One Year Update on Russian - how far I got and observations

I’ve done two six months stints trying to learn Russian listening comprehension with a goal to being able to understand netflix.

My method is a little different than most lingQ folks because I’m not really too focused on reading. In fact I’m mostly using lingQ to click on words consecutively so I can “hear” the sentences. I’ve also used the mini-stories mp3s and listened to them repeatedly over and over and over. My main method is mp3 words in anki (from the top 10,000 frequency list and here and there when I see a word I “like” on lingQ).

So here’s how far I got and then I’ll give my observations:

Quantitavely I have 15K words on lingQ. I have 7500 words in anki. I have about 700+ hours listening.

Qualitatatively I can just about read children’s books (something around the level of the Narnia books or somewhere less than Harry Potter). I wasn’t too too focused on reading, however, so I’ve mostly gotten this as a side-effect of seeing the cyrrilic repeatedly while I’m hearing the word in anki (or in lingQ).

On the spoken side I can understand schoolteacher style Russian pretty decently. I can understand this conversation pretty solidly:

I have a harder time understanding telenovelas (the “easy” level of TV shows). This one I can just about understand but not quite:

I can’t understand my target TV show (Better than us) on netflix though I can get snatches of it here and there (most sentences I don’t understand everything, at most 30%):

I think I’m a pretty solid intermediate level on listening. My spoken skills are there (I can string together sentences) but they are weak. My active grammar sucks (though I can understand it pretty well).

I spent very little time on speaking, very little time on reading, zero time immersed. All of this has been from my computer. Almost purely audio/video input and anki.

This is the third time I’ve done my method. I’ve done it twice before with Spanish and also with French.

Both for Spanish and French I did the same as for Russian with anki. I spent six months cramming anki.

In the case of Spanish at six months I essentially used the Will Hart method: I immersed. A year or a little more after that I probably hit advanced. My Spanish feels like English to me and I’m solidly functional in it without having to do any further studies.

With French I stopped anki at six months and I didn’t do any more.
With both French and Russian, differently than for Spanish I did no immersion and essentially no speaking.

So my takeaway is this: you can get to a solid intermediate level of listening purely by input combined with audio anki in six months with an “easy” language and in about a year with a “difficult” language.

I can’t say (because I haven’t done it except with Spanish) whether it is a requirement to immerse to move the language from intermediate to solid advanced/fully functional.

Next Steps:
Although both French and Russian were “experiments” I don’t plan to “drop” Russian like I did with French because I want to get it to a solid level.
I don’t, however, want to be studying for another x years. I want to get it to “done” so I can move on to another (probably mandarin).
So, since I don’t plan on getting myself a Russian girlfriend nor do I plan to immerse in Russian culture, I’m left with figuring out how to get to a solid level from my living room.
I’m going to spend the next six months continuing with lingQ as well as additional anki and also do something like glossika as well as chat with Russian speakers through something like italki.
I hope that will be enough to get me over the finish line in six months more. If not I’ll just continue on lingQ after that.


So, since I don’t plan on getting myself a Russian girlfriend

I can say from my experience on language exchange apps, that this is the most unique part of your method! Because everybody else out there seem to learn Russian only because they love great Russian literature have hit it up with some Natasha or Lena, who, in turn, love foreign cultures don’t mind to change location :smiley:


I guess it’s kind of Russian Culture?

I watched “better than us” on netflix with English subs before I started this journey and I thought the quality of the show was epic so that swayed my choice a little when I had to pick between Mandarin, Arabic and Russian as my first “difficult” language.

I thought (incorrectly I now believe) that Russian would be the easiest of the three once I stripped out the writing aspect of it. But I’m glad I chose it rather than Mandarin first because it’s been a huge amount of fun.

1 Like

One half of Russian culture wants to change location. The other one wants to show their neighbors kuz’ka’s mother and where lobsters spend winters.

Btw, I didn’t know there is such a show as “better than us”. Robo-girl, it must be interesting :smiley:

LOL some interesting idioms right there “where lobsters spend winter”.

<<My active grammar sucks (though I can understand it pretty well).>>

How will you address this issue?

1 Like

Yeah, it’s “показать кузькину мать” and “показать, где раки зимуют”. It means “to show someone who is the boss here”.

I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Even though I’ve done Spanish, French and Russian, Spanish is the only one I’ve taken to advanced level.

By “advanced” I mean able to function in it as if it’s English. Obviously my Spanish isn’t as good as my English but I could for sure go to college in Spanish or hold down a job in Spanish and do everything else a Spanish speaker could do including go to movies, take part in debates etc etc

To get Spanish up to a reasonable level I spent more than a year solidly immersed in Latino culture, hanging out with Latino friends all the time, going to Latino dance clubs, going to Latino restaurants, watching telenovelas, the whole shebang.

