Привет! This is the first day of my 30-day Russian challenge. I wanted to start by evaluating how much I know in order to decide where to begin.
The first question to ask is: How much Russian do I know so far? That can be answered in several ways:
I can say that I know the following about Russian:
- The alphabet (Cyrillic): I can read printed Russian but I still find it very hard to understand handwritten cursive (or write it myself). Since I don’t have a Russian keyboard, I can only type using Windows’ Russian mnemonic keyboard, which means that I type “Rossiya” in my English keyboard, and it appears as Россия.
- I know basic greetings and some everyday words.
- I know some useful verbs and some of their conjugations (to speak, to understand, to eat, etc.), but I only really know the simple present tense.
- I know that the termination of Russian nouns changes according to their function in six different ways, but I still haven’t learned them (I know what they are, though).
- Since I learned most of what I know in Russia, my pronunciation is not terribly bad, except for some very specific combinations of consonants that I find difficult.
Basically, I know enough to survive and find my way if I found myself lost in Russia, but I don’t know enough to really speak or understand a conversation.
Duolingo is a language-learning website (and app) that allows you to practice with simple exercises divided by lessons, in which you gradually level up. If it’s your first time learning a language on Duolingo, you can take a “placement test” which will let you skip some lessons. I decided to delete all the progress I had made with Russian, start again, and take the placement test:
The test difficulty is apparently dynamic. If you keep answering correctly it gets harder. Else, it doesn’t change. After the first few questions (which were very basic), it became too hard for me (mostly because my vocabulary is very poor and I don’t know how to spell even the few words I know). This was the hardest task I did correctly:
I managed to skip the most basic lessons, although it’s clear that my Russian is terrible:
I tried to write something in Russian without looking anything up or using a dictionary:
Здраствуйте, меня зовут Херардо. Я из Сальвадора. Я студент. Я не могу гаварить по-русски, но сейчас я изучаю русский язык. Я изучал русский язык но я всё забыл. Я думаю что мой русский был не плохо но сейчас я не могу сказать нечево. Пока!
Well, that was extremely hard and clearly unnatural. A spell check shows that I made misspelled the following words:
What I wrote (or tried to write) was: “Hello, my name is Gerardo. I am from El Salvador. I am a student. I cannot speak Russian, but I’m learning Russian now. I studied Russian but I forgot everything. I think that my Russian wasn’t that bad but now I cannot say anything. See you!”
There might be many other issues with that text, so if you know Russian, please let me now.
I’ve also been working in the past few days on learning Russian cursive, and I finally finished practicing and memorizing all the letters today (sorry, my handwriting is ugly in any language):
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I’m learning Russian with a friend, and we’re using this book. Since it’s clear that I don’t know enough words or grammar to practice by just reading, writing, speaking and listening, I probably should first study using that book and Duolingo. I’ll also try to learn how to type in Russian using the proper Russian keyboard on my computer. Besides that, I’ll try to develop the habit of writing a short text or making a video of myself talking.
Thank you for reading! See you next time! Пока-пока!
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.