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7 problems which make learning Russian difficult

Yesterday in my blog, I published a table with the list of the most difficult languages to learn, where Russian is ranked in the 4th category of difficulty out of 5.

Today I would like to talk about the reasons for this.

1. Russian has 6 cases. What is expressed in English with prepositions (of, to, by etc.), in Russian is expressed with a changing of the word’s ending. This means that depending on the situation you will need to change the ending of nouns, adjectives, numerals and pronouns (the names of parts of speech might sound scary and all Greek to you, as well).

However, approaching step by step or, as they say, how do you eat an elephant? - start with the trunk, it will feel quite doable. And in the moments of despair remember that Hungarian has 34 cases!

2. Genders – Russian has 3: male, female and neutral. Why is a car – “she”, a flower – “he”, a window – “it”? In defence of Russian I’d tell that you have to learn genders in the majority of languages; and Russian is the one where you don’t have to memorise but the word itself will tell you.

3. Russian verbs. The conjugation of verbs is a challenge. There are 2 groups of conjugation, which might seem easy at first, but straight after comes the revelation that they are too many verbs which don’t fall under such groups and needed to be learnt by heart. (However, there are some patterns, and they will make your life easier).

4. Verbs of motion, which can make your eye twitch. However, they are more difficult in a text book, in fact you can learn them one by one using them in particular situation, without rolling a snowball (without making a mountain out of a molehill).

5. Verb aspects: almost each verb in Russian has 2 forms, and you will need not only to be able to conjugate both of them but, what’s harder, to know when and why you use perfective or imperfective aspect.

6. Stresses. Russian words have no rules about where the stress in a word is, furthermore, my husband Mark tries to put the stress where it feels really uncomfortable for him and that’s how he sometimes manages to guess where the stress should be. You will need to remember the stress in each word (as in English, by the way), but also remember when the stress shifts (from one case to another, from singular to plural, during conjugation of verbs etc.).

7. There are many really long words or words with many consonants one after another; I am sure though it is better than in German; I would recommend breaking the word into syllables, pronounce them a couple of times starting from the end, and then learn altogether combining into a word.

The real difficult thing in Russian – is that making a phrase, you need changeable parts of the sentence to agree with each other (you need to bear in mind case, gender, person, number (singular or plural), tense, aspect etc). This sounds hideous, but as in any language it is a matter of practice.

These are the major problems in learning Russian, as you see there are ways to deal with them, there is nothing impossible among them, but they do require many hours of studying – therefore you need that many hours, 1100, to reach a good level in Russian.

As you can see, you might need a good teacher to help you overcome these obstacles.

If you think I can help, get in touch.


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