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Thread: I'm too much of a beginner to get much value from language exchanges. How do I learn?

  1. #1

    I'm too much of a beginner to get much value from language exchanges. How do I learn?

    Living in my city, there are unfortunately no Russian group classes offered in English. They are offered in a different language that I don't speak.

    There are plenty of Russian tutors willing to do private lessons in Russian, but these are 3x to 4x more expensive per hour than what a group lesson would be, and that's a lot more than I'd prefer to spend. I could go with some online private tutors which are inexpensive, but those teachers seem like the only qualification they have is that they are Russian native speakers, not that they are actually qualified to teach (otherwise they would be more expensive).

    So how can I learn? Luckily there are a huge number of Russians living here, and being a native English speaker it is very easy to find people to do in-person language exchanges with, from various websites. But the problem is that my Russian is at such a beginner level that I don't think I can make much use of language exchanges. If there's a way I can actually make language exchanges work for me please let me know, because it's my best option.

    I've met up with a conversation partner a couple of times, where I will help with his English for an hour and correct his mistakes. (All Russians who want English language exchange here already speak English well, they just want practice.) And for the next hour he will actually teach me Russian. Like some basic words and basic questions and answers (because I'm not good enough in Russian yet to even have a basic conversation). It has actually been quite useful, for being corrected on pronunciation mistakes and other basic errors.

    But language exchanges are better suited to practice and not learning, and there's no way my conversation partners are going to be able to teach me the whole Russian language. At some point I have to accept responsibility and invest the time to learn it myself. But I'm not sure how to go about it. I haven't invested a serious effort into learning Russian yet, but I have been dabbling in the language for years. Here's where I'm at now.

    • Learned to read the alphabet, slow but good enough reading speed for a learner
    • Can type, albeit very slow, on the Russian keyboard
    • Listened to the whole Pimsleur course
    • Done my first 2 language exchange sessions with a native Russian speaker
    • Listened to parts of RussianPod101, though it's getting quite difficult to keep up (I'm not even halfway through)
    • Have started going through the New Penguin Russian Course book. Great book but haven't made it very far as it's quite difficult

    How can I learn? Ideally there would be a group class I could go to for several hours per week. But since that doesn't exist here I'm left to my own devices, and I'm completely confused as to how to go about it. It feels overwhelming, but I don't want to give up. What can I do to at least get to a conversational level such that I can start getting value from language exchanges?

  2. #2
    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    Wonderland of Russia
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    Hi flow and welcome to the site.
    Whatever is going to be said by the others I'd ask if you know what Russian is in fact and which type of learner you are (see below).

    Some of the learners are eager to start using the language asap, so they prefer to rush through the alphabet and basic grammar and skip to words and phrases right away. After they have messed with them for a while they eventually realize they don't understand how the phrases and sentences are composed, which reveals the lack of basic knowlege and they decide to get back to the basics. When they delve into it a bit deeper they understand that Russian is a HELL HUGE TANGLED MASS of information, like all those Russian cases, aspects, endings, prepositions, rules and exceptions, etc, etc. They find themselves absolutely unready to give it so much time and effort (and possibly money) and just give up in frustration, not going to wrack their brains about this serious stuff any longer.
    Others start learning it from the very basics, "digesting" the language bite by bite, sorting and arranging the data through the virtual shelves in the brains, with each new piece of information naturally adding to the knowlege they already have. This needs the academic method to be applied, which needs a tutor or a class.
    The third type of learners is similar to the first one with the exception that they have enough willpower and interest to keep up even when they become aware WHAT IN FACT the Russian language is for a learner (a pain in the .... back, actually, to say the least).
    Lampada and fortheether like this.
    Another month ends. All targets met. All systems working. All customers satisfied. All staff eagerly enthusiastic. All pigs fed and ready to fly.

  3. #3
    Властелин Valda's Avatar
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    Jun 2011
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    flow, sounds like you're doing great! You're getting Russian from all sorts of different angles. You're doing exactly all the right things, but you should keep expanding, keep learning, and don't question your methods, enjoy the Russian that you get from any method you choose. I'd add watch movies with subtitle just to get yourself immersed in the language a bit more. And continue working on the basics. How about you start writing here in Russian? You'll improve your vocabulary quite fast if you will. Try to chat with some people here, experiment with sentences, no matter how embarrasingly bad it is. At the same time, maybe try to do some grammar exercises just to get the hang of it better...and ask questions here if you get confused or overwhelmed. Anywho, keep up the good work!
    "Особенно упорно надо заниматься тем, кто ничего не знает." - Като Ломб

    "В один прекрасный день все ваши подспудные знания хлынут наружу. Ощущения при этом замечательные, уверяю вас." -Кто-то

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