With French and Russian I have decent intermediate listening comprehension. My listening comprehension is better than what my Spanish was before I immersed in Spanish. The challenge I have is I don’t intend to jump into Russian sub-culture here in Canada. I don’t have time plus my family would probably object hahaha.

So how to do that? Again I don’t know. I know I did immerse with Spanish and it worked. I’m hoping it is not a requirement to fully immerse. It is possible that immersion is the only fast way to develop advanced comprehenshive listening and speaking and that other methods are slower. I don’t know till I try:

So here’s my best guess:

I’m going to try glossika. I bought a subscription last night.
I’m also going to get deeper into lingQ and also later in the year maybe a couple times a month talk to folks through skype or zoom or whatnot.

1 Like

Wild. Some sayings are super localized and don’t really mean much but everyone understand them. Here we have a saying “kitty corner” which I’ve always thought makes no sense whatsoever but everyone knows it.

Usage would be something like this:
“Where do you want to meet?”
“Kitty Corner from the bank at 11th and Main”

1 Like

How are you tackling Russian Grammar? Do you study it in small bits daily?

1 Like

How are you tackling Russian Grammar? Do you study it in small bits daily?

I’m not studying it per se. I follow Steve Kaufmann’s approach where I don’t really actively study it and just “get used to” the language by listening to it. From time to time I would read somethings e.g. Russian for Dummies or google search “Russian cases” but no real attempt to memorize it.
At this point I know the usage of the very limited verb conjugations (present, past and combination future). I’m not 100% clear on the future perfect but I know it’s there.

It’s the cases I’m struggling with tbh. The rest seems straightforward.

With the cases I know they are there and I have maybe once a month or so read about them but I can’t really keep it straight in my head so I would have trouble accurately reproducing them if I tried to speak. I know the names of them hahaha.

I’m hoping that glossika will link my passive understanding to a more active understanding without me having to put a ton of focused effort into learning the cases. If not, I think I will have to drill a bunch of “when do you use the dative case?”, “how do you change feminine noun endings when you use the dative case?” etc in anki till they are solidified.

So yeah. Essentially I’m following Steve Kaufman’s approach to grammar.

1 Like

Lol well given @xxdb hasn’t begun reading all the great literature, and also has no intention of meeting someone that might want to relocate, why did they spend a year learning Russian!?


Hey, DB please let us know how is the Glossika going on for you. I have been using it too, recently mostly for Chinese but though they say the sentences are carefully chosen, I find them very random and often illogical and not much structured. I heard for example, “What’s your name?” after maybe listening to more than a 1000 sentences.

Have you tried Speakly? I tried their Russian course and I found their approach more logically structured and they have many listening exercises. I stopped at their Intermediate III level but haven’t renewed my susbcription yet. They seem to have done a more careful research on the most used words (around 4000) to make the course, but that is probably already too easy for you.

Your approach seems interesting and I’d also like to focus more on listening first, sorry for the silly question but how to search for mp3 at Anki? I tried searching for those top 10000 words in Russian but I just found decks with words or sentences but no audio.
I had the same trouble with Chinese, which I mostly want to listen ( I already know thousands of characters, but I need to listen more) and only found decks with no audio.

1 Like

#Flat America The rumor is that some people like to add oil and vinegar. The first person said someone was sick, the second said someone had a terminal illness, and the third said someone had a terminal illness and died.

1 Like

You’re mocking my choice of languages?

TV shows not good enough?

OK the truth?
I have a $1,000 bet that I can learn 3 languages in 3 years including at least one hard language. The bet doubles if I can learn 3 languages in 3 years including 2 hard ones. The definition of “learn” means I can understand netflix shows in the target language. No requirement to speak.


Hey Atlan. I can’t say so far on glossika. Give me a month then I’ll drop an update.
I’m starting it at A1 in case there is something I’m missing. Yes the choice of sentences is wierd, but I can see the utility of some of them. I made the mp3s one at a time, roughly 20 per day. You can either use and look up each word to get a native speaker saying it or you can get an mp3 from
Both of those services are free. is kind of hit and miss: the voices are the same voices that lingQ uses. It’s not bad, but if I’m not convinced that they’re pronouncing it right I’ll use forvo.
If you want rockstar quality deep learning tts which sounds so close to human like it’s spooky, you can try which will run you about $7 a month.

