B1 in Russian: all cases and imperfective and perfective

Several competent teachers have said in order to reach level B1 in Russian, you must have first mastered all cases for nouns and adjectives plus all tenses bar the participle and know the perfective and imperfective.

I am surprised as it will take a while to actually speak at a fluent rate without making any errors alhough you will know what all the endings and verbs are. But often it would slow you down considerably if you were to speak without making any mistakes.

Your mastering in Russian cases and your attempts to speak must be at the same time.
Mastering without speaking is boring.
Speaking without mastering some basic Grammar is stupid.
Only doing it simultaneously can really help you in your Russian.
Verb aspects can be difficult at first. I can recommend you my lessons in the LingQ library ПРАКТИЧЕСКАЯ ГРАММАТИКА (Practical Grammar), maybe it can help you.

I think it boils down to why we study languages, our goals and our personal interests. Personally I am not that concerned about whether I meet someone else’s standards. I tend to agree with Marianne that trying to master any element of grammar slows you down. On the other hand you need to have some acquaintance with the basic grammar patterns, or at least what to expect. In other words, for Russian, to know that cases exist and in many cases replace the function of prepositions in English.

Evgueny has created an excellent series on Russian grammar, all in Russian. These are texts we can listen to and read again and again.

I am more motivated to read and listen, and acquire words. I refer to grammar occasionally and repeatedly. Evgueny’s resources are great for this and I also refer to tables. However, I don’t believe that “mastery” is a realistic goal for a variety of aspects of grammar, at least until we have had a lot of exposure to the language. I know many fluent Russian speakers of English who will never “master” the use of articles. Other than on a grammar exam, this does not prevent them from enjoying the language and communicating effectively.

Marianne wrote: “Several competent teachers have said in order to reach level B1 in Russian, you must have first mastered all cases for nouns and adjectives plus all tenses bar the participle and know the perfective and imperfective.”

I’m at a strong B2 level in Russian, but I certainly haven’t “mastered” the Russian cases (this applies particularly to the irregular forms of the genitive plural).

which teachers say so? It sounds more like a low C1 competence to me.


That’s just my personal opinion, based on the fact that I think I’m a top B1 and can recognise perfectives vs imperfectives, and what case a noun / adjective is in, but I can’t necessarily think of the right form myself (and certainly not in real time).

I’d be interested in a comparison with other Russian learners.

I passed the B1 exam in Russian, and your teacher is right that you must be able to recognize all those concepts to do well on the grammer part of the exam. That is what they heavily focus on, and if you don’t have it down in theory well, you won’t pass. That being said, in speaking you don’t have to always be perfect, you just have to be comfortable and to be able to discuss a passage that you read, or the history of Russia, and some other topic.

There is a huge difference between “mastering” and recognizing some basic grammar concepts. Yes, at a B1 (or even A2) level somebody should be able to recognize the different cases (not hard at all if your already speak a language with cases) and verb aspects. But you need a much higher level (at least C1) for “mastery” ( = to use the right grammar effortlessly in a conversation).

@djc463: What B1 exam in Russian was that?

The CEFRL is a bit vague about grammatical competence. It doesn’t sound from the descriptors that it’s a solid requirement at B1.

skyblueteapot quote “which teachers say so?”

Several Russian philogogists at a school in Russia mentioned this.

“but I can’t necessarily think of the right form myself (and certainly not in real time).”
I am A2. I have to slow down significantly to speak grammatically correct for the cases for nouns and adjectives in real time. I could not do that for the aspects of the verb at all. I tend to practice fixed phrases that I know I will need and I just repeat and repeat them. That way, at least some of the grammar is always correct when I speak at speed. I plan to do the same for my most useful phrases for the aspects:
Did you write the report, have you spoken to her about x and that type of sentences.

I find with grammar a lot of it is in fact just knowing what is right through having heard and said it often enough.

Тест по русскому языку как иностранному, первый сертификационный уровень. I passed it last summer because it was needed for proof that I spoke Russian to receive a US grant to go to Moscow for a month. I was told that this was analogous to the B1 in Europe.

@Sebastion K: “Difficult” is a subjective term. I met some Germans who could not pass the B1 test, despite having studied in Moscow for 1-2 years (studies in English, with required Russian language courses). They found the Russian cases to be very complicated. I met others who spoke quite well, and one in particular who spoke very eloquently.

@Marianne: Why does it matter what it takes to be at B1 vs. B2 vs. C1? Do you need a test for work? If you do, my suggestion is to take practice tests. This way you’ll know that you can pass and not have to waste your money when you take the real test. If you’re not taking a test, who honestly cares where someone arbitrarily marks these different levels? You need to master all of these aspects (which are the basic fondation of Russian grammar) to speak Russian nicely, so I would aim for that regardless.

quote djc "Why does it matter what it takes to be at B1 vs. B2 vs. C1? "
it does not matter at all. I am generally interested in such tests from a discussion point of view but also as an employer. When candidates have that on their cv I want to know what it means in real terms.

well, if you’re right Marianne, I guess I have some serious grammar drilling to do over the summer :-0 There are some case endings I can never remember.

Skyblue teapot - How do you revise the case endings you cannot remember?
I listen to them again and again and say them loud until they stick. I also make up sentences from English just to make sure. Do you have any additional tips?

Drilling or rote-learning of case endings is deeply unfashionable these days!

However, I do wonder whether it isn’t the best way?

I am not so much concerned with fashion as with what works and what I enjoy doing.

You don’t have to drill, but practice!.. First you will do a lot of mistakes, and then less and less. But you need a lot of listening and a lot of practicing of speaking with native speakers or even with other people who knows Russian quite well.
And to make your work easier: all Russian endings if they are unstressed sounds very unclear like a last sillable in English words ‘beautiful’, ‘teacher’ etc.
So: у дома, к дому, в доме -
will be pronounced almost the same!.. But you must rememmber that the word changes and something will be added - and that’s in the most cases enough!..

It’s the adjectival endings in the indirect cases that I have trouble remembering.

I’m not saying Russian grammar ie easy, but it shouldn’t take too much time memorizing this chart:
Russian grammar - Wikipedia (24 items, some duplicates)

Same thing with German articles, Spanish verb conjugations and so on. Easy “learn” but difficult to practice enough so it becomes second nature.

Those are the hard stem adjective endings. Then there are the soft stem and mixed adjectives.

Yes, mix that table with the hard/soft/mixed adjective endings; stress shifts that change the pronunciation (not sure if this is the same phenomena as hard/soft endings), and the non-regular endings (feminine -ть becoming -тю in sing. instrumental), and there’s lots of chances to pick the wrong ending : )