How an old guy made it with russian language.

I am 51y, and nearly failed in learning russian, since I faster forget words than I am able to learn them...

But finally I made it. And here is "my path", just in case that there are other older guys out there whom are close to quit...

2016 march: Starting to learn russian from zero, only out of curiosity. I took lessons at an public evening school, two times per week. I failed and quit after two month, mostly because of the slow progress we made in that school. But at least I learned the alphabets...

2016 juni: two weeks full day lessons in a language school in Moscow. I was the oldest, and I simply had no chance in the classes to compete with the young students. Very frustrating experience. After these two weeks I stopped learning russian, since I believed that I can not make it.

2016 october: Vacation in south russia (Yalta, Sevastopol). It was so amazing, that I decided that I WILL learn this language, no matter what price I have to pay or how much time I have to invest.

2017 January: Restart of learning russian, this time with an online teacher (from Verbling) via Skype. We had this book "Поехали". Average of eight to ten hours per week. After two/three month I quit, since i still could not speak one complete sentence. Also, from my perspective, this teacher/book-approach is a dead end for me.

2017 April: Started to learn on my own, by translating texts from songs and testing out some courses and books.

2017 May: I discovered RosettaStone Course, it was very helpful but sooo boring. I finished the first (of five) courses/chapters

2017 June: I found the course. Until August I did lesson 20 (of 100). I like the course very much.

2017 August: I was in Russia again, and was able to say easy things and to understand.

2017 September - Dezember: Break (total stop) due to a job project in another country.

2018: January: Restart of learning russian. And now, for the first time, learning russian is not a "pain" anymore, but a kind of fun. It looks like, as if the brain needs some time to adjust to a new language - and I believe that this just happened to me. When listening to russian news or music, I suddenly understand single words (not yet the whole content, but close to). I have no issues with learning vocabulary anymore. I can write unknown words just from hearing them, with 80-90% correct spelling. I can speak russian fluent (if I am in a good mood), but I still have to little vocabulary at my disposal.

Since January 2018, I already did following:

  • repeated course 1-20

  • continued with that to lesson 30

  • repeated rosettastone the frist chapter again

  • booked an online teacher at verbling for a complete week, eight hours a day and repeated grammar rules; although I should know all these rules already, it was now that I for the first time did understand them.

Until May I will finish learnrussian-course and rosettastone, than I am on vacation again in south russia.

From june to july I will prepare for the TRKI-test Level B1 - that test will be the end of my studies, because the rest I will learn via practical usage; like I did with english (I hardly spoke english when I left school, all I know is by self-learning from practical usage).

I now have a long-term visa for Russia, and will try to find a job there starting next year.

So to make long stories short: NEVER GIVE UP!

February 18, 2018


oy! who are you calling old!!!

I think the secret to learning Russian is time. It takes quite a bit of time for it to become familiar enough to make good progress, but it is so satisfying when it clicks that the wait is well worth it:))

I am very happy to have reached the stage where I can understand the difference between the subtitles and what they are actually saying when watching Russian tv programmes in many cases. Of course I still have a long way to go but I am enjoying the journey immensely.

And I don't think my age is any hindrance. (I am slightly older than you.)

February 19, 2018

You are so right, of course my problem was not an issue with the age, but the wrong expectations: It's true that for learning russian, you have to be prepared for some time of "input" before have first results, before becoming familiar enough to unlock the secrets of this language.

But when you reached that point, it is like a treasure chest that opens with a creak to slowly reveal the gems within...

And that's what I didn't know before. I thought it will be easier. Therefore I wrote this post here...: Be prepared for this time frame, and never give up :-)

February 19, 2018

Where are you from Klaus? I am from Hungary, earlier I learnt Russian in the elementary and in the high school. It was obligatory, and I never liked it. Now I want to learn Russian, because my daughter's husband is from Russia, and his mother speaks only this language. It makes me fun, I study it diligently - alone by Duolingo. Last summer we were in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, it was wonderful, and I was able to speak with the mother of my son-in-low. I think it is always exciting to learn a language although I am 64 years old - and I do not think that I am old.

