• Learn Russian in the European Union

Tips from our alumnus: out-of-class Russian language acquisition during semester abroad

One of recent “Learn Russian in the EU” semester abroad students, Joshua, has demonstrated an amazing progress in the Russian language. We talked to him to find out, what has helped outperform classmates. Joshua described his own method for out-of-class language acquisition as the key success factor. Since his method brought excellent results, we believe it can help many other students that want to maximize results from a Russian study abroad program.

Greetings. Congratulations on studying in Latvia with “Learn Russian in the EU”!

I’ve written a few recommendations which may be helpful for your study of Russian and other languages. The recommendations are arranged in descending order of importance, however, critically analyze your method for studying languages and take and adapt whatever may be useful. After reading the recommendations, please read the notes attached below.

1) Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition by Stephen Krashen

An excellent book on L2 (Second Language) acquisition. Krashen proposes the “Input Hypothesis” which attempts to identify the causative factor in language acquisition. If anything, read the chapter on the “Input Hypothesis.” Krashen’s theory is one of the best mental models available to conceptualize language acquisition and is a valuable tool to judge methods used to teach or study languages. The PDF is free and can be found at this link: http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/books/principles_and_practice.pdf.

2) Listening (Active and Passive)

If you can’t hear Russian, you can’t learn it. Your brain requires lots of time and data to effectively process the foreign sounds in the Russian language. To help this process, listen to as much as possible in Russian. Aim to always have something Russian playing in your ears. If possible, listen to real conversation and dialogue. Personally, I listened to hours of podcasts. Listen passively when you are doing other tasks like eating or cooking and listen actively when you can.

3) Anki

Most students are familiar with paper flashcards but few students are acquainted with Anki. Anki is a spaced repetition program for computers and phones. Essentially, you can create online flashcards with audio, pictures and text to study Russian. The program uses an algorithm which estimates the average time it takes for you to forget a card then queues the card into a deck for you to study right before you forget it. Anki and other SRS (Spaced Repetition System) are some of the most efficient methods to learn new vocabulary and free. https://apps.ankiweb.net/

Notes:

This is an extremely abbreviated summary of how I studied Russian personally in Latvia. I attempted to share aspects of my routine, which could be easily added to your time studying in Latvia. I adapted many of the mentioned techniques from online communities on Youtube and other websites that used immersion through videos, books and other media to acquire a new language. The key is to GAIN MORE COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT. SPEND AS MUCH TIME IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE AS POSSIBLE. PRACTICE EVERYDAY.

I did not mention specific ways to gain more input in the target language. If you are taking enough classes and engaging with your host family, you will improve quickly. If you want to improve faster, watch more, read more, listen more and sleep. If you don’t know where to start, start here: https://refold.la/roadmap. If you need help, ask “Learn Russian in the EU” for my contact information, I’d be happy to talk.

Again, best of luck learning Russian. Consistency is key. It will feel like nothing is happening, but it is. Trust the process. HAVE FUN.

Best wishes,

Josh

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