Ease of reading vs listening

When starting a new language, listening is hard. It all a meaningless, unbroken jumble, with individual words being indiscernible. But I’ve reached the point with Russian that it’s often much easier to listen to than it is to read. It mostly comes from watching Russian videos every evening for entertainment. But if Russian-language subtitles are available, they’re usually a distraction, and I cannot keep up with the speech while reading them. It’s true of reading in general, however, not just a subtitle thing. Depending on the content and the speaker, of course, it’s generally just so much easier to listen than it is to read.

What I really wonder is to what degree my experience is due to the different writing system. Do others have this experience with other languages? I’ve known Cyrillic for more decades than I care to admit, and when reading I never confuse a Р for an R, e.g. Nevertheless, reading is slow, and I find myself mentally sounding out each word. I wonder to what degree I’d have the same experience with a language written in the Latin alphabet. It would be so nice to be able to scan text at the rate of speech, or faster, like with my native language.

Edit: I read Russian-language web sites, usually news, every day, too. But maybe not as much as I listen and watch.


I think it is very much due to the writing system. I’ve been learning Russian for twenty years and when I read regularly my reading speed is good, though never as fast as in English or Spanish, even though my Spanish is slightly worse. However, after several weeks of concentrating on other languages, I begin to feel this strangeness of the script and I need time to get used to it again. Also, when I encounter an unknown word in Russian, I decipher it somehow slower than in my latin script languages.

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As a native Russian, I do not have any problems reading Latin alphabet, I don’t confuse P and R - in English language, script wasn’t a limiting factor once I learned it.
Other than that, I have similar problem in German - many words are so complex and long that it’s easier to just listen than trying to dissect and read it.

In my opinion, it is not the alphabet, but unfamiliar word structure that makes reading more difficult comparing to listening.