"How long will it take me to learn the Russian Language?"


I hear this question almost every time when I meet a new student. And it’s very difficult, almost impossible to answer it straight away. I personally never give any guarantees.
I don’t think it is even possible to promise somebody that he will be able to speak Russian in a fortnight or to read "Anna Karenina" without a dictionary after 100 lessons.
Of course, we all heard about some or another super system using which one can learn any language in a week. 
Well, I have not found such system. 
The system which would work for everybody. And so far the best way to learn any language and the one which worked for me and for my students has been to Memorise, Practice and Revise.
Ok, so what happens when my new prospective student asks: “How long will it take me to learn the Russian language?”

I know it is not polite to answer the question with a question, but I don’t really have any choice, I have to ask:  “Why do you want to study Russian?”
Is it for fun? Is it something you wanted to do all your life? Is it a new hobby maybe?
Or do you want to be able to talk to and to understand your Russian friends?
Or is it something you need for business, work?

If you want to memorise a few Russian phrases, like a parrot, then “learning” won’t take too long – a few weeks will be enough and most likely you will forget what you learnt in a few weeks if you don’t practice and use the language.

Or do you want to be able to construct your own sentences and to understand people speaking in Russian or, at least, to have an idea what people talk to you about, learn to read in Russian? Then it might take a while, I would say at least a year.

Whatever your object is, the next step is to decide

How many times a week, how many hours or minutes a week you can “invest” in studying the language?

With kids, school kids, students,  the people who have “fresh” and eager to learn brains and not loaded with work and family commitments – the more often, the better.

Kids. A tough crowd. It’s very difficult to keep them focused on the subject for more than 30 minutes, and it involves playing games, singing, “making learning fun”. Even for kids three times a week is plenty, however, it’s entirely personal. I find it quite exhausting being not just a teacher but an entertainer as well.

With school kids and undergraduates, it’s easier, because they already know what subjects, verbs, pronouns, cases etc are and they are here to learn, that’s their main task for the next few years.

Adults. And here starts “haggling”, or a sincere desire to find a compromise between work-family commitments and a decision to study Russian.

Usually, we start with two times a week, each lesson 45 or 60 minutes long.

It starts all right but very often in a few weeks the schedule changes, there can be meetings, family matters and in the case of online lessons, it’s easy to cancel or reschedule.

And from my experience, the formula which works for most adults with work and/ or family commitments is [once a week  x  1 hour].


Here I talk about learning the language with a teacher, a tutor. Unfortunately, many people think that studying for 1hour a week with a teacher is enough. Learning language is a process which involves a lot of self-study. The teacher is only a guide, he or she is there to help, to introduce the structure and to navigate the student through the complexities of a foreign language.


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