Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Is it important to learn Russian grammar?
Yes, it is! And we should probably stop discussing this topic at this point if not one crucial 'NO'. Yes, you should learn Russian grammar but not in the very beginning. Russian language is really confusing when it comes to grammar and some Russian language learners are persuaded that the only way to learn Russian is to embrace Russian grammar which can become your biggest mistake. Do you want to know why every Russian language teacher is saying that you have to learn Russian grammar? I will be honest with you, it's just much easier for teachers to teach you this way - with clear grammar rules and exercises. It's much more difficult to create learning materials which will help you to learn Russian grammar effortlessly. I said effortlessly? Yes, EFFORTLESSLY! You can learn Russian grammar from anywhere - Russian songs, Russian movies, special podcasts where certain structures are repeated several times that you have no choice but to remember them.
For example, there is a sentence: "Путин любит играть в хоккей" (Putin likes playing hockey). You heard this sentence and now I ask you: "Путин любит играть в футбол?" (Does Putin like playing football?). Imagine that you cannot see a previous sentence and can only remember what was said. Try to respond to my question. It will be "Нет, Путин не любит играть в футбол. Он любит играть в хоккей" (No, Putin doesn't like playing football. He likes playing hockey). I am still not convinced and I ask you: "Это Трамп любит играть в хоккей?" (Is it Trump who likes playing hockey?), you should reply: "Нет, это не Трамп, а Путин любит играть в хоккей" (No, it's not Trump but Putin who likes playing hockey). I continue: "Ну а кто тогда любит играть в футбол?" (But who then likes playing football?). You can reply: "Я люблю играть в футбол" (I like playing football). That is a very good technique to learn Russian language. You can discover my Hack Your Russian Elementary Podcast for more examples like this one.
So, why is it not a good idea to learn Russian grammar in the beginning? Because it will stop you from learning a real Russian language and will take you much more time to start speaking. Of course, you will need to learn some basics of Russian language in the beginning: word order, pronouns, you will need to have an overall idea of how Russian language works, understand why we use Russian cases and conjugate Russian verbs. But don't concentrate too much on Russian grammar. The greateast mistale of many Russian language learners is that they buy lots of grammar books, go to language courses (horrible mistake) and believe that they will be able to speak Russian soon. Well, it depends on your expectations, of course. If you are patient and very disciplined, you will be able to start speaking Russian in 3 years (if you are really focused on Russian grammar). But if want to start speaking Russian in 5-6 months, forget about Russian grammar and start focusing on Russian vocabulary. But it's also important to know how to learn Russian vocabulary efficiently. Flash cards? Duolingo? Other language apps? It all depends on your preferences. Honestly, I don't like any neither flashcards nor Duolingo. Why? Because you don't learn these words in the real context. A better option? Interlinear texts and watching Russian authentic materials with Russian or dual subtitles.
It's also important to see the big picture when you learn Russian grammar. So, instead of just learning the endings for each Russian case, learn all situations when a particular case is needed. The reason why you should dedicate time to each separate case is because you will learn both grammar and useful conversational constructions at the same time. For example, while discovering the Russian Genitive case, you will learn:
- how to speak about things you have and you don't have (in present, past and future tenses);
- the ways to ask people how to get to a particular place;
- the ways to describe your location;
- how to say the date or respond to some questions that require the date;
- how to wish something good (or bad) to people;
- and so much more!
So, instead of focusing on the grammar part, you should see the opportunities to use certain new constructions in your speech straight away.
See the next video to get more tips on how to learn Russian cases effectively.
A good example of a person who managed to learn Russian language without focusing on Russian grammar is Benjamin Rich from Bald and Bankrupt. Yes, his Russian language skills are not perfect: he makes some grammar mistakes, his pronunciation is not perfect, and he can sometimes misunderstand Russian natives. Nevertheless, he can perfectly travel in Russian and some other post-Soviet countries where people speak Russian language. He can easily interact with people in Russian language and his comprehension of Russian is really impressive. However, it doesn't mean that he should stop improving his Russian language. But here is the point - you first need to start speaking Russian language and improve, polish your grammar throughout the way. You don't need to be perfect in the beginning.
Here are some alternatives to learning Russian grammar in the beginning:
1) Try to learn Russian grammar a natural way with interlinear texts (texts with translation of each word in English). This is really a great way to understand how Russian language works. These texts will seem weird in the beginning because it's not a translation of the sentence as a whole but only of separate words which makes it difficult to understand the meaning of a sentence at first. But here is a point - by trying to connect each word you can notice how the language works and see a word order in Russian language.
2) Listen to Russian songs and learn some interesting patterns. You can simply learn several phrases you like. Try to analyze them and transform by using other words you know. You can learn a great amount of Russian grammar patterns this way.
3) Watch Russian cartoons with dual subtitles. It is known that in the majority of cartoons they use a simple language because they are mainly created for kids. Therefore, you should find some intersting Russian cartoons, preferably with dual subtitles so that you will be able to follow the original text and see its translation straight away. I have created several Russian cartoons with dual subtitles.
4) Learn Russian with slow Russian stories. It's better to find some specialized podcasts to learn Russian language through slow Russian. You can check out my Hack Your Russian Elementary Podcast that I created to help Russian language learners to learn Russian grammar easily. The concept of this podcast is to listen to an interesting story from a life of a famous Russian or a Russian-speaking person and then reply to questions that I ask during the episode. The key is to learn some patterns of Russian grammar in the context through a repetition with fun questions.
5) Just start speaking! I am serious. Of course, you first need to learn Russian alphabet, know how to read Russian words correctly, learn some basic Russian words. You will be surprised but you already know at least 800 Russian words. So, you are ready start speaking with Russian natives! What are you waiting for? Find some Russian natives who are ready to speak to you, open Google Translate or Open Russian to find some words you don't know and start practicing.
You can watch my video where I assess Russian language skills of Benjamin Rich from Bald and Bankrupt. Benjamin Rich has made a video where he explains how he managed to learn Russian language. In the beginning he went to a language school and was trying to learn Russian language a traditional way but it didn't work. He was frustrated because of Russian grammar that is really challenging for any Russian language learners in the beginning. So, before creating his channel 'Bald and Bankrupt', Benjamin Rich decided to use a different approach of learning Russian language - to focus on Russian vocabulary and practice speaking. As he said, he managed to make a great progress when he decided to stop learning Russian grammar. In this video, I will give my honest opinion on this topic:"To learn or not to learn Russian grammar". Please, note that Benjamin's approach cannot suit all types of learners. I admit that there are certain groups of learners who won't be able to start speaking Russian language without knowing every piece of grammar and that is fine. However, I still recommend you to find the most interesting authentic materials for you in the beginning.
To learn or not to learn Russian grammar
Hello! My name is Mila and I am a founder of Hack Your Russian language platform. You can find me here:
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