February 19, 2018

(West-) Germany...

February 19, 2018

Hi, Steve here from Australia. 66 yrs old. I have never been able to master even basics in any language but something drew me towards Russian. But now, after 168 days of learning, for the past little while, I have been quite sad because I cannot even string a sentence together. When I am doing the Duolingo exercises, it seems OK but then, when I try to put words together everything seems to fall apart. I have seen suggestions here saying that "I hope you are using more than Duolingo" well that made me think I was doing something wrong so I tried t oget some extra from Russian pod 101. But all that did was give me a few pages of words that seemed to get in the way of the routine I had formed with the Duolingo stuff. So I guess I feel like it sent me backwards. So, after 5 or so months, I thought that I might at least to be able to hold a basic conversation in Russian but alas, no such fortune.

So seeing others who seem to have a few troubles here and there has if not lifted my spirits, stop them from falling further.

I also was told to immmerse onesself in the language. Well I have never tried that before but now, because I am retired, I can spend many hours a day trying to learn. I guess I am still a bit frustrated because after close to the 6 month period I am still pretty much stright out dumb. It's so frustrating but the support here is great. So thanks to those who are willing to share their experiences. This language learnng I guess is new to me but I must say, even with all of the frustrations, I have fallen in love with this beautiful language

February 28, 2018

Steve, there were days where I thought russian is not a language but a sickness... Now, I don't want to swagger - I lived (30 years ago...) in France and easily learned french, same with portuguese. I even studied arabic, and for a job I learned basics in persian in 2017 (which is, by the way, the easiest language I ever learned).

Considering that background, you can image how frustrating my russian non-progress war. I think that this language has the highest quote of dropouts - BUT EXACTLY THAT IS THE SECRET. And not only the secret to this language, but to the russian world in total: You will never understand it, until you start to think like a russian.

You know what W.Churchill wrote about Russia? He defined Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma". And the opposite side of that coin: Otto v.Bismarck, our former Reichskanzler (and still my personal hero and the last "real german politician") was an ambassador in Russia (1859-1862). He not only learned russian language, but also russian soul. As a result, from that time on he was wearing a ring with one russian word inside: "ничего". First I did not understand - but today I do, and I started to understand that world, and suddenly also the language.

March 19, 2018

Agree with this comment )))) I have already fallen in love with the language )) It is much more than an academic exercise. It is ... well ..... everything. Humour, comedy, depth, compassion, strength, gentleness correctness then once you feel that you have a handle on something, it throws a curve ball. Quitting is nt in the russian vocabulary I am sure )))) And since this concept does not exist in Russian, then there is no way I will be adding this concept to them )))

March 20, 2018

Ok i'm learning russian now too i hope i can get good at it after 2 years

February 19, 2018

"since I faster forget words than I am able to learn them..." Как мне это знакомо!
Я восхищён! Это пример для подражания ... Мой опыт схож - сначала жутко тяжело, а теперь уже интересно, хотя все так же не хватает памяти для удержания словарного запаса и скорости мысли чтоб не совершать ошибки когда знаешь как правильно но "забываешь" (знаешь как правильно но пишешь неправильно и когда тебе указывают ошибку тогда ты думаешь как я мог "забыть это"! - в такие минуты я очень сержусь на самого себя)

February 19, 2018

dmitriy-kalmykov, откуда вы? )

February 19, 2018

я из России (информация есть в моем профиле) просто я испытываю те же трудности что и Клаус но при изучении английского... Раньше мне легко давалось освоение любого нового дела , навыка, профессии. Теперь все не так , но я к этому никак не привыкну. Год назад я думал что если начну упорно заниматься то через 3-6месяцев смогу читать (пусть с трудом) книги и статьи на английском, оказалось что даже если стараться все равно все дается очень тяжело . Хотя если б мне всё давалось так же легко как лет 20-30 назад...я бы сейчас удивил бы многих окружающих... Кстати вот тоже интересная вещь - если английский учит молодежь то это все окружающие приветствуют и хвалят... а на меня пусть не все но многие смотрят как на чудака , считают это странной причудой, спрашивают "зачем?"

February 20, 2018

Wow, that's fascinating. Thank you for sharing that! It makes more sense, actually...seems much more beneficial. But I hope that one day The East and The West will be allies and that it will be encouraged to bridge the language gap and more, not treated as something questionable:)).

February 21, 2018

Так круто, Дмитрий! Спасибо за ответ. Люди думают, что я странная (из-за я хочу говорить на языке))). (Однажды я перестану стесняться, и буду быстрее. Извините:-0.)

It is not common in my age group to learn Russian, as all of our parents grew up in the war when no one learned it. But I hope that it becomes more popular, because it is not only beautiful a language, but very useful as well:).

February 20, 2018

as all of our parents grew up in the war when no one learned it .... это для меня звучит немного неожиданно и над этим я хочу долго поразмышлять
Where are you from? Your name is similar to Italian

February 20, 2018

Oh:( I don't want to offend... I mean that most of the people who were growing up in the 60s through the 80s here were taught that Russia was bad (the Cold War mentality) and to be afraid of Russians as a whole. So it was almost as if someone who loved Russian culture back then was a sort of freak or traitor. So people in that age group now (my mentors) do not understand this interest of mine.

I'm from the States in America, by the way:)).

February 20, 2018

I was not offended, I was surprised. It's some kind of difference in mentality. I'll explain it in Russian. My English is still poor. В России "образ врага" всегда делал ближе и чужую культуру и чужой язык. Например ВОВ (для вас - вторая мировая война). Я много раз видел как в зарубежных фильмах целый посёлок переживает что кто то из соседей погиб на этой войне. В России было ужасней. В России не осталось ни одной семьи где бы кто то не погиб или не умер от голода или не замёрз из-за этой войны, а некоторые семьи перестали существовать целиком. Это не преувеличение. Это не возможно понять , это только пережить самому. Поэтому никто в мире не понимает нашего особого отношения к этой войне. И в СССР с детства без пропаганды сама собой вживалась ненависть к "немцам-фашистам" (со временем ослабла). Однако все советские люди знали немецкие слова и фразы. Это и фразы с войны вроде "руки вверх" и фразы из немецких инструкций от трофейного оборудования (тогда немцы были самыми высокотехнологичными в мире и после войны СССР вывезло к себе много оборудования). Очень долго "образ врага" были немцы но именно это время немецкий язык и культура были максимально знакомы людям из России

February 21, 2018

Awesome story!

February 25, 2018

I kind of get the feeling that the "old dogs don't learn new tricks" thing is a complete myth.

I'm younger than you, but I don't feel anything's changed as I've gotten older. Want to learn something, you need to study. The same as it ever was. Although studying doesn't mean burying your head in a book, I've learned a great deal walking outdoors and listening to a tape on my headphones.

May 25, 2018

Thank you for your reply. Now, it is two years ago that I started to learn russian. And right now I am in South Russia, on vacation. No foreign people here, 100% russians (and ukrainians) - and me. And in short interactions they don't get that I am foreigner :-)

Of course, I am still missing vocabulary, but I can speak, express myself, and they understand me. After a sentence or so of course they notice that something is fishy, and they are starting looking cheesy. That is soooo funny! One more year, and I will speak like a russian.

So, to learn a language does not depend on your age, just on your motivation.

But I have to confess that I invested a lot of time - but that was the funny part, because I learned to love this country and the people.

The more I know about Russia, the more I love it. And that is the best motivation to continue.

By the way: Next journey will be arabic...

May 25, 2018

This is a great story! I am so encouraged to hear of someone who became frustrated so many times, and persevered. It is inspiring. I'm glad you could share your adventures with us! Thank you:).

February 19, 2018

Great story! I hope you are goooood at RUSSIAN now! Its hard, I agree!:)

February 20, 2018
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