30 Days of Russian – Day 8: A Change In Plans.

Привет! After yesterday’s overwhelming experience with the genitive case, I realized that just trying to memorize the cases would be a lot less efficient than trying to learn them naturally by talking or reading. But in order to learn from natural Russian speech how words change, I first need to know those words, so I must improve my vocabulary. Quizlet flashcards proved to be a very good tool when I was learning Japanese four years ago, but mostly because I already had a set of words that I had learned in a class and that I had to study for my exams. With my current learning method, the amount of time I need to make flashcards and review previous words becomes bigger and bigger every day.

That’s why I decided to try to focus on one thing at a time and do my best with Duolingo lessons because they keep introducing new stuff according to my level. So all I did today was work for more than hour in Duolingo.

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I had a very intense Duolingo session.

I also realized that I’ve been learning Russian through English all this time, which seems to be a little bit unnatural. I started reading about the process of learning languages and came across this article on The Blog of Author Tim Ferris, describing Gabriel Wyner‘s method through which he learned six languages in a few years. The method emphasizes on learning through experience rather than forcing yourself to memorize stuff. The method consists of learning (in that order):

  • Spelling and Sounds.
  • 625 Basic Words.
  • Grammar and Abstract Words.

And finally using the language (reading, speaking, listening, learning more words, etc.).

Since I’m quite used to Cyrillic and most of the sounds in Russian, I would say I’m on the second stage. But Gabriel Wyner’s method doesn’t expect you to just memorize words using flashcards with translations of the word. He suggests you start with a list of 625 basic words and look for pictures of those words in google. The experience of looking for them and the visual input will help you memorize them better and also learn the words in a natural context (since there could be a slight nuance between each word and its equivalent in English or in another language) and then you can make flashcards with those pictures.

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Here’s the difference between looking for the word “girl” in English and the word “девушка.”  This is the kind of nuance that is lost when flashcards with translations are used.

I’ll probably give this method a shot, although it might take more time than using Quizlet, but it’ll probably be more efficient. I’ll also try to use VK more, and start actually talking with Russian speakers.

See you next time! 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.

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