Friday, 28 November 2014

Reading in Russian

I wanted to add a little something about reading in Russian, that I forget to mention in my post about my 21 day language blast!

My reading speed has gone up tremendously. I suddenly made a huge leap from sounding out every little letter to reading in a much more natural way. I'm sure I'm not pronouncing everything 100% correctly, and I'm still far slower then when reading English, but it's been pretty amazing. It was almost an overnight thing! I wonder if my brain has gone through the same process children do when they begin to read! All of a sudden it clicks, and your brain is able to put together the words without having to sound out each letter sound. I'm still on the beginner readers, but I was so excited when I read a page through without stopping!

I have a Russian version of Alice in Wonderland waiting to be read!

I believe the two things that have really helped me are, listening to lots of Russian, and using memrise.

Memrise has really forced me to write in Russian (I really don't enjoy it!), and therefore I've become more familiar with spelling patterns, which letters are often together and when vowels changed their sounds. The combination (and repetition) of seeing the written word, and hearing it at the same time has been great for me. I find that the words on memrise that don't have a spoken version are much harder to remember.

Also listening to Russian (I can't emphasise this enough!), as you get to hear the words spoken at a normal speed and you ear becomes far more attuned to it. This is why I also improved when I went to Russia, my reading speed and speech improved even though I was only there 9 days. In my Russian class the following week my tutor could really tell the difference. Unfortunately, because I didn't keep this up my level dropped back down again...but I'm definitely starting to see a real improvement again now! :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Update: 21 day Language Blast complete!

I'm now officially done! :) I think it was quite a successful mission. I've learnt so much about studying, and how I learn best. I would say that it became easier to fit in my language learning once I had, not so much a goal, but a framework to go by. I did end up tweaking it quite a bit. The times I've written are the minimum. Often once I started I went on for much longer. My routine ended up (mostly) like this...

AM: (Ideally this would be early, however most days I didn't manage to get up as early as I would like! After years of staying up late to study this is a hard habit to break, so still a work in progress).
- 20 minutes of  a Michel Thomas lesson
- 10/15 minutes of flash cards (I have to admit I ditched Anki. I know most people love it, but it just wasn't working for me. So I've gone back to making my own handwritten flashcards. I just find this easier as I can write down words/phrases immediately, and it's so much quicker. Might be showing my age there ;) )

Afternoon: (usually while making dinner)
- Listen to Russian radio/podcast (I try to aim for 30 mins).

PM: I've either been working through a Russian course book (Russian step by step as mentioned in a post below) or doing a listening and transcribing activity (I aim for at least 20 minutes).

I also do at least 15 minutes of memrise here and there throughout the day. Plus I'm re-doing the Michel Thomas lessons over (and over!), so I might listen to the same lesson 3 days running. I appreciate that while self-studying I can take as long as I like, and re-do activities/lessons as much as I need.

Sometimes I do something different. I have a couple of beginner Russian books, so I might read those in the evening instead, or I'll watch a Russian movie (usually a children's film/cartoon) on youtube. Fridays are my catch up days so I try to get to things I've been slacking in. 

Apart from Anki the other thing that didn't work for me was exercising/walking while doing/listening to a Russian lesson or podcast. For some reason I didn't seem to take it in. I kept catching myself day dreaming or zoning out, and I'd missed what was being said for the past 5 minutes! So, I ditched that idea quite quickly!

What I discovered from this is that listening is huge, and something that isn't emphasized enough. I missed listening to Russian for just a couple of days, and when I did listen to some Russian radio again it sounded like someone had sped it up!  It's amazing how fast you get used to the speed of it, but also how quickly you can find yourself back at the start...

The writing and transcribing was also incredibly helpful as you have to listen very carefully, and you start to be able to pick out words and letters you don't hear when listening through just once. My 'ear' for Russian has definitely improved, and while I still don't particularly enjoy writing in Russian it is getting better!

So, altogether it has been a really helpful process. I intend to stick to my above schedule as much as I can, although I have also been dabbling a little with Dutch (but that's another post!). I'd really recommend taking a look at Ron's website/book if you want to do your own 21 day language blast.

The Language Surfer

Language Master Key


Monday, 17 November 2014

Free course - Understanding Language

This has just started over at FutureLearn. Might be of interest to someone out there.

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching
An introduction to some key concepts in the effective teaching and learning of languages.

 About the course
What is language? How do we learn meaning in a new language? What is easy and hard about learning another language? And what is the best way to teach English as a foreign language?
This free online course suggests some answers to these questions. It has been developed by the University of Southampton and the British Council, and draws on their exciting new joint online course, MA in English Language Teaching.

If you are a fully participating learner in “Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching,” you will be eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover part of the MA fees. You will find out more when you join the course.
The course takes place over four weeks. It will introduce you to some of the latest ideas in research and practice in language learning and teaching. We will:
  • Explore second language learning and what it means to learn language
  • Consider language classrooms and how teaching affects our language learning
  • Look at the use of technology in teaching, and its benefits and challenges for language learning.
Finally, we will investigate the case of English – the most widely learnt and taught language in the world. How has English achieved this position? What are the implications of the spread of English for policy, teaching and other languages?

The course includes quizzes, activities, discussions and videos filmed around the world. The videos feature experts such as British Council teachers, and staff and students at the University of Southampton.
During the course, you will hear different voices sharing their ideas and opinions – and we want to hear yours too. How do you use language in YOUR life? What is YOUR experience of language learning and teaching? Join us – to discuss effective language learning and teaching.

