t find anything suitable. That is when I decided to create one myself, by using all the aforementioned principles.
Since you can listen to the audio course, you can do other tasks at the same time, you’ll be able to do it regularly, without spending any additional time.
All grammar in the course is set out in a simple, understandable and structured way. There is just enough grammar to be able to speak without making mistakes.
Although the course does have some visual content, 90% of the course is made up of audio lessons. You will be listening and repeating the speaker constantly, and in this way, little by little, you will improve your pronunciation. You will also be speaking. How? Try the first lesson for free now or you can listen to short excerpts from other lessons, which are included in the descriptions for each lesson.
All the dialogues and texts are voiced by native Russian speakers at a natural pace. Without dramatic pauses and the artificial elongation of words.
Every lesson you will be recalling what you have studied previously – that is how the course has been created. Moreover, you will give your answer first and only afterwards you will be able to hear the answer in a more accurate form.
Each lesson has a minimum of two dialogues. You will become an active participator in them. Apart from that, you will be doing interactive exercises, in which you will need to answer cues or questions. Understand, this course is not simply passive listening to a course! This is probably is main advantage. Get ready to constantly ask and answer, talk and react.
Good luck with conquering active Russian speech!