Storming the Language Fortress

Guest Babylon cover RUMany people have wondered about the best way to study a foreign language, how to take those first steps on the long road to communicating with new words, grammar rules, syntactical theories, or cultural styles. In the case of the Russian language, you can imagine the tortuous challenges that students must overcome to achieve proficiency. With that in mind, here are some practical tips from a Russian teacher with 15 years of experience working with international students.

Learning a language implies constant work. A success story can only be told by way of hard work and intense exercises for around 10 to 12 hours a week. Your best option is to learn with a teacher before pursuing a personal teaching strategy or acquiring the necessary materials.
You should also vary your studying methods. If you are tired of grammar lessons, then change to reading comprehension. If you are exhausted by endless hours of reading, then listen to the radio or watch a television show in your target language.

It’s always better to learn new words in their actual context, rather than from a list. In other words, read more! More specifically, obtain the basis of a language from textbooks that are at your level so you can automatize certain skills. Don’t forget to always have some grammar tables and schemas with you, in order to speed up and make the most of your language learning process. This is particularly true when you arrive at more complicated subjects, such as grammar cases, verbs of motion, or verbal aspects in the Russian language. These concepts require additional study time and demand constant polishing and practice in specific speaking situations.

Try to pay special attention to your lexical basis, particularly to verbs, because they act as organizers in the phrase, especially in everyday life. That is why you should also start using certain common expressions, such as “we could say that…” (следует сказать), «in my opinion…» (по-моему), «obviously…» (очевидно), «let me think about that…» (дайте минуточку подум), etc. as soon as possible. Your goal should be to add more and more expressions like these, thereby becoming more fluent as you learn the intricacies of their use. They are your strategic friends in your time of language need, because you can use them in your conversations in order to buy yourself a bit of extra time. By using them, you gain a few seconds to think or create a better order for your next phrase.

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Learning by heart is a must when learning any language; memorizing proverbs, sayings, and idiomatic expressions will help you slip deeper into the true soul of your target language.
Above all, don’t be ashamed of actively speaking with native speakers. Listen to their speech, join their conversations, participate in their cultural activities, be their guest, and invite them to your home. For example, in the Russian language, students must pay attention to the intonation and gestures of people with whom they interact. These observations not only give you access to better comprehension, but also to the culture of their country.

In other words, a language is a fortress that you need to storm with a wide range of tactics and strategies. You may choose your weapons, but a combination of resources will always make you more effective and more adaptable for learning. That’s why students need to actively read magazines, listen to the radio, watch films, talk to new people, and write to friends who speak the native language. Utilizing a diverse range of language learning approaches is always the best technique to “storm that fortress” and achieve foreign language proficiency!

Don’t be afraid! He who never fails, never learns!
Be confident that with time and effort, proficiency will come. Good luck!

Author:Elena Molodykh
Academic Director
The Babylon Project – Learn Russian online

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