I've hit a language learning roadblock

Hey guys,

So regardless of the language you’re learning maybe you’ll have advice? Basically in Russian, I’ve been learning for a few years. I have gotten to the point where I know all the basic words and can understand/read the general context of what someone is saying but never the details.

All the words in the first thousand I know by now and I’m sure a whole load more. Problem is…after you’ve learnt all the basic words where do you start learning the less common words?

It’s easy to learn the basic and most commonly used words because you hear them all the time in speech or writing, you note them down and you memorize them faster. With less common words it’s not so easy. I feel I’m stuck not knowing how to widen my vocab, even if I were to learn at random a new word from a word list, I might never hear it used in speech often enough to allow me to memorize it, and I’d just for get about it soon after.

It’s frustrating!


I think an important thing to remember once you feel like you’re starting to stagnate, is that it was always a slow grind. At this point it just feels worse because one new word seems really insignificant once you know a few thousand.

To answer your question; I think that finding content of interest would be really important at this point. Find a subject and read a lot about it. As an example I read about art, and words like composition, harmony, light, shadow, brush strokes etc. will show up again and again. In addition to learning new words I get to read about my interests.

Not the most helpful advice in the world, but I hope it might help you to stay motivated and keep pushing. Good luck.


I agree. Read and listen to material that interests you. Even native speakers will know more words relevant to topics that interest them.

Also learning vocabulary words which will help you to express your deepest feelings, strong beliefs, passions, motivation and hobbies or what-not works a treat. Importing interesting content from “Causes” you believe in/support might help.

One idea is to articulate your personal feelings in your native language first, then look up the words in your target language. You’d be surprised how many people have never written down for themselves certain ideas in their native language eg “What are my short-term and long-term goals?” (Easier said than done in your native lang.) Not the boring stuff you have to write for resumes, but the things you give a damn about. Then translate/look up words in target lang.

A weird but maybe useful trick would be to record yourself in the target language saying those goals, then listen to it a few times a week. You’d kill two birds with one stone that way: achieve your life goals for real AND memorize/speak new vocab. Just sayin’ :)~

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To leartn new words at random from a word list is the worst method.
The words work only in the phrase, in the sentence.
I know it from my French experience that the step from Low Intermediate to Intermediate 2 is even more difficult than from Beginner to Low Intermediate.
Firstly, I think you have to find the stuff, the topics that are interesting to you.
Secondly, try to guess words in the context and even after looking them up in the dictionnary, it would be better to remember them in small phrases.
Thirdly, maybe you know the previous words only passive, in this case they disturb you to learn new words. Try to activize them retelling something or writing short stories for the Exchange Request.
You can for repeating and activizing use also my Russian courses.
I use 1000 words in the course “Русский с нуля”(72 урока).
I use 1500 words in the course “Первые шаги” (119 уроков)
I use 2000 words in both courses “Простые тексты”(31), “Начинаем говорить по-русски”(40)
I use 3000 words in the courses “Рассказы о России”(22), “Практическая грамматика”(54)
I use 4000 words in the courses “Разговоры с Евгением”(23), “День за днём”(129 текстов о русских традициях, истории и повседневной жизни)
I use 5000 words in the courses “Страницы истории России”(18), “5 минут о политике”(11), " О времени и о себе"(8)
Be patient and never give up!


Identify the main areas where you currently spend time using your native language/English. eg: using English on forums, reading news, work, listening to news, watching sports, listening to radio, reading magazines, chatting with friends, watching tv, watching movies, surfing the net.

Identify all possible Russian language equivalents that you can find. Enjoyable Russian tv shows with transcripts, Russian sports broadcasts, radio with transcripts, magazines, Russian mooc courses related to your work or areas of interest, movies, online forums, websites, skype friends/partners etc.

Change over as much of your time, spent actively using language, to the Russian equivalent as you can. Personally, chat radio with transcripts, is the best language resource, for me (lots of reading and listening of this content). Find native podcasts you enjoy, get them transcribed, listen and read a lot etc.

Here are tv shows with transcripts, as another example: Transcripts for the Russian TV series Интерны | Welcome to the Language Learning Forum at Polydog

  1. Study interesting content
  2. Read while listening
  3. Create a lot more lingQs!
  4. Spend at least 30 min a day doing the above
  5. Listen on your phone (or mp3) to the lesson you are working through (or have worked through) over and over and over again whenever you can.
  6. As soon as you get bored with a lesson move on to another.

Guys, thanks so much, very solid advice! I think I’ll start by looking up my favourite things, like art/music topics, and I like the idea of learning to express my passionate feelings/thoughts about certain topics too :slight_smile: