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What are some of the difficulties for you regarding the russian language ?

I, as a slavic native speaker, find the stress the most difficult part of learning russian as well as the pronunciation which changes depending on the stress. Especially the letters о, я and е give me troubles. For example, the letter O is pronounced more or less like an "a" in any unstressed position, especially at the end of a word. Since it is pronounced like an "a" at the end of a word I tend to look at the corresponding noun or adjective as though it belongs to the feminine gender even though most of the time they are neuter. In my native tongue (serbo-croatian) almost every noun or adjective ending with an "a" sound is feminine. It gets really confusing at times. Sometimes I tend to believe that it would be easier for me if I didn't have a slavic language already as a native tongue and if I had to start from scratch. And of course then you have the ever-changing stress, it is basically impossible to pronounce a new russian word without knowing the position of the stress, since the pronunciation is so depending on the stress, if I know where the stress falls I can easily pronounce every russian word since there are rules which the russian language conforms to. The problem is that knowing where the stress falls is more or less a guessing game. For example the verb "рекомендовать", there are many ways to pronounce this word depending on the position of the stress, but of course there is only one right way to pronounce it since the stress falls only on one syllable. 1. syllable: ryekamyindavaty - wrong 2. syllable: ryikomyindavaty - wrong 3. syllable: ryikamyendavaty - wrong 4. syllable: ryikamyindaavaty - wrong 5. syllable: ryikamyindavaaty - right, yes the stress actually falls on the last syllable.

What are some of the most difficult aspects of the russian language for you guys ? How do you cope with the russian stress ? Did you maybe manage to find some stress patterns maybe ?

February 17, 2018



As a native English speaker learning Russian as my first Slavic language, I can tell you learning where the stress goes isn't much easier for us, hahah. But that's the struggle with any language, right? You can learn what sounds the letters normally make, but you have to know where to make each one or else the pronunciation sounds off. If someone said, "Hey, let's go to the mov-EYE theatER," I might know what they said but I'd still look at them weird.

There are a lot of things in Russian that I find hard. In fact, it's probably the hardest language I've tried to learn yet (I haven't touched Chinese yet!) I think for a lot of English speakers, even having gendered nouns at all is a bit of a trip. Fortunately for me, I grew up learning Spanish, too, so I'm familiar with the idea, and remembering what words are which gender isn't too bad because at least the rules are mostly consistent. It's just the ь ending ones that are hard for me.

The hardest thing by far for me, though, is remembering when to use and how to form each of the 6 cases. I mean, nominative, accusative, dative are fine as far as knowing when to use them, but Russian uses the genitive in a lot more ways than most other languages, and it's the only one I've tried to learn that has a prepositional and instrumental case. I think I've picked up on MOST of when to use each case (although I can never remember on the fly which cases to use for which cardinal numbers), but remembering which ending to use is much harder for me in Russian than in any other language, especially since there are a lot of cases where the adjective endings don't seem related at all to their corresponding noun endings. I think I just need to take a day and go through all of the case lessons again with all my ending charts sitting in front of me so I can try and make sense of it.


I believe that will eventually fix itself, and it will become second nature for you, once you get exposed to russian on a daily basis. I think that russian is one of those languages where it is even more important to be continually exposed to it and to speak it as much as possible to get a certain feeling for the cases. Therefore I recommend you audio courses and audio books, which I am doing now (I bought Assimil for french speakers along with the audio and I am very satisfied with it), and maybe if you've got the means to do so a longer vacation in Russia or another russian-speaking country. The perfect occasion to do so is definitely this summer ;)


I think learning russian is nearly impossible just from the books; you also have to listen to spoken communication. When I was in Moscow last year and wanted to speak, not a single person (!) did understand me. Since then I started to listen to russian radio+music every day, and now it is slowly getting better. But it is still a long journey ahead...

Sometimes I hate myself for starting learning this language. I once learned some farsi (persian), and it was a piece of cake compared to russian.

Very helpful for learning russian are the conversations at this "learnrussian rt com" course. I grabbed the audio files (mp3) from their site and listen to them again and again and again. Unfortunately, I am yet at lesson 30 (from 100), so also a loooong way ahead.

In May I will make vacation in South Russia (Yalta, Aluschta), and that will be the ultimate language test for me since they hardly speak english over there... ;-)


I totally agree with you, listening comprehension and speaking are very important ! I bought the Assimil course for french speakers along with the audio for it second hand and now I am using it together with Duolingo. Not really the kind of immersion I wanted but still the best I can afford now, until one day I come to visit those beautiful places like Sankt-Petersburg, Moscow and co. :) Good luck for you mate, and have a beautiful time there in South Russia !


Completely unrelated, or maybe related..

