Hey everyone. Today I’d like to officially mark as the end of my Russian language learning mission. In this post I’d like to tell you about how it went and what’s in store for me in the next few months
The original mission was to learn Russian to fluency (conversational, high a2, low b1) in just 3 months. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was not ready for such a dramatic challenge. First of all I had no experience learning languages on my own and secondly I’m not a hard-working student.
That’s okay though. All I needed to do was to refocus the goal to fit with my learner profile. I changed the goal to 1 year and I’m happy to say that now 1 year and 2 months later I have a great basic level of Russian. I can engage in basic conversations and understand what’s being said a lot of the time. On the scale that’s probably a solid A2.
You might think now that I’m terminating the challenge that I’m done learning Russian. That’s not true. What I am doing is changing my focus from Russian to a new language – to be introduced below, while still working on getting my Russian up to intermediate and beyond.
The thing about languages, even our native ones, is that we are never really “done” learning them. Even when you make it to C2 you can’t ever say you fully learned a language. There’s a Russian way of explaining this. The difference between “Я выучил Русскии язык” & “Я учил Русскии язык” – one of the wonders of Russian is the verb aspects. Loosely translated the first sentence means “I completed learning Russian, a possible interpretation being that I learned all Russian there is to learn” while the other means something like “I was learning Russian” (and I’m still learning).
One of these days I’d love to write an article of the wonders of Russian, because it’s really an amazing language.
That’s just one aspect of why we never finish learning. The other is that our memories deteriorate. Without using the language we’ll start forgetting words in it. So that means every language you speak requires some form of maintenance.
The good news is that even if we don’t work on a language for a long time, usually the reactivation of it is very fast. A lot of people I know report that just a week or less in the environment of the language and it’s all but back to them.
I tried similar things with German. Having not used it for years it was super rusty when I went to Germany. However after a few days of listening and communicating in broken German my somewhat intermediate level was coming back and it did not take me long to be able to function completely in Germany.
Summary of my updates about Russian
If you’re curious about my experience and journey learning Russian here’s a some of my favourite posts and updates I made during the mission. Within a lot of the posts are also full unedited tutoring sessions with my iTalki tutor so you can hear my progress.
You can find all the Russian Mission posts here: Russian Archives
- Russian Mission: iTalki Challenge Completed – The iTalki challenge really boosted my Russian. It was incredible. I’m very excited about doing the June Challenge for my French.
- Tutoring Session 8 (arbitrary numbering) – An example of a Tutoring session prior to the iTalki Challenge
- Russian Mission: 9 Month Update Highs and Lows – Some things that went well and some things that didn’t over the course of roughly 9 months
- My First Time as an iTalki Student – This is one of my favourite posts ever. I hesitated to take tutoring for 7! Months and here is the recount of when I finally took the plunge.
- Collecting Wins in Language Learning [Russian Mission] – A sort of philosophical post about the importance of small wins to keep motivation up.
- Russian Mission: 3 Month Update – This post isn’t one of my best, but I thought it was funny to add it here as my original goal was fluency in 3 months. LOL.
- First Language Mission: 4 Reasons Why I’m Learning Russian – The post that started it all, with my original 4 reasons for picking Russian.
The following podcast episodes had content about my Russian Mission or Russian in general.
- S2E06: Lauren Cutlip – Lauren has been learning Russian for almost 3 months now and we talked about the experience, as well as how important the mental side of learning is.
- S1E46: Gabriel Wyner – I asked Gabriel how to do the Russian rolled ‘R’ as he is an expert on pronunciation and speaks Russian at a high level.
- S1E34: Conor Clyne – I talked to Conor about learning Russian, but also the fear of using it in public
- S1E14: Russian Episode (In English) – Not my greatest work, it was very young in the podcast and also in my Russian studies. I’m not super proud of this episode but me and Maria do get into what sort of problems I’ve been having in Russian. I cringe when I listen to it, but hopefully you can get something out of my misery.
Be everywhere right! My YouTube channel has been neglected a bit of late, but I hope to bring back more updates soon.
You can find all my videos here: Actual Fluency on YouTube
- iTalki New Year’s Challenge 2015 – I’m in! – Talking about Russian and why I’m doing 20 hours of tutoring in the language.
- Happy New Year 2015 – I look back at the year 2014 and review my Russian studies
- 30 Day Pimsleur Accountability Challenge Final Video – In this final 30th video update of my project to listen to all 30 episodes of Pimsleur Russian 1 I reflect on the challenge itself and whether Pimsleur is even worth it. Through this video you can also find the 29 other updates.
A new challenge and mission awaits
If there’s one thing the Polyglot Gathering is good for, it’s inspiration and motivation to learn a new language. It’s actually scary how much motivation one can drag out of that event.
For me one of my biggest regrets was not taking French seriously in school. It was a turbulent time of my life and so my mind was not rational nor was it focused on school work. I was much more happy to take the piss out of the teacher and attempt a new world record in doing as little homework or preparation as I possibly could.
French with Michel Thomas was one of those first steps I took subsequently, but back then I hadn’t heard about the polyglot community or even the idea that one could successfully learn a language independently. It sounds silly but without proof or confirmation my brain put up resistance and after listening to a few of the tapes I gave up.
Fast forward a handful of years and I’m in Berlin again and hanging out when during Richard Simcotts talk he argues that French is one of those gateway languages that is super useful to know for many reasons. I don’t know exactly what part of that statement really resonated with me, but after that I decided French would be my next one. I had already previously decided that I was going to pick a romance language next, first of all to get started on Romance languages but also because I had faced the wrath of a Slavic language and it had taken it’s toll!
Another great motivator was my friend Sebastién from Belgium said he’d do tutoring for €5 an hour. I told him he was crazy but immediately took him up on it. There’s nothing better than tutoring lessons for rapid language acquisition I think.
iTalki June Challenge
During the last iTalki Challenge, which was in January I learned a lot of Russian. Being forced to do 20 hours of lessons in just 45 days was really testing for me but I endured and subsequently improved my Russian to new heights.
Now there’s a new one! The iTalki June Challenge 2015 is starting very soon and the format is very much alike the January edition. Basically you commit 100 credits (or $10) and if you complete the 12 hours of tutoring required you win 400 credits ($40).
The 12 hours of tutoring must be completed in the month of June. So it’s 3 lessons a week. This is quite a lot, but the boost that it gives to your learning is well worth it.
I think it’s both a great way to start a new language – like I’m doing with French, but also to rocket your level in an existing language.
Click here to join me in the challenge – be sure to add what language you’re attacking below!
In the next few days I’ll update with a post about how I intend to learn French. Until then!
What are your current challenges and missions?