This question worries everyone who is just about to start learning Russian. In this article, I will try to answer it in detail.
As a native speaker who knows the language well, Russian seems simple to me. However, when I try to explain certain rules on my blog, I face difficulties and understand what can cause trouble for non-speakers.
So, I believe the difficulties I’ll discuss in this article will be familiar to you.
So, Is It Hard to Learn Russian?
Yes, it’s challenging. It’s definitely more challenging than languages like English or Brazilian Portuguese, both of which I know well. However, compared to languages such as Japanese or Finnish, Russian isn’t as difficult.
One potential issue in learning Russian is the scarcity of accessible learning materials. Often, the available resources tend to explain things in a complex manner, which can be discouraging for beginners. This hurdle might contribute to the perception of difficulty when starting to learn Russian.
I use several books to prepare material for the blog. Perhaps they are a bit outdated, but extracting information from them is very difficult. Sometimes, as I look through them, I wonder: couldn’t they have explained this a bit more thoroughly or given a couple more examples?
When I was learning languages, the lack of examples and explanations used to frustrate me. It’s as if you’re handed a book that says something, but you’re left to figure it out for yourself. That’s not the right approach. Perhaps there are good books out there, but I just haven’t come across them.
However, it’s interesting that even the book “Russian for Dummies” doesn’t quite resemble a textbook for beginners. It’s surprisingly complex.
So, to make Russian seem less complicated, finding a resource that explains it well becomes essential. The key lies in discovering a resource that effectively demystifies the complexities of the language.
Why Is It Hard
For many reasons. I’ll try to list what I find particularly challenging.
Russian words are difficult to pronounce. It’s not just about pronunciation; they’re simply long. Even the word “сложновыговариваемый” (difficult to pronounce) is incredibly hard to say.
Of course, not all words are like this, but don’t even dream of having four or five-letter verbs like in English. And words that belong to a more advanced level are even longer.
Russian grammar is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of the language. Be prepared to immerse yourself in textbooks and notebooks to master it to a decent level.
I will try to explain with concrete examples.
In Russian, nouns have three genders. To understand how a noun declines, you need to know its gender, which can be determined by its endings. However, many words will need to be memorized individually.
As you might have already guessed, nouns change according to cases. And there are 6 of them! Imagine how many different forms of the same word you’ll have to learn. There are general patterns for declensions for different types of nouns, but many words behave differently. Some words don’t change at all.
What’s worse is that adjectives must “adjust” to nouns, so they change along with them.
Yes, there are only three tenses. But there’s the issue of imperfective and perfective aspects of verbs. Each verb will require learning two forms right away. Both of these forms are conjugated in present, past, and future tenses.
Moreover, we have prefixes that form additional verb forms, and their meanings can differ from the base form.
By the way, prefixes will cause you quite a bit of trouble! They are irritating! Using prefixes with verbs is like phrasal verbs in English, only worse.
Short and Long Adjectives
This topic is also one of the most complex in the Russian language. It’s not always clear how the short form of a specific adjective should look and when it’s appropriate to use it.
Orthography and Punctuation
These are two things that many struggle with, even for native Russian speakers. Especially punctuation. We have many rules regarding the use of commas, dashes, and colons. Often, many people ignore them.
As a foreigner, you might, of course, disregard these rules and focus on learning the more important, fundamental aspects. However, be prepared that if you want to write something on the internet, you’ll likely attract a couple of grammar enthusiasts (who also might not always know Russian rules perfectly) pointing out your mistakes.
Conversational Russian is a Nightmare
When you’ve mastered formal Russian, you’ll have to deal with informal speech, and that’s where the biggest problems await you.
People mispronounce words, create sentences strangely, and sprinkle words like “да”, “ну”, “значит”, “короче”, “вообще” and so on, throughout. In English, we also use filler words, but in Russian, the use of many particles is simply inexplicable.
I’ve listed so many negative things that Russian must seem like a nightmare to you now. But hold on a sec! Learning any language is like navigating a maze with the occasional rogue puzzle piece thrown in – and Russian is no exception. Sure, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but remember, every challenge is a gateway to triumph.
The convoluted grammar, tongue-twisting words, and the ever-persistent punctuation dilemmas might make you raise an eyebrow or two. It’s like diving into a whirlpool of alphabet soup – it’s messy, but with a dash of determination, you might just slurp it all up!
Remember, finding the right resources, be it the unicorn of textbooks or the genie of online courses, can turn this Russian mountain into a mere molehill. Don’t get disheartened by the complexities; instead, embrace the journey with a smile and a Russian dictionary in hand. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be slinging jokes in Russian, making locals giggle as you master their language quirks.