Russian youtuber: couldn't understand sh!t but COGNATE popped out

So I was listening to this guy who seems to be ranting about putin is my guess. I could understand maybe 1 word in 20 or 30. But then this beauty popped out of the stream of gibberish: legendary легендарный


Varlamov is one of the more easily understood vloggers, at least to my ears. Pivovarov of Редакция is another. Both are refreshingly independent, but Varlamov is more inclined to openly rail against the system than is Pivovarov. (Edit: I’d say Pivovarov is more of a journalist. Varlamov to a certain degree, too, depending on where you draw the line.)

You’ll find may borrowings and cognates in Russian from various languages. The upper crust was quite enamoured of all things French back in the day. Тротуар (sidewalk) comes directly from trottoir, e.g. That infatuation faded at some point, perhaps after Napoleon’s folly of 1812.

You’ll find many, many cognates once you realize that -ция and -сия correspond to -tion in English (which English got from French). Организация, овация, телепортация, трансплантация, организация, нация,
депрессия, рецессия, сессия, обсессия. и т.д,

I don’t know any of the history of borrowings from German, but I did recognize a number of words from Russian when I started German here, and I believe they’re more likely to be either borrowed into Russian than the other way around, or sometimes from a common Indo-European root. The one that really jumped out is Leute = люди. Wiktionary indicates that they’re both from a common proto-Indo-European root “h₁lewdʰ-” (about which I know nothing).

But you’ll find very many modern borrowings from English, especially in fields of science and tech and global culture, and particlarly so among the younger folks and their slang. I was blown away when I read a forum posting where some kid asked как юзать этот софт.


Also, in science and elswehre you’ll find some calques – words with a root-for-root translation.:

  • водород: hydrogen, genesis of water
  • кислород: oxygen, genesis of acid or tanginess
    Then in the same vein you’ll find углерод. It’s not a calque, but is formed the same way: уголь (coal) and род (giving birth to) = carbon. As Steve Kaufmann likes to say, the brain starts to notice patterns.
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Awesome, thank you.
Yes, I literally just discovered the -ция and -сия thing at the weekend while I was trying to add a ton of vocab.
As you will no doubt be aware, it’s much easier to learn cognates than it is non-cognates.

Not unexpectedly, though, Russian has way less cognates than other “European” languages, especially in the first 2,000 most frequent words. So I was under the impression there was almost none. It has been a real hard slog to get to 2,000 memorized words which I instantly recognize, compared to French or Spanish. I’m more or less there right now. I had to develop a technique specifically for non-cognates (which is most of Russian). For French or Spanish I basically ignored non-cognates because they were in the minority. I just accepted they took longer to memorize. In Russian I found that if I hadn’t developed a technique to memorize non-cognates I would have basically either failed or taken five times as long. As it stands I simply can’t learn the sheer volume of words I could on a daily basis with Spanish or French.

So it’s a pleasant surprise to find that there may be something like a thousand or so cognates that are from English and maybe a few hundred more that closely resemble French or Spanish, because they are essentially already hard-wired in, so once I identify them, I basically get those vocab words for free, which should hopefully boost comprehension some.

Anyhow, thanks again.

Khardy is right, there are a lot of cognates that he’s saying, but you’ll be able to pick those up better as you listen more. If you listen to modern Russian spoken in vlogs or TV/radio shows you’ll typically get a lot more imported “international” words (words that sound like English). If you read more literature then there is less and less English-sounding words as the texts get older. You can even start to notice when the French to English transition happens. In fact, a lot of Russian words that I learned early on that eventually started to sound “not so Russian” were actually imported French words. Also, words that sound like the second “g” in “garage” are a lot of times imported from French (e.g. пляж).

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Looking forward to discovering more as I get better at comprehension. Thanks for the clues, cognates will definitely fill in some of the gaps and good to hear there are more than I initially thought.

“…as the texts get older.” I listen to some vloggers at boosted playback speeds and understand most everything. I try reading Dostoyevski or Lermontov and its entirely different. Not surprising – I find it awkward reading dated English like Jane Austen, et al. But that won’t be an issue until later, especially if you’re concentrating on a learn-by-listening approach.


Yeah I’ve read a little from Dostoevsky too and his language is very strange. Even if I know the words that he’s using I still feel like there is a ton of meaning that I’m not picking up on and something always feels off. With Tolstoy it’s not like that at all. Tolstoy is much more straightforward.


There’s a deeper layer of cognates from Protoindoeuropean, but they need a little bit of digging to see them (and a dictionary with etymological information, like the Wiktionary)


Good to know.

“Russian with Max” just did a long live stream in celebration of his 3rd year on Youtube. Right in the middle he focuses on words borrowed into Russian: 3-year podcast anniversary, borrowed words in Russian, celebration (LIVE) - YouTube His approach on this stream doesn’t seem to be as pedagogical as his usual videos, so beginners might have more trouble than usual following it.

Max is a great resource for, I’d say, upper-beginner to intermediate learners, but that may vary by lesson. Someone’s imported a lot of his content onto Lingq, so you might be familiar with him already. All his content is in Russian, and he speaks clearly and not too quickly on all kinds of topics while choosing vocabulary. carefully. His regular videos have both English and Russian subtitles (mostly man-made) with occasional on-screen glosses.


Interesting. The linguist in me will have to investigate that one of these days. I wonder what proto indo european sounds like.

thanks. good catch. yeah he’s pretty good. even though he’s essentially stream of consciousness type straight speaking (which I prefer) instead of TPRS like maria petrova etc, I think he’s pretty easy to understand even though he’s a little above my current level.

EDIT: I’m about 5 minutes in. I’m recognizing about 1 in 2 to 1 in 3 words but my translation engine is still engaged so my brain’s buffer is being over-run while trying to listen and convert to English. I guess my russian direct-to-meaning engine isn’t developed enough yet sadly. Not surprised though, I have just about 800 words mature memorized and about 2,200 in progress memorizing. I reckon I need at least 3,000 mature memorized along with a couple months of listening with no subtitles at full speed to develop the direct to meaning listening skills. That said, way better than a month ago.

EDIT2: TORT??! as in cake is my gues. hahaha Spanish cognate “torta”.

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I don’t know if this has already been covered or whatnot, but I have a lot more success when I watch Russian videos with Russian subtitles. It helps me to read the words in Russian as they are speaking. I pick out more, and it makes more sense to me. I end up taking away more from the videos than I otherwise would just listening. I’m assuming once I get familiar enough with the language I’ll be able to turn them off and just watch. However, this video, I watched a bit of it without subtitles, and then I went an re-watched it with subtitles in Russian and I picked up a metric ton more of what was being said when I could read along with him speaking.


What’s hilarious is that this works for me too even though I’m not even trying to learn to read. Just using the words as “placeholders” somehow makes it easier to understand spoken russian.