Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Russian (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Russian gives you access to the world of 160 million native speakers in the Russian Federation and surrounding countries. Russian is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, which are the dominant language group in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. 280 million people speak Russian worldwide, 120 million of them as a second language. Understanding it will give you a head start if you want to also learn other Slavic language like Polish, Czech and Ukrainian.
Learning the language can be a challenge since there is so little cross-over between English and Russian in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. But starting a new language from scratch can make it easier in some respects. Mastering Russian begins with learning a new alphabet and sounds that go with it.
The first hurdle to mastering Russian is learning the Cyrillic alphabet which uses very different characters than the Latin alphabet. However, once you are familiar with how to read letters like Г, Д and Ж you are ready to begin reading and speaking the language yourself.
With Babbel, you can learn Russian without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
Having a little Russian in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As the seventh most spoken language on the planet, knowing some Russian can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in Eastern Europe or Eurasia.
Traveling – Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia remains off the radar of most Americans with vacation plans. Those of us who only know Russia for quality vodka and Cold War intrigue probably don’t realize that the country is full of fascinating tourist destinations: St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum; Lake Baikal, the “Galapagos of Russia”; the ski resorts of the Caucasus mountains; the virgin boreal forests in the Urals; bucolic beach resorts on the Caspian and Black Seas; and the Trans-Siberian railroad which reaches all the way to the port city of Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan. When you can speak Russian almost all of Eastern Europe and Western Asia opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never even guess.
Living Abroad – When you speak Russian well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in Russia can become tempting. World cities like Moscow and St. Petersberg offer opportunities for students looking for semesters abroad, and professionals looking for new opportunities in the world’s eighth-largest economy.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Russian as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Russian Culture, Unfiltered – Whether you want to watch the films of Andrei Tarkovsky without subtitles; get deeper into the music of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff; get lost amidst the neoclassical architecture of Saint Petersburg; or learn how to make really good пельме́ни (pelmeni), speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing Russian will also allow you to read some of the world’s greatest literature in the original: Alexander Pushkin, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Nabokov, and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. And if you are one of the 3 million Americans of Russian descent, speaking the language will transform your window onto your heritage into an open door.
Ways to Learn Russian
Although Russian isn’t a widely-studied language in the United States there are still many ways to learn it:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned a language this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap; you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that doesn’t stay updated.
Online Russian Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that you don’t need to pay extra for.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there ways to learn Russian for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Russian for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Russian and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in Russia. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Russian vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming Russian radio and TV online, watching Russian movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Russian grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to start learning the language. Books could get you reading Russian after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Russian for free on the web. From Russian grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Russian online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Russian with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Russian, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Russian program:
Covers all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
Web-based learning. Your progress is saved in the cloud so you can always pick up right where you left off.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons, so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Russian with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager, where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not to continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try now a free Russian lesson at Babbel.com