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  5. Is it really that hard?


Is it really that hard?

Hello, so i have been studying Russian since the end of July, i am about to finish the third checkpoint and i do practice the old chapters all the time until i get them and when i take the new skill course i don't remember almost anything. I always forget most of the grammar and most of the vocabulary. Hell, i don't think that i have learned more than twenty words all these months now and i practice about 1 hour every day. Anyone has the same problem or anyone who can give me some tips?

October 16, 2018



Yes. It really is that hard.

I finished the Esperanto tree in 3-4 months and was immediately able to start reading books, watching YouTube videos etc.

I haven't finished the Spanish tree yet but after 3 months I was able to start reading Duolingo Stories and, with looking up a few words, was able to understand them.

I've finished the Russian tree and am now going through and doing the crown levels. I've tried reading kids' books but even basic sentences are hard to understand and there's a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary. I've watched 3 seasons of Sniffer but was only able to pick out a handful of words here and there. I'm now watching The Road to Calvary, and yeah, no chance of understanding anything. I used to think I was reasonably good at learning languages...


@ carbsrule

Hi! I was very interested to read your comment, more so that you are one of the Duo Moderators -do i understand it correctly by your green ring....?

I am a native speaker of Russian , born from a family with other heritage (Fra/Ita) , I left Russia long time ago and speak/think in English for along time..but i grew up there as a child and went to school/university..

I can assure that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your language learning ability..!! Russian IS one of the hardest European languages to learn AND to teach..

Consider that most Russians spend 18-22 years mastering it into adulthood and they read loads of literature from kids level to 17-19 /20th century masterpieces all throughout their high school and university years.. Even those Russians that do not attend university and are working class still had exposure to the language for a VERY long time..

So one simply cannot expect any fast results .. This language is sophisticated (understatement!),one of the richest in the world (which means that it's vocabulary partially untranslatable into other languages) with complex grammar and word order and syntax.. Although it DOES HAVE similarity to other Indo-European languages even to Italian , Spanish and French and has tons of loan words from those ,but this does not help a foreign speaker....:-) So please, do not be discouraged and continue learning, listening and reading/watching.. Best of luck and best wishes!..


To be honest, I had read half 19th century literature I ever read before I turned 11. A native kid of about 9 or 10 usually has a passive vocabulary of over 10 000 words, which is more than enough to read literature comfortably. Comprehension is not that hard.

Fortunately, most classical Russian books were written in the last 200 years or so. Think Dickens, not Shakespeare—certainly old-fashioned but not to the extent a modern reader needs a dictionary and a grammar to reliably understand it.

  • we actually have easier time reading Shakespeare's works than English speakers: most Russian translations are at least two centuries younger than the originals. Despite some stylisation they are fairly easy to understand.


Thanks. I'm not a moderator, I just help run Duolingo events for Esperanto learners (and maybe for other languages later).

I'll keep going with Russian, but I think I'll need to spend more time memorising vocabulary and working to understand and memorise the grammar (mostly the cases) than I've had to with other languages so far. I've also started on the English tree for Russian speakers.


Could you share some titles for kids' books you tried?

For movies it probably could work better if you find something you like. To keep Russian for our kids we watched together films of Данелия/Гайдай/Захаров/Рязанов. Another option could be to watch Franco-Italian comedies dubbed at USSR time. (Dubbing of Louis de Funès' roles by Владимир Кенигсон are masterpieces.) Also, you can try animation mini-series like "38 попугаев" or "Котёнок по имени Гав".

[deactivated user]

    you've got a lot of study time though, considering how many you're learning (and i counted 10!), so well done on keeping up your morale for these languages up!


    They will stick in time. Yeah, it's really that hard, but repetition is the key - so keep practising. They will sink in eventually. But maybe you're going too fast. Going to the 3rd checkpoint in two and a half months? It took me two years to complete the tree (not at the first crown level though). Maybe you should work up your crowns before taking up new skills for a while, and see how it goes...


    Yes, it's very hard! I used to drive my Russian roommate insane by asking how to say whatever word I was trying to memorize a million times a day.

    How about practicing the vocabulary with TinyCards or Memrise first and only then putting more effort into learning the grammar? It’s what I’m doing.


    I think Ankidroid is the best way to memorize vocabulary and sentences. you cannot learn Russian by grammar easily. you have to learn Russian without grammar . just memorize sentences the same way a kid learn his mother tongue. Add all the words and sentences to Anki and do not wast your time by for "padezhs".


    Yes Russian really is that difficult.

    It is a language for people who like a challenge. I was getting a bit depressed about how slow my progress is but the teacher of the preintermediate class I am taking says I am doing well for just three years.

    It is full of nuances and has a complicated vocabulary that sounds very different to words we are used to. It takes time to become familiar enough with it to process it fast enough to keep up. It isn't enough just to know about it, you need to assimilate it, take it in and make it part of yourself.

    To my surprise I am finding Chinese much easier in comparison.

    There just is no substitute for time. Many repetitions are necessary. With each one you will learn something different. Think in terms of years not months.


    You need to use more than just duolingo.


    Yeah, i also use Memrise and Speaky.com and now maybe i will start the FSI courses.


    I agree with YPSILONZ, you might be going too fast. Also, if you haven't yet, try the accompanying Memrise course ( https://www.memrise.com/course/378212/duolingo-russian-full-audio/ ). You might also want to look into reading and watching material to see if you can't pull up some of your lost words from your subconscious. I also advice you to go back and write down by hand (if possible, obviously) anything and everything you're not sure about. And try not to worry too much about it, you might just need a change of looking at the language.


