https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

A little help to climb the Russian language ladder

Good morning. I’m having a “confidence crisis”, and I wonder if anyone, anywhere, could help me out of it! I finished the Duolingo tree (English to Russian) about 3 weeks ago, and I’ve kept it guilded ever since. I practice daily, without fail, and I’ve got a couple of books of short stories (for beginners admittedly) that I can now read pretty quickly and without difficulty. I’m currently using the Duolingo course on Memrise to solidify all the vocab, and then I intend to do the reverse course on Duolingo (Russian to English).

I speak with a Russian friend on Skype twice a week (once in English, once in Russian), and I have a few other friends that I text on Viber/Facebook a few times daily. As such my speaking and writing is now OKish (I can get across most things I want to say and be understood).

Now this would be all well and good, but I’m really struggling with listening comprehension. I listen to two albums of Russian music every work day (one on my way to work (Zemfira), and one on my way home (Spleen/DDT)), I listen to Kommersant radio about 3 hours a day while at work, and I’m watching about two films a week (with English subtitles admittedly). Put simply, I don’t know what else I can do…

The problem is, none of this seems to be working, certainly not noticeably. Now, I only started to learn Russian 6 months ago, so maybe I’m expecting too much, but I don’t understand why my reading and writing is so far ahead of my listening comprehension. It’s not that I don’t understand what people say, it’s just I have to say each sentence back to myself to understand it, which means listening to any kind of continuous speech is largely impossible. I can find no serious (free) resources to help me out. I’ve found audio books but they’re all Dostoevsky or Tolstoy or the like, so way too hard for me. And I’ve found a few courses on Spotify, but they’re way too easy. There seems to be no resources for those learners who are neither advanced nor absolute beginners…

Any ideas? All assistance will be greatly appreciated. I’d prefer it to be free if at all possible.

2 years ago

25 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Ifphigenia
Ifphigenia
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Going purely on your comment about understanding fragments of Russian when your friend is speaking English and therefore you are not expecting anything other than a language you understand, I think you may have hit the nail on the head about your way forward.

From my experience with Italian, I can't speak for Russian as I've only just started it, I find that when I speak Italian in real life, not via Skype or similar but face to face it takes my brain a couple of seconds and then it does a sort of "backflip" I'm not trying to understand it anymore, I'm listening and responding without thinking about it, just as I do in English. I suspect, that the wall you are describing is that you are mentally trying to translate as you go along, even if only subconsciously. Hence the fact that in the middle of English, you're ok because you are expecting to understand everything said to you, so your brain doesn't try to translate it, it just understands.

I would suggest that you try listening to the resources you already use as well as things which you consider too advanced but without trying to understand anything, because listening to the cadences will help you to differentiate the words and bit by bit (it's a slow job) you will understand more and more. Above all, try to listen without translating, easier said than done I know but it takes the pressure off and you will gradually reduce your wall to rubble.

In real terms you are expecting a lot from yourself to understand all the different voices at this stage but take heart from the fact that your progress so far is amazing and that everyone hits a plateau from time to time. With the speed that you have reached your current level you will get there, just relax and let your subconscious take over ....it really does work. Good luck.:-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Thank you. Again, that’s really helpful. It is good to know other people experience the same problems and I’m not alone. I’m not really in a “rush” as such, I just need to know I’m definitely not heading towards a dead-end, and from what you say, it seems that’s definitely not the case. Like you say, I think it’s a confidence issue as much as anything else. I need to get over my subconcious belief that if it’s not English I can’t understand it. I think I’ve over come this in my reading, but not with my listening, and therein lies the problem. Like you say, I’m sure it will come. To be fair the last time I had a plateau I was frustrated for about a fortnight and suddenly felt like I’d made a giant leap. Maybe then, as they say, the coldest hour comes just before dawn. Thanks again.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ifphigenia
Ifphigenia
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As before you have hit the nail squarely on the head. Confidence is a big issue as is patience and it seems to me that you have plenty of patience and the confidence will come with time. I always think of the plateau (which we all experience) as being like a log jam ... once enough water has built up behind it, the dam suddenly bursts and (to mix my metaphors) you break out into the sunlit uplands. By the way, I would never compare your own progress to someone else's, you don't know what factors have influenced their learning, they may have more time, friends or relatives that speak the language or they themselves may already speak another language with enough similarities to give them a head start. The other point of course, is that some people just soak up languages like a sponge (not me, sadly) and so it is just easier for them but they are a rarity. No, the only person you should aim to beat, is yourself. :-)))

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Anyone reading this post in the same situation should check these out. These are exactly the kind of things I need!!!!!!! Thank you again to annika_a, whose podcast suggestion was exactly the inspiration I needed to search a little more and find something useful!!!

http://russianpodcast.eu/

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Caversham
Caversham
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Funny - I was just going to suggest the russianpodcast which I came across recently. I wonder if the Pimsleur method might appeal, which I have been using for a few months now. It has certainly helped with both speaking and understanding.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/slogger
sloggerPlus
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The russianpodcast.eu site is great. This site has very similar material, but only a little of it is free nowadays. Lingq has very good Russian material at various levels; the texts and audio are free, or you can pay a subscription for less restricted access.

