Hi, as of 05/15/23 I will have completed one year of Russian language study. This is the first time I’ve learned a language outside of school, but I have learned French and Spanish to around ~B1-B2 from high school and college over 3-4 years each. It’s really opened my perspective on how much work it takes to become proficient in a language – if you don’t have a good reason to learn it (motivation), the time to dedicate, or the tools/systems to optimally learn, it can be difficult, if not impossible to become proficient. It’s been both humbling and rewarding.
Below I will share the hours I’ve spent using what, my estimated CEFR levels, and some reflections.
~600 hours total
-88 hours Mango Languages (05/15/22 to 09/15/22)
-15 hours Influent (05/15/22 to 09/15/22)
-198 hours Lingq listening (09/15/22 to 05/15/23)
-50 hours Lingq reading (09/15/22 to 05/15/23)
-100 hours vocab review (Lingq, Mango, Anki) (09/15/22 to 05/15/23)
-150 hours misc. content (reading, listening, etc. without Lingq)
-CEFR levels: I estimated my levels based on the content I use, but soon I will take a CEFR test and post about it.
-reading B1-B2: I can read most modern news, articles, and enjoy most videos/movies with subtitles. I cannot read novels or books without Lingq.
-listening B1: I can understand certain news, articles, or videos (such as travel, simple geopolitics or history) but listening is still difficult and I always miss some parts.
-speaking B1: I can comfortably speak at a B1 level, but I do not feel completely confident in my ability to speak without grammatical mistakes.
-writing B1: Same as speaking.
-LingQ: I wish I used LingQ more straight from the beginning; what limited me initially was not being able to even read the titles of the content, and therefore having no idea what I was going to read, but I really think I could’ve just focused on the mini stories and beginner courses (yes I could have translated the titles). The main reason LingQ is great is because there is no limit on how much, or what material you can study; if you want to study for your job, watch a specific TV show, or about a hobby you enjoy, you can directly import that material and learn language and the subject you choose. This is different from language courses (Mango, Duolingo, etc.) where you don’t necessarily choose the subjects or what scope they cover, and they also don’t provide as much volume of reading/listening.
-Good Days and Bad Days: Language learning is not so different from golf, in the sense that you will have some days where you understand everything and other days where it’ll be like you never even started. It can be really frustrating sometimes, but it reassured me to know that I was further today than I was yesterday.
-The Importance of Grammar: I am a massive Steve Kaufmann fan. He is very motivating and most of his ideas are great. However, I took his idea of focusing more on content (which is still important) and lightly studying grammar too far. For contrast, when I learned Spanish and French I would say 60% of the class material (homework, exercises, speaking) was focused on grammar from the beginning; I definitely did not have a large vocabulary until later and I could not listen to the news or authentic material. However, I always felt good when I was producing, via speech or writing, in the sense that my grammar was correct. With Russian, I did 90% content input and 10% grammar; now I have studied for a year, and although I can understand a decent amount of content, there is always a “fog” of whether I am producing the language correctly or not – I will have to dedicate more time to grammar study and exercise in the future.
-Don’t Focus on Levels: I would often return to the same, unanswerable question of “What are my CEFR levels?” Then I’d obsess about it, look up approximately how many hours it takes to reach A/B/C# level in Russian, and put more time into this than actually studying the language. And I’d repeat this every 2 weeks. Eventually I came to the conclusion that even if I tested A1 in all my levels, it wouldn’t matter because I’m not going to stop anyways; just going to keep going forward because I enjoy the process and I am finding more enjoyable content. We all love statistics and concrete progress, understandably, but for language learning I’ve found that the systems are what is important (as Luca Lampariello says) - how many hours you spend, what content you use, and your habits.
-Sacrifices: There is only so much time we all have, and the things we choose to do indicate our priorities. I had a decent amount of free time and energy to dedicate to Russian, but if I did not think it was useful or if I would not actually use it, I would never study it. Even within studying Russian itself, I focused on reading and listening more than speaking and writing, and my proficiencies reflect this.
Overall, it’s been a great journey and I will continue. My goals for this coming year are to increase my proficiencies and start practicing speaking at the end of the year, to enjoy a greater range of immersion activities other than content consumption. I wish you all great luck with your language studies!