Join in here -

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

16 days of Russian

This post on gives an insight into what I've been attempting. I was very excited to see the post, and to be able to chat in the comments with my own thoughts. It gave me a bit of a boost! I've also been listening to some of the podcasts over at, and have loved finding Ellen Jovin's blog. The more I delve into language learning, the more I understand that it's not just about the language(s), but is a real journey into how we learn, motivation, communication, education, fun, cultures, and so much more. It's also a bit of a roller-coaster ride, from 'yay, I can understand and translate a whole paragraph' to 'why can't I remember this word I've seen on memrise 50 times before?!'.

It's sometimes difficult to forget it's a real journey and we don't have to rush to try to get to the end, to reach fluency, or whatever the goal may be. It's about the process.

So,all that being said how have I been doing? Well, I've taken on board little bits from blog posts I've read and podcasts I've listened to. I've been working on getting up early (still a work in progress!), using exercise in so much that I've been taking walks while listening to Michel Thomas (yes, my 'not buying any more Russian materials promise' hasn't been going very well!). It's probably a bit unnerving for anyone who gets too close...they can hear me muttering in Russian and still 'trying' to do a rolled r! I usually listen for 20-30 minutes, and do the same lesson twice a day. I find this works better for me as I'm quite a slow learner (I'll blame that on my ageing brain!). I've really been enjoying the MT course so far. I then spend some time adding the any new words to my anki flashcards, and doing a review. I also do memrise daily, will listen to some Russian radio (although I'm probably only fitting 20 minutes in at the moment) and do a 10-15 minute transcribing exercise (I really enjoy doing these). So I've kind of tweaked the 21 day language blast a little, but it's really given me the motivation to carry on. My Russian is still very much at a very basic level, as I'm  missing a lot of the connecting words (or rather finding it tough to remember), and the speed to put it all together. I've also done my best to avoid much grammar! I'll be addressing this when my 21 days are up, and I  have a Russian grammar book ready to go!

How is your language learning journey going?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Ten days in...

And it's going ok. I have slacked a bit. I managed to get my listening done at the weekend, and my Anki flashcards but that was all. We had a very busy two days, with all three children needing to be here, there and everywhere so by the evening I was too tired to do much else. 

I have almost finished a Russian workbook, just a beginner one, but it did cover a few things I didn't know. If nothing else it's a bit of revision. I actually really like the way these books are set out, the audio files are available online and they are easy to do in little chunks. I took the book with me to my daughter's gym class, and spent the hour working through it. I've ordered the next book now. The website is for anyone interested.

Products from Russian Step by Step/Photo taken from their website

The past few days I have been keeping up with listening, reading, writing, a bit of Memrise, Anki, a bit of Babbel...Yesterday evening I realised I'm doing that thing again of being all over the place, but not really moving forward. So, I need to focus a bit more, and read through the notes I took from the Language Master Key book. I also need to start studying in the mornings, evenings are my usual time, but I'm aware that I make so many more mistakes in the evening as I'm too tired to concentrate properly. Being a night owl this is going to take some very real effort!

Monday, 3 November 2014

A Spoonful of Russian

I just wanted to mention A Spoonful of Russian again. Natalia who runs the site and does the podcasts is so nice, and has been helpful and friendly when I've asked questions. There are videos on youtube as well so you can follow along, and actually see the words as Natalia's speaking. There are also some videos that have the English and Russian. I'd really recommend the website and podcast if you're learning Russian.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Language Blast - Days 2-5

Day 2 - Did not go to plan. I did my free listening (yeah!), but fell asleep in the evening putting my youngest daughter to bed. So I didn't get around to doing the other tasks (was planning on getting them done in the evening), as I didn't wake up again until the morning!

Day 3 - Did my free listening. A mixture of listening to the radio and youtube videos. When first listening to Russian radio it seemed that the presenters were speaking incredibly fast, actually I couldn't figure out where one word ended and the next began. I've found that I'm already getting used to this - although it's still fast it's making more sense as I became accustomed to the speed. Obviously on most language courses and CDs speech is much slower, so listening to Russian at 'real speed' wasn't going to be easy at first.  I'm able to pick out words I know more and more as well. Also listening to songs really helps as a lot of words are repeated, plus some of it is really quite good! I found a Russian children's radio station where they do speak slower, but some of the music isn't great. I listened to about an hour today. I've found the more I listen to the more I want to listen. Instead of turning on my favourite radio station when cooking for instance, I'm putting on the Russian one instead. I also did my active reading/writing, went through my flashcards and spent some time on memrise. So all in all a good day - hopefully making up for my lack of Russian yesterday.

Day 4 - Did everything I should do today and a bit more. Also went on memrise for about 15 minutes, and started working through one of the many Russian course books I have. This was just a basic one with stuff I already know, but it's always good to revise! 

Day 5 - Mixed day. I did lots of listening, but mixed it around. Listened to audio from here, and some songs from here. I also listened to some Russian podcasts from this site - especially the stories and poetry.  I went on memrise for about 20 minutes. I didn't do any writing though :/

So far the language blast has made my realise a few things. I need variety in what I listen to and the materials I use daily. Doing the same thing everyday is hard, but just setting aside the time or knowing I need to make the time has created a space where Russian has happened everyday. Even if I haven't done exactly as outlined in the book, I have done something. Once I start I also tend to go on longer than I anticipated. I think I'll study for 15 minutes and next thing I know an hour has passed. The more I do the more I want to do. I also realised how little I know, but try not to dwell on it. I have my whole life to improve! I will be carrying on the challenge over the weekend as well and will update on Monday.