I am doing this for utter love of the Russian language, and the strong possibility that I'll end up living in Russia. And I would really appreciate any help with wading past all the bad material out there and getting to the best courses right away. The best way to navigate new territory is to ask those who went there before.
I've got a wide-open schedule, a talent for languages (they always come very easily), and FIVE HOURS a day to immerse myself in Russian for the next 250 days before my trip to visit a wonderful Russian girl I met when she was an exchange student.
That's 1250 hours of passionate learning (5 per day = 2 in the morning, 2 in the early afternoon, and 1 in the evening). I absolutely love Russian and have both the passion, the prior language learning talent (English, Swedish, and Spanish), the time, and the vital need to learn it. My life depends on it.
I'd like to maximize the efficiency of those 1250 hours. Here's my current plan, and I would really appreciate advice on how to adjust it to improve its efficiency:
- Learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Already done casually over time; I can now read and can spell words with about 90% accuracy when I hear them.
- Use Pimsleur Russian 1 (all 30 lessons) to get a feel for the language and to make sure I begin early with proper pronunciation. I did Unit 1 of 30 today, and liked the pronunciation aspect (both the male and female are natives, even if the male sounds a bit drunk). I am not impressed whatsoever with the learning speed of Pimsleur, it's way too slow for me considering the meager amount of material per lesson ("a single 30-minute unit per day" must be tailored for dimwits or people with no time or motivation), so I'll be doing 3 lessons per day starting tomorrow, each lesson repeated twice (in other words 3 hours of Pimsleur per day, spaced out over the day with one hour in the morning, one at noon and one in the evening). This is just to get used to pronunciation and to pick up a few basic words and phrases as a bonus. From past experiences with Pimsleur in other languages, I don't consider it worthy of actually learning a language (unless you want to sound like a tourist while simultaneously having no idea how the grammar works), but it's great for getting your feet wet. I want to get that garbage over with as fast as possible. At the rate I've set, Russian 1 would be done in 10 days out of my 250 available.
- After Pimsleur 1 is complete, I would like your thoughts: Is it worth also doing Pimsleur 2 and 3? I really see no point in learning phrases like "I have 5 daughters", without any time spent whatsoever on grammar, writing, etc. Like I said, Pimsleur is great for pronunciation and getting a gentle start, but is an awful use of time for those who actually want to learn rapidly. I doubt it gets any better in the more "advanced" portions. But perhaps I'm wrong and they're worth doing?
- After that, I plan to go through the entire Michel Thomas Russian Foundation (8 discs), and then Russian Advanced (4 discs). They have booklets with all of the words and phrases, and seem to cover grammar as well. It's way more detailed than Pimsleur.
- Switch my computer and phone to Russian, forever. No more English. I've already done this a few times and it's no big deal, and it's a good way to force your brain to get out of "English-mode".
- After Michel Thomas, I'll be over the initial "hump" of the language, and ready to easily absorb other learning material. I am going to focus the remaining time entirely on immersing myself in a joyful mishmash of grammar and vocabulary, listening, speaking and writing. Are there any books that you recommend in particular? For vocabulary, I've got Anki with Russian flash cards with associated audio, which was highly rated and recommended to me. I will also completely immerse myself in watching the news, reading Russian news sites, watching TV shows, movies, and listening to informal/casual Russian podcasts. I have sources for all of that already.
- I've also got a few Russian friends I can phone on Skype when I've come that far along.
So the questions are:
- Is it a good use of time to consider doing Pimsleur 2 and 3? My strong gut feeling is "hell no".
- What's the #1 book you would recommend for grammar?
- Any podcast recommendations? I know I can just go on iTunes Russia and check the toplist, but recommendations for good ones would be appreciated. I'll listen to anything as long as it's not gaming-related.
- How would you improve the sequence above to get the most out of the 1250 hours of learning? I don't mind really advanced material that requires thinking, and yes I really will devote 5 hours a day to the language. So I am looking for high-quality learning material. This is bloody serious to me, because my life depends on getting the most out of my time before the trip.
Thank you all in advance.