Six month Russian Challenge - four and a half months in

So I have 2,500 words or so memorized in anki, just under 4,000 words in progress. According to lingQ I just hit 4,000 words. I’m at 48 lingQ mini stories already seen at least once.

Compared to French this is definitely slower. I can also understand way less than at a similar stage.

I have six weeks left of the challenge/experiment. I don’t think I’m going to get to B2 level of understanding spoken Russian by then.

However, I am pretty pleased. I think for sure I’m at A2 ish/low B1 level as far as understanding goes. I can understand/recognize probably somewhere around 50% of any given sentence in an “intermediate” youtube video with sometimes big chunks.

My musings and monday morning quarterbacking on learning my first “distant from English” language to any degree are the following:

I think that Benny Lewis was wrong when he said you can do any language to conversational understanding in 3 months.
I think he was right when he said you can do any close to English language in 3 months.
I suspect that in the case of a distant language you definitely do need a minimum of a year to get to B2 with solid effort. But the key takeaway is it is definitely doable.
It seems to me that the issue with distant languages is you’re essentially learning from scratch. As in, you can’t rely on overlap. For example, French and Spanish have a big chunk of vocabulary which are essentially badly pronounced English. (Although the French and Spaniards would probably say the other way round hahaha).

An observation specifically with Russian: due to the wierd and overcomplicated grammar and cases/declensions etc, it is way easier to understand it than it is to produce it. Which is what I was looking for. But I’m between a rock and a hard place in one sense because I can’t speak it for shit even though I can understand a big chunk of it. French and Spanish were different because the grammar was wierd but not super super over-complicated so I could speak broken spanish/french and still be understood.

With that in mind, I think lingQ is freaking 100% necessary specifically for Russian. There is just no way you are going to get enough exposure to all the different variations of words due to the wierd declensions/cases by just memorizing words. So super pleased I discovered lingQ at the tail end of doing my six month French challenge earlier this year.

So what does this mean for next steps for me?
I’m going to extend the challenge to a year.
I think I’ll hit the “minimum” of frequency words (5,000) to be able to learn from context by the end of January. At that point I think I’m going to flip over to hard-core lingQ for the remaining five months of the challenge.

Then midway through next year, it’s mandarin. With the learnings from Russian, I’m going to do a “one year challenge” instead of six months challenge because clearly six months is not enough for “distant” languages.

Anyways, good learnings from my “experiment”.


Your brain needs time to solidify language; Don’t expect B2 in 3 months :wink:
Your progress is darn good for 4 and a half months. You are on the right track. Keep working hard. Achieving B2 within a year is damn impressive as you said with a solid effort.


Hi Asad,

Thank you. Yeah I was hoping to be B2 based on how easy it was when I did French earlier in the year.
But that said, it’s a personal journey for each of us. I think a large part of it is confidence and lack of understanding of the unknown. When I did the French challenge the first half of the year I kind of already knew how long it would take because I already successfully learned Spanish more than a decade earlier and I knew roughly the timeline to get to “real” fluency.

With Russian I had no clue if it was even possible to learn at all because it’s pretty much as Alien as it can get for an Indo-European language compared to English.

So yeah, pretty pleased that it turns out it’s doable. The progress steps essentially follow the exact same sequence as they did with Spanish then French. So with the learnings from a non-close-to-English language under my belt I will fell pretty comfortable to tackle Mandarin next year.

One standout, relating to your “brain needs time comment”: yeah there is only so much your brain can process. You literally can not cram more than 30 words a day into your brain. You try it, your brain seizes up. So in theory you can get to 6,000 words in six months if you put in hard grind. But it’s brutal. And that leaves zero time for other stuff like listening to youtube, reading, doing grammar, speaking etc. So in the end I think the FSI is fairly accurate in its estimates.

Thanks again for the words of encouragement.

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Just curious about the time you put in. Like how many hours per day/week.

The first 90 days I did maybe 2-3 hours weekdays and then 4-5 hours saturday, sunday.
I cut back a bit the last six weeks to 1-2 hours because I’m a little burned out.
Most of it has been a combination of anki words and listening to youtube videos with about a half hour of lingQ per night.


It sounds like you’re making good progress and that’s what you should continue to focus on. Be proud of your accomplishments while also having future goals in mind. Keep up the good work but also consider an aspect of pace that is not too fast so that you avoid burn out.

Also, (I’ve mentioned this many times on this forum) use the words read as a goal instead of known words. By focusing on how many words you “know” only, it will lead you down a path that will give false results.

Regarding known words, you’re starting to get to the stage where you can begin to learn from context better (the point of LingQ) and also start seeing different forms of words that you already know. So your known word count should be able to 4-5x over the next 6 months if you keep your same routine.


Thanks for the quick reply. This is actually amazing progress for this amount of time, I now have hope! lol

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