Pimsleur: enough bang for my (many) bucks?

I recently started Pimsleur’s conversational course. So far, what I can say is that:

  1. You do learn how to correctly pronounce useful phrases very well, but…
  2. It is a complement to my Russian classes and textbook, not a substitute, as it does not really teach why are you saying things the was you are saying them. For ins
    tance, you can notice you are conjugating verbs differently for different pronouns, but the rules are not explicitly there (or at least I haven’t reach them yet).


It is an expensive set, but if getting it is within your means, I would definitely recommend it. Even from YouTube videos, sometimes it is hard to nail how to pronounce some words, but here they break them apart from you, and repeat them several times. I think this is a fool-proof way to both grasp all the details of the pronunciation and memorize words better and faster.

Will write more about this later on, as I progress in my study.



Being Bombarded by Russians

Okay, not with actual bombs, but it was a nice attention-grabbing title. Lately, I have been around more Russians than ever before. The problem? Even among polite and educated people, they really love their language…and well, I might know how to point things and call them by their name, but I’m nowhere near understanding conversations (yet!), so if you don’t remind them to switch back to English, you can get isolated pretty fast. In particular, if they start drinking, I’ve seen they are much MUCH more likely to switch back to Russian. Also, if there is some slightly complex task, like learning how to play a board game, brace yourself to be bombarded by Russians speaking Russian.

It makes me want to understand their language even more…and I start wondering about babies and how just by listening to a language every day, they start understanding it…wish something like that could happen to me (c’mon dear brain, you can do this!), but unfortunately I’m pretty sure my learning will be a lot harder and troublesome.

At least I get happy every time I’m in the middle of two people speaking in Russian, or watching a soccer game of Spartak vs (basically anyone), and I’m able to catch some keywords to broadly know what they are talking about. It is motivating. Nevertheless, at the same time, this double-bladed sword also makes me sad sometimes, because it is very hard not to feel isolated.

I also have a group of friends where most of us are Spanish native speakers. I have heard American friends from the same group complaining because they say we (specially Argentinians tbh hehe) switch to Spanish out of the blue, and they feel excluded. I completely understand how they feel now, and it is horrible and uncomfortable.

Lesson of the day: If you happen to have friends who speak different languages, please try to stick to the one all of you have in common. It might be tempting to go back to the language you are more comfortable with sometimes, but it will mean a LOT to those around you.


Time Management

How to make time to learn another language in the midst of our busy lives? It is not easy. I sometimes feel in the middle of a dilemma: I want to study Russian more, but I also do not want to work less.

On average, I study 15 minutes of Duolingo, half an hour looking at classes of Russian in YouTube, and about 5 minutes doing some exercises in my textbook per day. I have to admit I also usually take Sundays off (one should rest on Sundays…right?). I am sure if I devote more time, I’ll progress more, but so far this pace leaves me satisfied.

I think one of the keys is, no matter how long you study – 15 minutes or 2 hours – you must be 100% present. Getting your head in the game is crucial to be able to absorb and process the new information. Even if one day you can do only 15 minutes, pay a lot of attention so you can really retain those new words. Otherwise it will be very hard to really learn anything, no matter how much time you put into it.


First Steps

I started where – I think – 99% of people who want to learn a new language start nowadays in the US….Duolingo. After 6 lessons, a 21 days streak, and 740 points (of which I am terribly proud of), I can say this is a good place to learn basic vocabulary. However, it always leaves me a bit puzzled.  After many lessons, I would have to ask my bf: why is it pronounced as an “a” if it is written as an “oa”?, and basic things like this. Also, Duolingo started by assuming I could read Cyrillic, and although I managed to infer lots of sounds, I was pretty lost when it came to others.

That is when I found Mrs. Vera Polyakova-Norwood’s YouTube videos . This teacher makes me feel like a kid again. She explains everything thoroughly, and has been an amazing complement to my Duolingo lessons. Also, she teaches how to write in Russian cursive, something that Duolingo doesn’t do (I made my bf a letter written in English but with Russian cursive – for instance writing “my” as “май”- to practice…it required a lot of brainpower to read it (as I was not 100% consistent)…but hey, it’s hard!).

On top of that, I got a book called The New Penguin Russian Course. I had it in PDF (it is not hard to find at all), but bought a hard-copy as it was cheap, and the feeling of having the book and writing on it while doing the exercises makes my learning experience more enjoyable (again, reminds me of when I was a kid…hey kid’s are terrific learners after all!).

So far I can point many things and say “это [fill in the blank]”, and when I don’t know, I ask my bf (or text him if he is not around (his reply being both an audio with the pronunciation and a text with how it is written…if I had only the text I would guess the pronunciation correctly…mmm 3% of the time?).

Today I learned about nouns’ genres, and the rules were (surprisingly) straight forward. Finding something that is actually easy is nice, but I ready to keep learning haRRRd things and challenging myself 🙂

пока-пока, write to you later!