    Thank you very much. I use that too and the mobile application but still. I try to talk with natives in Speaky.com, i teach them Greek and English and they teach me Russian and they speak high school level Greek in just one month of studying.


    My pleasure. Keep it up. And speaking with natives really is one of the better ways to improve. :) I actually very recently found someone to exchange languages with, myself.


    I definitely know this feeling. Russian is very hard especially for someone whose native language is English/French/German etc. It takes a lot of time to get a comfortable feeling of this beautiful language. The grammer and the word patterns are very different. At the beginning it took me ages to memrizes easy words like хорошо or плохо. But with time I became more familiar with Russian and I started to learn much faster. I think it is better to make smaller steps and repeate each lesson very often just to get comfortable with Russian.


    Russian is hard for everyone who doesn't have a slavic language as a mother tongue. Before studying Russian I studied Polish which is said to be harder but I think the key is to not focus on the language's difficulty but on your weak points. I also have that feeling that Russian words are difficult to grasp even though I've learned Polish, it surely comes from the Cyrillic system which is different from Latin system. I recognize a lot of similar words, and sometimes there are false friends, like in Italian and French. Don't give up, when you'll be able to read an article in Russian, a book, watch a movie and be understood by native speakers you will be proud of yourself.


    Yes. It is a hard language. I have been listening to it just about every day for the past 15 years because my wife only speaks Russian to our daughter, but I still can not say I can speak it very well. I spend most of my duolingo time studying German, but I want to start spending more time with Russian. Reading about your struggle with this language made me appreciate my situation a little more. My advice is to stay the course. It will eventually sink in. It has to.


    Well I think for an English speaker it's much easier than Chinese or Japanese.


    When using Duolingo try to avoid using the word bank,type everything that might help your memory ,plus you will learn to spell Russian words.


    I am a long way from skilled myself, but my experience at this point is that learning the vocabulary becomes easier after a while. While the basic vocabulary is fairly free of cognates for an English speaker, Russian seems to be an etymologist's dream. After learning a few thousand words, new words can often be recognized and related to the Russian words you already know. And more easily remembered, hopefully.


    I started learning Russian nine years ago, my senior year in high school. I majored in it in college, I lived and worked in Russia for a summer, and I still have a hard time understanding it. I make mistakes all the time. If you are really determined to learn, it might not be a bad idea to get a textbook to help with the grammar. It's easier to have the grammar explained explicitly for you. Especially if Russian is your first language with cases, it's going to take a while for your brain to adjust and really start absorbing it.


    i write the words/phrases down in a book and read it every day. the english meaning with the Cyrillic + the romanji + my own make up words to pronounce the words


    It's different. Every language has its own "music", and it's like learning a song. First you li


    Learning the Cyrillic alphabet was a breeze for me. Learning some of the basic vocabulary and its pronunciation, a piece of cake. And then, of course, I hit my first lesson in cases and declensions... That's where I called it quits. In my personal case I feel there's just too many different rules and noun terminations to remember with only one hour a day of actual practice (that's my practice regime at least). But don't get discouraged! you won't find two people in the whole world who actually learn new stuff at the exact same pace... Make enough mistakes until your ego hurts, extract as much learning from those mistakes as possible, practice like the devil and surround yourself with people who actually encourage you to become a better student day by day.

    Just my 0.02$ worth.


    Lack of vocabulary retention could be a result of lack of familiarity/immersion with the language. If you are not actively using the language for other than language learning, the unused vocabulary will drop. My tips are to listen to Russian music, watch Russian movies, and/or watch Russian youtubers/podcasts. When you discover a song that you like, try looking up the lyrics and then translating the lyrics line by line as an exercise.

    Another tip if you want to exclusively use Duolingo is after finishing a skill, try handwriting a summary/dialogue. For example, if the skill was on food, try writing:

    "Hello. They call me Djedida. I eat apples for breakfast. I like rice, but I do not like cheese. My dinner is big. My mom likes to cook for me."

    Lastly, try creating an anki deck or memrise course for vocabulary that you've learned but forgot. Practice those words until you forget new words and replace.


    The mkre you know, the mkre you can know. The more you memories the greater your capacity for memorization. Your efforts will not be in vain and will benefit other areas of your life. The other thing is structure learning. I can remember a lot because I structure information and use techniques which I know work well for me. Maybe this is something you can experiment with.


    Hi there, just stumbled across this one looking up something else with Duolingo and thought I would comment. Russian is very difficult..... I am lucky to have a great memory both verbal and aural and I have spent probably 2+ hours a day for over a year learning it. Many times I became so frustrated I almost quit, this coming from a classical violinist who is no stranger to challenge! What helped most for me was having many sources for learning, because each one will help you understand different concepts and in a different way. I use both Duolingo and memrise, and I also purchased two books that have been incredibly helpful that I would highly recommend! Between the two apps, the two books, and general information found online, and of course not giving up, I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. Another piece of advice that has helped me is watching videos on YouTube from Russian youtubers and getting used to hearing how different people speak (memrise helps with this as well.) Little by little, I was able to translate more and more. If anyone is interested in the books I have found helpful (old school,I know), I will be happy to provide all of that information! Honestly, I could not have done this without them. Apps only go so far, in my experience. Best of luck and stick with it! It is an incredible moment when you can hear something in the background like a YouTube video in Russian and understand what they’re saying. Makes all of the hard work worth it.

    Learn Russian in just 5 minutes a day. For free.