I mostly use because the sound quality is so good. It’s much better than because the voices sound perfectly human whereas there’s a slight robotic edge rarely with ttsmp3.

1 Like

Gosh, you made all those 10000 mp3? That`s a lot of work. Can you make them public at Anki or is it just for yourself?

Actually I think the pronunciation in Russian is reasonably clear from the text, but I’d really like to find something similar in Chinese already made.

PS: since it’s been a while I took HSK 3 and haven’t been actively studying Chinese, I didn’t even remember Pleco has decks of words with audio divided by HSK level. So I can complement that with Glossika weird sentences.

1 Like

Not at all. I was just curious given most people I know of interested in Russian are interested in one of the two. (The literature one being less attainable - Russian literature is not lite reading translated.)

That is probably a more unique reason for SLA I have heard! I would also like to have made this bet two years ago.


It could have gone either way to be honest.

The original shortlist of “difficult” languages was this:

That list got knocked down to Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin.
I took off Japanese for some pretty flimsy reason and came down to Russian, Arabic and Mandarin.

Since the goal was listening only it came down to this half baked decision list (very subjective based on googling):
Russian: Complex as heck grammar, almost no cognates and some sounds that are hard for an English speaker to pronounce.
Arabic: Super complex grammar, almost no cognates and plenty of sounds that are hard for an English speaker to pronounce combined with tons of different dialects and a lack of clarity that source material would be a mish-mash of standard and dialect.
Mandarin: The least complex grammar of the three (to get to intermediate), almost no cognates, tones, moderate number of sounds that are hard for an English speaker to pronounce.

I rated them in order of difficulty: Russian least difficult, Mandarin second most difficult, Arabic most difficult.

Since I had never succeeded at a “difficult” language before I wanted to give myself a shot at success so I picked Russian. It was swayed slightly because of the TV shows I had watched with English subs on netflix. The Russians have some epic sci-fi.

In hindsight I believe our subjective order of difficulty is wrong. I now think Mandarin is the easiest, Russian the middle and Arabic the hardest. (For listening only).

Reason being my competitor (counterparty to the bet) who is also trying to do 3 languages in 3 years, failed at Russian three months in. Simply couldn’t take it any more because of the cases: he was making no progress and couldn’t understand anything and words were not sticking. He switched to Mandarin. He’s obviously behind me because he lost 3 months but he’s made decent progress and when we compare notes I think his speaking is better than mine because he doesn’t have to contend with cases.

Hi your point of view is really interesting. I’ve been learning multiples languages. My mother tongue is French I’ve been learning English 1 year Spanish 1 Italian 6 months year and now German 6 years.

English I’ve learning for at least 1 year. I like listenning and watching TV shows without subtitles even at the beginning. After 6 months I was able to speak language and make my own sentences even I did mistakes native speakers could understand me without problem.

After that then I was focus reading and listenning at same times everydays Monday to Friday and writting on discord with people for getting better. He took a while to reach your goal it depends what you looking for.

For Spanish I did same things than English. After 6 months I was able to make my own sentences and understanding what people saying in Spanish without to go in Spain.

Once I went to Tenerife Spanish Island in 2012 for work. I’m still living there it’s been 10 years now I can tell you Spanish to me is like my mother tongue French.I’ve seen my progress growth maybe after 3 months there. Even I was in a country they suppose talking this language. I did same things keep listenning reading and practice as much as I can. I learning new vocabulary I never heard before with people. My girlfriend is Spanish and she told me I’m talking like a fluent now. Before my spanish was good but I did a lots grammar mistakes.

German it’s been 6 years I’m learning it. I did same system listenning a lots first and when I was ready to talk. I mean when I feel it I will focusing only on reading part. I lost my motivation with this language because I clearly see I didn’t get results as I expected. So what I did I make a break 2 full months. I decided it was enough I really want to talk german because I didn’t put all these sacrifice for nothing.

Now it’s been few days I’m back seriously in my german. I understand more clearly what people saying when I’m listening a podcast. I can make my own sentences not as I wish. I know just question times untill that “click” to my head and I will be comfortable as I was with all languages I know.

Some languages taking more times than others. If you’re not able to speak as you wish it simply mean your brain is not ready yet. You have to be patient and bringing something new in your learning to motivate you. Don’t be focus on times you spent on ANKI or LingQ.

Try to have a conversation with native speakers on Italki for at least 15 minutes that will helping you to know where you are. If you can’t pay it you can still go on discord and go on hellolingo. This a free chat you can practice every languages with learners and native speakers.

I know this annoying and embarassing. Because you didn’t seen results as you suppose. But don’t give up this question motivations times to be patient. That will pay off your work trust me.