Relearning languages: 30 Days of Russian

Have you ever studied a language for several months (or years), only to forget most of it and end up remembering only some greetings and other simple expressions? While the few things you still recall about that language might be enough to impress someone you just met at a party, wouldn’t it be nicer if you could truly communicate in that language?

Learning a language can be quite hard, depending on your native language, your target language, and how good you are at learning languages in general (aka “talent“). My personal belief is that even if you are not extremely talented, you can learn anything with enough motivation and hard work. Of course, different people will need a different amount of time or they might even use different means in order to reach the same goal, and that is normal since we’re not all the same, but at the end of the day, whether you managed to learn a language or not will depend mostly on whether you tried or not.


A learning curve proposed by a Duolingo user. Source:

Let’s get back to our original question. After learning and forgetting the basics of a language, you are left with two choices: you can either give up and move on with your life or keep trying. If you don’t really want to learn that language, the first option is reasonable, but since this is a blog about learning, let’s assume that you would choose the second option and you decide to relearn that language.

I’ve done that many times with Russian and French, but I always lacked the discipline to take it seriously. I would find myself occasionally checking apps like Duolingo and Memrise, and then forgetting about them for several months. By failing to learn these languages after three or four years, I proved something that we all know about languages: you must immerse yourself in the language in order to learn it. So, what if I immerse myself in the language? How much more can I learn? I decided that I wanted to answer this question by relearning Russian. This time for real.

But I’m not in Russia or in any Russian-speaking country, so how do I immerse myself in the language? In order to answer that question and see how much I can learn in the process, I’ve decided to challenge myself to study Russian for at least one hour every day for a month. 

My goal is to find and try different ways to learn (try apps, as the ones I mentioned above, books, movies, etc.) and update my progress every day either by writing in this blog or by recording myself and posting a video on YouTube. My challenge is inspired by Timothy Doner, who speaks more than 20 languages at the age of 20. He turns language learning into an everyday activity and practices in many different ways. I’m also studying once a week with a friend from Azerbaijan; she teaches me Russian and I teach her Spanish. If you study at Nagoya University, you might want to learn about NUFSA and their Tandem project, where you can find a language-learning partner.

The objective of these posts will not be to share knowledge about Russian per se, but rather to show language-learning strategies and how much progress a person can make in one month. Stay tuned!

Gerardo Urbina is a Chemistry student at Nagoya University who loves reading and learning about anything. Born and raised in El Salvador, he speaks Spanish, English and Japanese, and is currently learning French and Russian. Read more about him and his ideas for The Relearner.



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