12 insanely powerful yet simple techniques used by polyglots to learn a language in record time outside of the classroom

12 insanely powerful yet simple methods used by polyglots to learn a language in record time outside of the classroom

Reading, writing and comprehension skills

Incorporate drilling into your study routine

1. Drilling is a serious time-saver and highly efficient if you do it the smart way. When learning the cases for example, try to apply the rules to short, example phrases so that your brain creates neural connections which will help you to store them in your long-term memory. It is often much easier to recall stale rules such as noun and adjectival endings if you learn an easy example which is applied in context.

Translate a print resource such as a non-technical newspaper, magazine or book

2. This one isn’t for the faint of heart, however it is a highly -effective way of implementing the concept behind spaced-repetition without using technology. Purchase a print resource and read every single page of it. Whenever you have the opportunity throughout your day (e.g. whilst reading the bus on your way to work, or during your lunch break), use an online dictionary or a translator to discover the meaning of every word (don’t ignore this point!). In terms of quality online dictionaries, I would suggest thePONS or Glosbe (the latter provides vocabulary in context). I recommend Yandex over Google Translate as a translator, as it is far more accurate for Slavic languages and possesses the same features, such as the translation of the text contained in a photograph, or on-the-spot translation.

Whenever you come across a word that you are likely to use, write it down in your notebook. It is good practice to review and try to memorise the words, but this is not necessary. By translating every time you encounter a word that you do not know, you will not only discover useful words and expressions, but also notice a reduced reliance on your translator of choice because the repeated exposure to the high-frequency words will result in unintentional memorisation – i.e., you won’t have to try to study them at all because your brain will do all the hard work for you! By the time that you have finished a single magazine for example, you will have increased the breadth of your vocabulary significantly. Keep repeating this until you can hold a conversation without constantly searching for vocabulary.

Be selective about the resources you choose if you want to get the most out of watching TV series and films

3. If you’re still at the beginner to intermediate level and are not confident in your listening and writing abilities, try to watch a TV series on Netflix with Russian audio and Russian subtitles that precisely match the audio. You will know that the audio matches the subtitles because it will say ‘Russian [CC]’. Every time you do not understand a word, look for the translation on Google. A great Google Chrome extension to install is Language Learning with Netflix, available in the Google Chrome Store here . The extension will allow you to improve your skills by allowing two subtitles to be displayed at once for ease of translation, give you control over the speed of playback (particularly useful for those at the beginning stages of learning Russian) and a particularly cool feature to activate is ‘Pause on mouse hover’, which will pause the show or film until you move your cursor away, thereby giving you a chance to digest new vocabulary without developing repetitive strain injury(!) If you learn any interesting words, write them down in your notebook. You can find a list of Russian TV series available on Netflix here , and Russian films/movies on Netflix here and here .

Learn through music

4. Discover Russian artists and songs aligned with the style of music you like by listening to ‘ Top Russian songs 2020 ’-type playlists on Youtube and listen to them almost exclusively. Listen to the songs on repeat on your way to work, whilst in your room etc. and try to memorise the lyrics by singing along to it with the words in front of you. This is a fun way to learn new words and verbs, and they are much easier to remember when connected to a melody.

Create an immersive language-learning experience

5. Try to integrate Russian into your life outside of your lessons or formal self-study. For example, when you want to cook something, instead of looking for the recipe in Russian, look for it in Russian and use Google translate for any words that you do not understand. You can also download the phone application Memrise, in order to learn new vocabulary without having to write a thing. The application was inspired by the concept of ‘spaced repetition’ which you can read more about here. It gamifies the process of acquiring vocabulary and creates a more immersive experience because of all the high-quality videos featuring native speakers. I find that it is of a far superior quality to Duolingo.

Read the news

6. If you like to keep on top of current affairs, download a quality news application and try to translate the words of your chosen article in order to make sense of the article. Make this a daily habit and you’ll be sure to see an improvement in your reading speed and vocabulary acquisition within a matter of weeks. To make it easy to translate the words, download the Google Translate extension in the app store of the web browser Google Chrome here . This extension allows you to translate a word by simply double-clicking on it and then clicking on the Google Translate icon that appears, which will generate a pop-up window with both the original word and the Russian translation, as well as an audio clip, which you can play to hear the correct pronunciation in Russian. You can change the settings so that every time you double-click, Google automatically generates this pop-up window with the translation, without it being necessary to click on the first icon.

Commit to writing in Russian regularly

7. Maintain a diary in Russian and write the following on a daily basis in full sentences:

§ the date;

§ the weather;

§ your mood;

§ where you went;

§ who you spoke to;

§ something good that happened;

§ something bad (or perhaps not so great) that happened; and

§ what you did to improve your Russian that day.

Speaking and pronunciation skills

Understanding the difference between minimal pairs is key to improving your comprehension

8. Practice pronouncing ‘minimal pairs’. These are words that sound very similar but have a slight difference in pronunciation. It is easy to become confused about the intended meaning of these words when you do not know how to pronounce the words correctly. A great website to help you overcome this issue can be found here.

Identify the stress of a word without having to rely on anyone else with this tool

9. Improve your pronunciation in the absent of a native-speaker to correct you, by using this incredible software provided by Morpher, to identify where the stress should be placed on a word. Simply enter the text in the generator and it will generate an accented version of the text.

Fall in love

10. Date a Russian speaker who doesn’t speak English; falling in love with a foreign beau or belle is the quickest route to fluency.

Join a community of native-speakers

11. In the classroom, you’ll be taught grammar, introduced to new vocabulary and receive tasks that will improve your ability to construct sentences in a grammatically sound way. However, if you can’t afford one-to-one tuition, it can be tough to get in sufficient spoken practice during lessons. Join a language exchange group and meet native Russian-speakers who are keen to learn English in exchange for helping you with Russian, in order to improve your confidence and fluency. Some popular exchanges are Meet Up and My Language Exchange.


Avoid grammatical errors by seeking out the correct case declensions and verb conjugations

12. If you are yet to memorise the declension rules in my comprehensive guides to the 6 Russian cases, you can identify the case of a noun, pronoun, or an adjective by entering the word in the nominative case (that is, the basic dictionary form of a word) into the declension engine produced by Morpher. A great resource for Russian verb conjugations is RussianDict, which also provides example sentences.

Hopefully this guide provided you with some unique tips for stepping up your learning programme and making the journey to fluency in Russian both more rapid and less stressful. Don’t forget to bookmark the page as I’ll be updating this guide whenever I recall other practices which helped me to become multilingual and learn foreign languages to the point where I was completely immersed in the life and culture of my adopted countries without speaking a word of my native language.

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