Russian is an interesting language
At the first time I've learned this language, one of my thoughts on it is this language is interesting and it seems like being easy to be learned. example one little word like "eto" can mean "this is", "that is" and the grammar is very simple too. I can't wait to finish the Russian tree, I've been waiting for this one for a long time and finally it came out. With this in mind and of course the course's still gotten bugs , however it just came out, not to mention the moderates and the founders and whatnot have been doing a great job, Well done guys.
I think the trade off is that there is less grammar. My old textbook pretty much said that the declensions are terrible and difficult to keep straight, but you'll have that all figured out before you're even close to having a useful vocabulary. Compared to say French which has lots and lots of rules that are easy to break, but nothing nearly as gnarly as the declensions.
I think that other than cases, Russian grammar is much simpler than English. I just completed a lesson where I had to translate «Мой багаж в такси», which means, "My luggage is in the taxi."
Why does English need this "the" when Russian gets by perfectly fine without it? And Russian doesn't need a form of "to be" either; just say the object then something about it! They are literally saying, "My baggage in taxi."
Don't let the cases scare you away. Yes, they are difficult, especially if this is your first language with cases, and don't let plurals scare you either. The cases and plurals are just little endings that will eventually stick.
I study German too, and there is very strict word order, and when you use certain words or constructions, the verbs must go in a very specific place. Russian doesn't have specific positions things must go, at least not on the level German does.
Russian is much easier than people think. "My baggage in taxi."
"Yes, they [the cases] are difficult, especially if this is your first language with cases"
In the past I have studied some Russian.... and I got scared! But when I started studying Turkish (here, in Duo) and I saw there were cases... I got a shiver in my spine, but it was not that "complicated" at all. =]
этот is the word you would use if you are defining a specific one that is closer to you, is the best way I can think to explain it from when I learned it in college russian. If you had a bunch of some item and you pointed to one nearest you, it would be этот meaning "this"
это in general can be this or that sort of generally referring to something. I'm sure the exact grammatical definition is more specific, but that's the main difference.
Actually "этот" is used only with masculine nouns.
этот мальчик (this boy, m)
эта девочка (this girl, f)
это животное (this animal, n)
эти люди (these people, pl)
The other meaning of "это" is "this is" ("that is", "it is"). It does not change with the gender of the noun.
это мальчик (this is a boy)
это девочка (this is a girl)
это животное (this is an animal)
это люди (these are people)
Ah...I kinda remember that now. это can be both "this" or "these" (or "that") in the meanings of "this one" and also "this is".
So if there are say....5 apples around and some are near me and some are near you, and you say "hand me an apple", I might point to the one right next to me and say этот яблоко? to mean "this apple?" but suppose you say no and I have to try again...how would I say "That apple?" and point to another one? Is that это?
It is interesting indeed. I have been learning using http://www.amazon.com/Living-Language-Russian-Complete-Edition/dp/0307972100 for quite a while, and Duolingo will help complement my learning experience by making it more interactive.
It isn't simple, but it is relatively regular. There are a set of rules, and almost all of the words seem to follow them.
English you have all kinds of crazy irregular verbs all over the place. Even simple everyday ones...Run -> Ran, not "runned". Swim -> Swam...and the past participle is swum. It's a lot harder to memorize all of those irregular cases in English vs just learning the many grammar rules in Russian for many people, I think.