Recommendations for Russian Language Course?

Discussion in 'Education and Resettlement Courses' started by Excognito, Dec 25, 2010.

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  1. On and Off over the years (at a mark-space ratio of about 1:100000), I've toyed with the idea of learning Russian. I can vaguely 'read' the words and semi-hack my way through text at a sloth-like pace, but the one thing I simply can not do is 'listen' to or 'speak' the language. I simply have no ear for Russian no matter how many times I played the BBC language tapes or a couple of others. I can 'hear' German, French and even Japanese, but Russian is right out.

    However, I stumbled over a couple of websites that raised the spectre of Hope - One Minute Russian and Russian Survival Phrases; the first one sounds like a Scottish woman narrating and the second like Russians. I've managed to follow some of this material, possibly due to the way they both break the sounds down and possibly in part due to the clarity of pronunciation of the speakers. It made me wonder what courses others may have had success with, particularly when other courses haven't been successful.

    All recommendations gratefully received.
  2. Excog. You could do a lot worse than the Hugo ...... in three months series of books. I haven't looked at the Russian one, but when I studied Turkish we used it as the defacto text book for the first three months (spooky, eh?). Amazon is your friend here. The BBC Russian website is good for exposure to the language too.

    Check you PMs for further information
  3. Excognito,

    I find the Michel Thomas system to be excellent: Michel Thomas

    If you follow the instructions to the letter then it is a very quick way of picking up a spoken language. I haven't tried the Russian one, but have used the French and Portuguese ones and found they improved my spoken French and Portuguese immeasurably. I found my pronounciation became better and as such my confidence in the languages improved and I became happier at holding conversations that I would have struggled with before.

    (I have tried many different books and tapes in the past, but this system worked best for me.)
  4. msr

    msr LE

  5. Well, I'm still trying and I've dragged one of my boys in to assist. I've had a look at the various courses people have suggested both here and via PM (thank you, one and all) and I've tried a few of the on-line freebies. I'm still evaluating which one (or even several) to pursue.

    My first problem is quite a simple one and relates to my original problem with 'hearing' the language. I have realized part of my confusion is due to the subtle, and not so subtle, ways that different Russians (or even the same Russian) pronounce the same word. In one example, the speaker reads out each syllable of Пожалуйста as 'pah' 'zha' 'loos' 'ta' but says what appears to be 'pa-zhowl-sta'; that's just a simple example. Even до свидания gets pronounced as 'dos vidanya', 'doh svidanya', 'das vidanya' or even 'das veedanya' depending upon the speaker or context.

    I imagine that some of this is due to regional accents and I was wondering: is there the equivalent of Received Pronunciation? That is, the pronunciation that "The Ministry" would expect from its PR people? (This isn't from mere snobbery - it's a question of being understood by a wide number of Russian speakers)

    (yep, quick web check confirms significant regional variations and hints at 'Moscow' being standard, but Hampstead and Stepney are both in London yet worlds apart phonetically.)
  6. I'm sh*te at Russian, despite having lived and worked over there for years, and having a Russian wife.

    It is a challenging language to learn, especially if you're not a "natural" at languages (and I'm not). I have about 50 Russian grammers and course books on my shelf, and only one or two of them have been useful aids to "learn from the book".

    The only real way to learn Russian successfully is to have intensive language lessons with a fierce old teacher (the young ones aren't strict enough...). In all my time in Russia, the only expats I met who spoke good Russian had all done a full-time intensive course - either on the MoD/FO course, or at a University.

    There are several factors to consider:

    1. Russian relies on grammar - ie memorising case endings. Unfortunately, its one of those languages where, if you get the ending of one word wrong, the audience haven't a clue (or pretend not to know) what you mean.

    2. Along with (1), Russia is one of those countries where almost no-one makes any effort to speak slowly to aid communication. There is also a real tendency not to understand you simply because you're a foreigner. I.e. my wife and friends hear me speak fluent Russian in a bar or restaurant (together with night clubs, the one area of my language that is fluent, for some reason... LOL..), yet the waitress will typically not comprehend a word.

    3. Russian does have a lot of run-together pronunciation. The common "pozhalsta" is a perfect example of how useless a phrase book is! Unfortunately, you do need to experience live conversation in order to pick up the common pronunciations (which include a heck of a lot of the basic courtesies).

    4. Regional accents are minor, actually. My wife can discern differences, but they're nothing like as extreme as UK variations (mainly due to Stalin shifting populations around, etc). I travelled all over Russia, and found no variation at my level of communication.

    Unless you are a grammar fiend, one of my primary recommendations is a book called "English Grammar for Students of Russian" (Edwina J Cruise ISBN 9780934034210). Hence when your Russian teacher screams at you to use the Dative, you have an idea of what she means...

    Next up, the US company "Barrons" do a variety of sizes of Grammars, Vocabularies and Verb lists. The small pocket versions are ideal for swotting up while on the plane. The verb lists are necessary to help memorise the case endings.

    If you are anywhere near London, I'd recommend going to Foyles and browsing the Russian section. There are all sorts of course materials there.