Russian (slavic) cases: Can they be conquered by mere language mortals?

Is it possible for those of us who are completely terrible at understanding grammar? Even pretty basic grammar explanations make my head spin. I got a book called "basic Russian grammar? Which is supposed to be a straightforward, no nonsense explanation of the the essentials… And it still doesn’t make any sense to me after several read throughs. I just can’t follow what the cases are, the genders, all that.

I’m not talking about perfection, but just being able to have understandable conversations in slavic languages. To my slavic learners: Have you reached a satisfactory command of the case systems or is it a a losing battle?

My german friend recently told me that learning all the cases and articles is impossible unless you were born a native speaker. I hope I can prove him wrong but it sure is daunting.

I remember reading those grammar books before I started studying Russian. I remember that head-spinning sensation that you seem to be having. Now, I don’t clearly remember learning the cases. The cases aren’t even the hard part of Russian grammar imo - the advanced word formation (prefixes, aspect) is the real headache.

Get a good beginner’s textbook and work through it, preferably with a native speaker teacher. That’s what I did. I used this one: The Way to Russia - Doroga v Rossiyu - Series - European Schoolbooks. Ignore the utterly ridiculous cover.

Your German friend knows nothing about language learning, ignore everything he says on the topic.

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The advantage of the native is the massive input that the native has been exposed to. enabling their brains to get used to the patterns of the language. English has other difficulties, like tenses etc, when to use the continuous etc. that cause problems for non-native speakers. The only solution, in my experience, is massive input, combined with the occasional, usually not very rewarding review of the tables and rules, and gradually you will get better. Just keep at it and enjoy the content along the way.

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Your German friend is wrong.

I had the advantage of taking Russian in high school. The thought of that is somewhat pooh-poohed in these environs, but the syllabus saw to it that we were exposed to the grammar a bit at a time in a controlled manner. I think that helped immensely.

My teacher also rearranged the order of the case tables as found in most books in a manner that exposed a pattern that he thought (and which I think) facilitated memorization. (My Latin teacher did the same thing. Latin grammar BTW is much worse than Russian.)

So take it a bit at a time and use lots and lots of examples – lots of input so your brain recognizes and.anticipates the patterns.

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@usablefiber: Everything is possible, but you neednt to suffer from ‘learning all cases’ in a go.
It’s the main mistake of the learners when they want to learn ‘all grammar’ right away.
‘Khardy’ said very well: ‘We were exposed to the grammar a bit at a time in a controlled manner’.
The second important point - to learn grammar through the examples, without a lot of explanations. I try to make my Russian courses Русский с нуля- ‘Russian from zero’ and Первые шаги- ‘First steps’ using this method.
BTW, German has also cases. Do you have the same difficulties with them like in Russian?
Don’t be in a hurry and engoy your little steps in language learning - and everything will be OK.

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I had many conversations in Russian with students from different countries. Most of them use the cases and endings properly. Sometimes an hour of a conversation may have just a couple of phrases in the report, means there are almost no errors, just a slight accent.
Don’t forget, native speakers also make mistakes in their own language.

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Even if you are terrible at grammar, there is a simple easy trick to help you do better. You see, you are doing it all wrong.
No just kidding you’re doomed there is no hope.
Hey, at least you are not learning Hungarian. ; )

I stopped stressing on grammar cases and learned by repetition and exposure. I read the book (like a novel; boring I know) English Grammar for Students of Russian to get myself familiarized with the different aspects and rules of grammar. I then would read stuff on LingQ like from Evgueny’s courses, практическая грамматика, простые тексти, and разговрные темы and listened to русский подкаст (the uploader removed them for some reason, but they’re on russianpodcast.eu).

I checked every word on wiktionary to check if it was in the nominative case or not. After a while, I picked up on patterns and started to remember and notice which words were in a different case or not, which made dictionary searches happening less often. If I didn’t know a case, I’d reference a declension table for each different grammatical case (I used masterrussian.com). I think repetition is the key, and LingQ is set up great for it; it gets pretty fun and easy when reading.

To this day, I still struggle a bit with grammatical cases, but I definitely feel progress, as I understand a lot more than I did last year. IE, I’m still confused how the genitive case appears in the most random instances that make no sense to me why it’s used. Что нового?

Basically, my approach was light on pure grammar teaching, but still on the plan, lots of repetition, and exposure.

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It would be nice to have the cases marked more clearly in the beginner’s material. If you haven’t seen sentences in Russian or German diagrammed by a teacher, reading through a grammar book is going to very frustrating.

It’s a good method: not to be in hurry, repeat something from time to time and go ahead, and soon or later you see that you know more and more of words and of some useful grammar.
Actually, we use Genitive quite a lot; almost all English expressions with ‘of’ we express using Gen. And in such phrases: Что нового? что хорошего? - they are like ‘some of news, some of good tthings’.

I’m basically going to wave the white flag on mastering the grammar. I have confidence in other languages, but slavic grammar is one of a handful of boogeymen that scare me away out my language learning confidence.

I’m just going to do all the reading on Lingq: There is a boatload of great content here and I really just enjoy listening to it, even if I can’t master it.

“I’m basically going to wave the white flag on this one. I have confidence I can understand Korean, I know I could learn Chinese characters with time, but slavic grammar is one of a handful of boogeymen that scare me away out my language learning confidence.”

Well with that attitude It sure will be hard to learn slavic grammar.

It has nothing to do with your own abilities. You simply like to learn many different languages at the same time. I think that to learn Russian cases you need to spend a good 6 months only learning Russian and at some point you’ll have them all figured out. However, if this bores you, then keep on doing what you’re doing because having fun “lingqing” is the most important thing in order to get something out of it.

** I think I already told you this and I’m repeating myself but I want to make it clear that you’re perfectly able to do it. If you find other languages more fun though, then go for them!

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If I can serve under Donald Trump’s military, you can master Russian grammar!

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You needn’t either ‘to wave the white flag on mastering the grammar’ or to learn the grammar by heart.
You needn’t to read thick Grammar books in Russian or also in other languages.

Just continue to listen to some new Russian podcasts and try to read (not learn, jusr read!) my courses
ПРАКТИЧЕСКАЯ ГРАММАТИКА:

РУССКИЕ ПАДЕЖИ:

These courses are quite enough for gradual understanding the Russian cases.

And do it from time to time, not constantly - between some Russian podcasts with everyday topics.
I had been learning English for 3 years before I understood all 16 tenses of the English verbs!..
As Russian cases for you, so English Tenses for us - they are hardly possible to understand!

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I Think my self deprecating humor is often misunderstood on this board. I often exaggerate and complain but don’t take what I say too seriously… especially if I’m complaining about something.

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we almost went through an entire thread without mentioning he who must not be named

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oh boy. we need emojis or something because I didn’t get the joke.

But German has only four cases. Much easier :slight_smile: Why I gave up German in favour of Russian, I’ll never understand.

In the meantime, one of Obama’s favourite foreign leaders is wearing a very loud blue plaid jacket. Might also be something about voting Evet or Hayir, but the jacket is so bright I’m not sure that I am seeing properly

baba tayyip

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