[added] govoriporusski.com offers podcasts very similar to russianpodcast and russianforbeginners--the same 3-part format. None of their material seems to be free any more, but they are not expensive. You also might try Khan Academy on youtube or the Russian version; many of these clips are very fast, but some are not too bad, and having pictures helps.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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The site you mention was new to me, and I had a listen to the podcasts on it. They are still a bit too hard for me (I'm only about halfway through the Duolingo tree, trying to keep afloat with the help of both the Duolingo vocabulary course on Memrise and the -- amazingly named -- Top 10,000 Words Part 1 course on there), but I've bookmarked it for later.

So right back at you regarding the thanks! :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Yes, I'll be moving on to the Top 10,000 Words Part 1 once I've nailed all the Duolingo vocab. I'm always wary of spreading myself a little too thin and trying to do too much at once. I found another too, and I reckon this is probably about the same standard, but it also contains discussion of the vocabulary (in English) using examples and synonyms etc. so, for me at least, it's a little easier to listen to without panicking about my level of understanding (because I know it's about to be explained). Plus she seems to have a pretty good sense of humour (well, assuming I didn't misunderstand that too), and it's available on iTunes, which makes it easier for me to listen in the car. Here is the first episode anyway, should you wish to bookmark this one too. Happy podcasting: http://realrussianclub.com/2016/03/26/episode1/

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Thanks to everyone who has commented. It's appreciated. I will try them all out.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

A little more to add. When I’m reading, or texting, I don’t translate the Russian into English (except if I need to use a dictionary). Normally, within reason, I can understand the Russian “as Russian” so to speak. I don’t think, therefore, that the problem is about how I’m understanding Russian; it’s more my “speed” of understanding it. It’s like the words aren’t getting through to the part of my brain that can understand them; like there’s a wall somewhere! And funnily enough, during our English Skype chats, if my friend speaks a fragment of Russian, it seems natural to me, and I can understand it. It’s like the fact that I’m not expecting to understand it is the problem itself (because when I expect him to speak English and he speaks Russian, it seems a lot easier for me to understand).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/annika_a
annika_a
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Wow! I'm mainly impressed by how far you've made it in 6 months.

To be honest, I think you're expecting a lot of yourself. You've crossed many hurdles already, but it's quite normal to reach a plateau every now and then when learning a language.

If someone has any good suggestions regarding podcasts, that might be a way forward (in addition to or instead of some of what you're already doing). With a podcast, you can listen to the same bit of continuous speech several times, and understand more each time. The same could be done with watching/listening to the news. Also, you could try watching the same film you've already seen with subtitles again a little bit later, but this time without subtitles.

I think patience will be your friend here: keep getting exposure to the language, and it will get easier with time. And do keep challenging yourself -- if one resource starts getting too easy or boring, go ahead and ditch it and do something else instead.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Thank you. My crisis started because I asked my Skype partner how long it took him to start understanding spoken English like he can now (his listening comprehension is awesome; he can watch Shrek in English without subtitles and Russian and describe the differences between the jokes in both!), and he said 6 to 8 months!! And I thought, “What!!”, I must be doing something seriously wrong here! Hahaha!

Anyway, I’ve found some podcasts on Radio Mayak, and I’ve chosen Кухня народов мира to start, and I’ll keep repeating it a little at a time, like you suggest! Maybe my cooking will improve too :-) Thanks for the advice.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01
leonig01
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I think your friend has not been fully honest about being able to understand English after 6-8 months. This is nearly impossible, unless he is a real prodigy, which most of us aren't. When I came to Israel at the age of 9, it took me a good 2-3 years to be able to understand 70-80% of spoken Hebrew (the last percents are 'fine tuning', which comes later), and we're talking about a 9 years old kid (children are better at learning languages) who was put in Hebrew speaking environment (you don't live in Russia and hear it all around you on a daily basis). Same with my English - it took a while before I could actually watch English movies without subs. That being said - I still might not understand a particular expression or slang words. Or even just bad pronunciation. Currently I focus on German, and although I listen to German podcasts, watch German movies, and try having conversations with German speakers, I still would understand no more than 50% of the total.

So I think your expectations are non-proportional. Take it easier and keep doing what you do. Understanding will follow. Also notice that spoken Russian and written Russian are two different things. We write "солнце", but pronounce "сонце". We pronounce unstressed 'o' as 'a'. Swallow consonants (especially when these come in a long sequence).

