There’s no one right method to learn a language. However, there are some that are really wrong. When making your first steps in Russian you probably began with browsing some forums, Facebook groups or language exchange sites hoping to find a magic tool or killer advice on how to start learning Russian the right way and make the best of it.
Well, as much as good advice could be, the same way the bad advice can slow down your progress for ages.
The funniest (or maybe, the saddest) thing is that those kind of suggestions are so common that are regarded as typical and “common knowledge” bits of advice on “how to learn Russian fast ‘n’ fun”.
You will hear theses advises so often, that it becomes a no doubt thing for a lot of people who follow it thoughtlessly.
1. Bad Advice#1: Learn like children do
An average baby needs at least 2 years of his life to start producing ANY coherent sentences like ” I want to eat, mummy”. Before this happens, he just listens and absorbs. For 2 YEARS at least. Compare that to what some efficient language hackers can do in just a few months.
Moreover, children don’t speak because they can’t yet and not because a new language interferes with their native one. Adult’s brain is nothing like the one of a child. In other words, being adults we already have a language system “installed” in our “computer”, while kids are a clean slate. This makes a second language acquisition totally different from the one occurring when you learn your mother tongue.
2. Bad Advice#2: Ignore boring Grammar drills and learn conversational phrases instead
So, here comes out my favourite one. It is usually given by a) some Russian native speakers who have a vast experience in learning English and transfer this experience to Russian language newbies b) some non-well qualified teachers who simply don’t know how to explain Grammar in a logical way and therefore go on supporting the myth about the unbreakable wall of partition between “real Russian” and complex grammar.
Well, in English, there are “simple” conversational topics with a minimum or very simple Grammar constructions which are enough to hold the conversation. In Russian, every “simple” talk immediately activates about 75% of the basic grammar. Without the knowledge of grammatical skeleton, you will not be able to construct a sentence whatever topic you want to discuss.Trying to acquire the Russian language by conversation topics in the beginning stages is useless as without understanding the grammatical structure and logic of the memorised sentences it is impossible to build analogue sentences when necessary. So, what seems easy in the beginning can cause a lot of trouble further on.
I would like to remind you of a famous fairy-tale about The Three Little Pigs (Ниф-Ниф, Наф-Наф и Нуф-Нуф in Russian): two lazy and non-practical brothers built their houses of straw and sticks because it seemed simpler and quicker, but in the end, only the house made of bricks saved their lives from Big Bad Wolf.
3. Bad Advice#3: When you begin to learn Russian, find a native speaker partner/penpal to “language exchange” with him and let him answer your questions
At an early stage, you are so much limited in what and how you can say, there are so many unknown and unusual concepts in Russian that every conversation immediately would produce a bunch of questions from your side. You see, an average native speaker for sure can speak Russian to you, but he looks at the language as an insider and often simply cannot understand the very sense of your question.
The best example here is Russian verbs aspect which is believed to be one of the most difficult topics for foreign learners ever and at the same time the easiest thing for a native speaker.
So, it’s better to avoid asking “why” questions to your language partner if you don’t want to take risk of getting confused, and use him only as a source of verification – “Can I say like that?”. Address all your “whys” to an experienced teacher or a good reference book.
Should I also mention that you cannot actually communicate unless you learn at least a minimum of basic Grammar and vocabulary (here see Bad Advice#2)?
For sure, we can add a way more bullet points to this list, so if you have any other words of wisdom, make sure to share them in the comments below.