I am a native Chinese (Mandarin) speaker and I find learning Cantonese impossible. The two languages (or dialect you may say) share all of the same vocabularies and only differ in pronunciation, as well as the fact that daily Cantonese have a very unique way of constructing sentences, but is still easy to understand.

You'd think that in this case, learning Cantonese as a Mandarin speaker would be a breeze. But quite the opposite; we get exactly the same problem. MOST of the pronunciations are drastically different between the two, where Cantonese has 9 different intonations and Mandarin has 4. It's so confusing for me to try and pick up a "second" pronunciation of a word that I've learned by heart over 30 years ago, and try to put it into a conversation. What's even worse is a typical Cantonese person is VERY sensitive about how each and every word is pronounced. The very slightest change in intonation could turn an everyday word into a swear word. This is also why it's so easy to swear in Cantonese.

So how do I go about doing it? Practice and practice... and eventually, memorizing set phrases. Once you've spoken a word a hundred times, chances are you'd remember how it's pronounced. As a speaker of many languages, you must not be ashamed of bravely saying a word first and not caring about how the others think of you. It's not wrong. It's how you roll! But of course, preferably, only make the same mistake once.

With Russian, it might just be easier for us to start from scratch on these pronunciations, but we'll get stuck at more fundamental levels of learning even the Cases, or even how to speak anything at all. Don't envy us, we envy you... :)


Well, if you include big number of false friends in slavic languages, I think we could exclude envy on both sides XD For example word 'понос' means diarrhea in Russian and pride in Serbo-croatian. And word 'трудно ' means hard in Russian and pregnant in Serbian.


WOW hahaha, those are some VERY false friends. I imagine those are some of the Russian people's favorite mistakes foreigners make, like how English speakers learning Spanish may slip up and say they are 'embarazada' when they get embarrassed, which means pregnant, and everyone thinks it's hilarious.


I heard about that one. Apparently it is very common mistake, thou very funny


Same problem, same mother tongue. We just need more practice, first listening then speaking.


The first difficulty was the different alphabet. The letters which look as English letters have been considerably confusing. But now I am past said difficulty, I find myself able to move on to the mountains of grammar rules and noun cases. Lovely...)))


I still have a tendency to mis-pronounce киоск even now. )))) And now, sometimes, when reading English signs I get the urge to pronounce them as Russian. Same as when I'm listening to French radio ... I wonder how many languages can one learn before she/he goes clinically insane??


No idea, but I hope to find out))))


I still tend to mispronounce simple adjectives with an "o" at the end, most of the time they look like the ones which are used in my mother tongue, but they are pronounced with an actual "o" sound unlike in russian where it is more like an "a" sound. I am currently at 5 languages, and I am already feeling as though I am loosing myself, maybe russian will give me the find blow :D


You know, concerning French if your "R" isn't rolling enough you can say "I have a Quebec accent". Same in German. You just can say "Hochdeutsch isn't an accent I use". In Russia, we don't have a lot of regional language differences. For instance, famous Moscow and St. Petersburg differences dissolve. The word "Rain" "Дождь" in Moscow style should be pronounced like [дожж] instead of a standard [дошть]. But it's not a thing anymore. But some regional differences still exist. For instance, you mentioned O that transforms into A sound. Let's consider the word milk "МОЛОКО". Most Russian will say [малако] or even [млако] if they speak fast. But in the North, you can hear all "O" clearly. So maybe you won't sound like a person from the center if you use your Russian but it doesn't mean you won't sound like Russian at all.


The grammar is very confusing for me there are so many variations of the same word it is never clear to me what is correct the words are hard to pronounce the alphabet is not hard but if you combine this with the long words makes it really annoying to read stuff let alone typing stuff


I believe you, it can be pretty tricky to grasp the different endings especially if your mother tongue does not make extensive use of cases. If you are new to cases it will definitely present the most difficult part for you. A little advice from me would be to associate each case with its role in a sentence. Like you know, the nominative is the one who does a certain action, the accusative is the action itself, the dativ is the one to whom a certain action is being done, instrumental describes by which means a certain action is done and so on. Associate every case with its role...Good luck ! Удачи !


As a native speaker, I haven't noticed any good patters, sorry. But it gets a lot easier as you practice, becoming almost natural


I find the stress question impenetrable at the moment while I am still trying to acquire the hugely difficult Russian grammar. I have studied 5 languages, including 2 very inflective ones - Latin and German so, as a native English speaker I am used to genders in foreign languages - which doesn't mean I always get them right. The problem with Russian is that to learn it properly I need someone to speak it to who will correct my hideous mistakes and help me to understand the stress question. Having said that, when a non-native speaker makes a mistake in English he/she is usually more or less comprehensible and with encouragement will get the hang of it. Too much criticism over technicalities puts people off.

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