Так что не переживайте, все у вас обязательно получится. Терпение и труд - все перетрут )

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Thank you. Yes, I thought 6 to 8 months could have been an exaggeration! However, it's possible he learnt English in school, so he may have meant 6 to 8 months after starting to attend classes outside of school, which, while a totally different answer, would make sense. Thanks again for your reply. Patience and hard work is the key, like you say :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/leonig01
leonig01
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Спасибо за лингот ) Also bear in mind that English is much easier as a foreign language as opposed to Russian, IMHO. No cases, no genders, almost no verb conjugation. Moreover, being the unofficial world language, people get exposed to it without even noticing it. That's not the case with Russian. So I would not draw parallels between your friend's English and your Russian. That's just not fair :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Angliano

You're probably right here. I came to Italy aged 23 (forty years ago this year), with French already under my belt, so I started off with an advantage. After six months without speaking a word of English, I could hold a reasonable conversation and understand a person talking directly to me, even though I still missed some bits. It took years before I could understand what was being said at a dinner with five or six people. And, bear in mind, I was in Italy, hearing only Italians. Language takes time and I'm very impressed with how far you've got. Patience and hard work, indeed...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Nikolai_Novikov
Nikolai_Novikov
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just keep grinding - obviously speach is more dificult than reading because it is so much faster/no repetition/consist of stuff which is not on the ciriculum. I mean you cant compare reading short stories adopted for beginners to listening to actual spoken language which is targeted to adult native speakers and also frequently doesnt follow the same patterns as textbooks. Listening to radio and music and understanding at least part of it just 6 months of studying a language as different as english and russian is a very good result indeed.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mosfet07

How about some cartoons for children? They usually have relatively simple language and clear pronunciation. https://www.youtube.com/user/TVSmeshariki

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hugo9191
Hugo9191
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Hey Mikey! I know where you are. I remember that when I was a little kid, what really helped me to learn English wasn't the classes, sure, they helped me to learn the "ropes" of the language, but "fluency" wasn't achieved with them. TV, TV and TV. I used to watch a lot of TV, FOX mainly, and they'd run Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, basically the mainstream american TV shows. The "twist" is that they ran the same episodes a lot of times (probably FOX Portugal wasn't that wealthy back then) so I had time to read the subtitles and associate sounds with words. I remember knowing what the translation for the word "X" is but I couldn't remember how to write it. That was because I learnt it on The Simpsons (for example). I think that after you learn phrasal structures and the phrasal connectors, what's left is mainly vocabulary and expressions. I think you can only find those with natives. TV is an option, podcasts are one as well, maybe radio, music?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Yes, I've been listening to plenty of music (Zemfira, Spleen, DDT etc). And now I've found some great podcasts, thanks to people's suggestions on here. I will give some of your suggestions a go at the weekend, thank you. (I have a feeling I might not be too popular at work if I spend the day watching The Russian Simpsons, but with podcasts, or the radio, nobody knows what's in my ears :-)).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hugo9191
Hugo9191
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No, no, I didn't tell you to watch the Russian Simpsons (if that even exists?). I just told you my experience with English. You should watch cartoons or TV shows in general that are made by natives, just like The Simpsons :) and yes, watching a lot of Russian anything won't give you a lot of popularity. When my mates found out I was studying Russian, they were curious, but were more interested in the Russian bad words (most of them play an online game where Russian players love to use them)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Haha. Yes, I understood. It was just an example :-) And I know what you mean! My two closest friends were supposed to be learning Russian with me. They lasted about an hour when they realised they might actually have to try!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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I think you have gotten good suggestions. I'll be looking into these podcasts myself. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Youtube. Clearly, a lot of the Russian material on there is going to be too advanced vocabulary wise. I certainly can't understand them, anyway (as a fellow Duotree finisher, I figure our vocab levels are similar enough for useful comparison). But I've been surprised at the amount I've been able to understand of the kind of people who have a channel to talk about more day to day experiences or pop-ish culture. For one, the pop culture type stuff has a lot more English-y borrowings that can prop up your understanding. I also think they talk more slowly than the perhaps artificially peppy pace of the news broadcasters.

It's good to generally keep in mind the great variations in speech speed used in different forms of media. This really struck me watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPS5mgSW1eo compare the intro to the interview with the man halfway through to the interpreter voiceover for the girls speaking in Georgian. I certainly don't know all the words used, but for most of this video I think I can make out reasonably well where the individual words start and end. But for the interpreter portion, it's pretty much a blur. And I think most of what I've tried to watch over time has been ever faster than that. Find something that doesn't just seem like a stream of sound, and spend your time with that.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeyRadles

Thanks very much. Again, all this is really useful. And I agree that variations in speech pace make a huge difference. There's an advert on either Kommersant or Radio Mayak (can't remember which) where the guy is clearly trying to put on some slow "Mr Lover Lover" voice for the "ladies", and I think that advert is the most I've ever understood. I still wasn't sure exactly what he was selling, but I know he was encouraging them to call some number and try out their new version of their latest женский product (haha). Maybe I should ask my Skype partner to whisper sweet nothings to me? Hahahaha ;-) By the way, in case you were wondering (since I think adverts are actually quite good things to actively listen to on the radio if you're mostly passive listening in work time), look out for the word: "реклама". I don't know it's exact meaning but it definitely marks the start of an advert, or an advert set, on the radio :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PrincessDinDin

Hi! Few weeks ago I have started a podcast on Russian poetry for the learners of Russian. It is on iTunes and it is free. I d be very happy if someone finds it useful. It is called: "Russian poetry for the learners of Russian". I have three episodes published as of now, and I try to keep adding new ones daily.

10 months ago
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