The Challenges of the Russian Language

The Challenges of the Russian Language

Russian is not the easiest language for a native English speaker. There are so many things to remember. First of all, you have three different genders, which is hard enough when we have none. But then, there are six different cases to learn. The rules for which case to use are complicated, but that is only half the battle, as you also have to remember all the different endings. Nouns, adjectives and personal pronouns all change with gender and case. It seems a huge amount to learn.

I was quite overwhelmed by this to start with, with so many permutations of words. But it is starting to seem less complicated already and I am finding it easier. The big thing to remember is that you don’t need to learn it all at once.

In my first NovaMova classes we covered each case separately and worked through lots of examples to practice. We worked through examples of how we might use, for instance, the prepositional case. Then we practised all the different endings in class exercises, with our teacher correcting mistakes and explaining problems.

Every time during online lessons we talk in Russian, we revise our knowledge . We learn to speak, to read, to hear and to write – each one separately and carefully. I find listening to Russian speech helps a lot. I have started to watch films with subtitles and catch myself thinking things like ‘Ah, he used the accusative case there.’ Once you hear other people saying things, little phrases spring into the memory and it becomes more natural to use the right case.

It is also important not to worry too much about these minutiae. In spoken Russian, people will understand your meaning even if you make mistakes with the endings. Just try to get it right and over time it becomes second nature. I am focusing on being able to understand and speak enough to do basic communication first. Technical perfection can come later.

After all, learning English can’t be so easy. At least in Russian the spelling is consistent. Once you learn the alphabet…


Perhaps you are just starting Russian and need the basics of grammar? Or you could have some good conversation skills, but want to brush up on aspects of grammar that you have forgotten – or never really fully understood? You could study Russian grammar online and fill in some of these gaps in your knowledge. This could be part of a program of Russian language lessons, which includes a mixture of conversation, grammar, listening and comprehension work. A good option is to look for Russian group courses, which can be lower cost than individual lessons and, in some ways, give a richer experience. You will learn from each other and have lively discussions. You can also use a Russian self study guide, to help you plan how you study grammar. Take a step by step approach to gradually master each small task. There are many videos and other resources online that give ‘bitesize learning’. These you can fit in to your daily schedule, using a spare half hour to focus on something that you want to understand better. With all these online resources, it is a good time to do a Russian grammar course.