A Russian language update

No, I’ve not been resting on my laurels! 🙂

I’ve been chipping away at my Russian, and truly, I think chipping is the right word. I never make huge leaps with Russian, and I’d be lying if I said the beginning steps have been easy. They haven’t. I knew Russian was considered a difficult language, but I wasn’t quite expecting this difficult. But – by chipping away slowly at the mountain, hopefully, I’ll conquer it some day. And, I dare say, I am making progress. Slow, certainly, but it’s progress nonetheless.

Recently, I’ve gone back to the very beginning of my New Penguin Russian Course, and started reviewing everything very closely. While much of it I “know”, with a lot of it, I’d say I’m “familiar” with it, but I’ve not learned it by heart. Instead of plowing on through the book when my foundation is weak, I’m going back and pouring in more concrete to strengthen things up. I’m finding that things that I found totally baffling on the first go through are easier to grasp now.

Before I dropped back to the beginning to do a full review, I was working on chapter 7, which includes adjectives and the basic declensions of them. I at first found all of the explanations about the declensions to be confusing, but I found some clarity when, ironically, I turned to the back of the book and looked at the table of all of the possible declensions of an adjective. I found this to be rather humorous, as well as a sign that my skills at learning a language have become better (or perhaps just changed). When I started learning German years ago, I hated tables of endings, conjugations, etc. I found them to be too much. I preferred to be introduced to bits of grammar slowly. Now, at least when it comes to declensions, I prefer to look at tables so I can have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. I will, of course, have to study each declension on its own and learn to use it properly, but I still find it helpful to see the full picture before digging in with the pieces of it.

I’ve also recently added a few more Russian language books to my repertoire. Not because the books I had (the New Penguin Russian Course and Kenneth Katzner’s Dictionary) were bad or not thorough enough, but because I’d like to be able to tackle the language from different viewpoints. As the language addict recently remarked:

Most language textbooks take similar but not identical approaches to language learning, and teach similar but not identical vocabulary.

The two books I bought are:

  • Russian for Beginners by Charles Duff – Similar, but far from identical, to Nicholas J. Brown’s Penguin course. I’m finding that some of the grammar explanations in Duff’s book are more thorough and exact than Brown’s book, but Brown’s book has its bonsues as well. I think these two books will play off of each other nicely.
  • Dictionary of Spoken Russian by the U.S. War Department – The big lure of this book for me was that all of the words have multiple example sentences, showing the word in real use. It is indeed a bit dated, but I’d say it will still prove extremely helpful, particularly when I start entering the words and example sentences into one of my vocabulary programs. As an aside, Katzner’s dictionary also has example phrases and sentences for almost all of the words in it. Context, context, context – so important for learning new words!

1 thought on “A Russian language update”

  1. Two things come to mind. I also like that overview of things, whether it’s about languages or a computer program. I hate the need-to-know approach that gets applied sometimes. It’s not that I overestimate myself, or want to get to the good bits first, I just like to know is all.

    Second, learning a language will always have to cover the same subjects, but you’re right in saying that a different language course can give you an entirely different point of view. Sometimes even, it’s just the way they call things or how the layout is done. You need to feel comfortable with what you’re looking at or it’ll never work.

    That was it. Good luck.

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