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What is the most challenging aspect of the Russian language?


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Hello Everyone,

It is quite interesting to find out that there are people who are learning Russian nowadays just out of curiosity. I would like to applaud all of you, who have bravely undertaken this challenge.

One could say that Russian is so difficult to study, because this is a language full of exceptions. Every rule you learn seems to have a list of exceptions to it and the only way to master these exceptions is simply to learn them. Not so simple a task even for a diligent student!

A number of students tell me that the way the words in Russian are stressed "drives them insane". I fully agree, that it is quite possible, as it is harder than it seems to master the correct placement of stress within words. The stress in Russian is mobile and does not follow strict rules.

Russian pronunciation is also very difficult to master. Some Russian sounds do not exist in the English language and it takes time and practice to learn to say things correctly.

I would be most interested to hear your opinions on what aspects of Russian are challenging to you.

May be, we can discuss them and make clear and simple to tackle.

Good Luck!

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  • 1 month later...

I haven't started learning Russian yet, although I am interested in doing so. I have heard that the way you have to pronounce the words are challenging, and I find the way the language is written a bit intimidating.

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I have been learning the Russian language from 2013. At that time, I was 13. Now I have a small vocabulary (app.600-700 words) :wacky: . I started learning the language because of my love for USSR and Russian culture, and of course, the sounds of the language are sooooo fascinating!! :love:

The main difficulties I face is the stress pattern, the case-endings (I am struggling with the instrumental case), the aspects. I know there are other things to be discovered  :frozen: . But I am determined to learn it! I did not find any huge problems with the pronunciation. The only difficulty is differentiating between ш and щ. The soft-sign took some time but now I have almost mastered it. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's the pronunciation definitely. I find Russian to be pretty easy actually - once you know the alphabet, it's fairly simple. Of course, there are lots of exceptions to the rules, but that's in almost every language. The one that is causing me problems (as a native Finnish speaker) is the pronunciation of the alphabets. All the different s-z sounds for example.

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Cases, then pronunciation then I suppose Cyrillic third. The pronunciation is difficult but it's not impossible to be understood, but hard to get to a professional level. While you can learn Cyrillic in a day, it does take a bit of getting used to in a way of remembering to read C as 's' rather than C.

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I agree with pronunciation most of all, I did have trouble writing especially as I am used to writing in English, but now I find its just remembering the different stress points with sentence structures. I have found practice with friends or using Rosetta stone the most helpful

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  • 2 months later...

I've been studying Russian for a few years. I don't find pronunciation too difficult anymore, but at first I did. The cases seem a bit overwhelming at first, but once you learn the proper endings it's actually not too difficult (except for the pesky "exclusions"!) What I find challenging is verbs - perfective/imperfective, verb prefixes, etc. And Russian verbs of motion are enough to drive anyone a little crazy. When you include perfective/imperfective forms, reflexive forms, imperatives and participles, there must be over 100 different forms of these verbs. Grrrr!  :confused:

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've grown up speaking Russian but I think a lot of people struggle with using the right words in relation to male/female. Every object in the russian language is either male or female, and knowing the sex of every object is essential to speaking correctly. But it's not a major issue since confusing these terms won't render the speaker incomprehensible... they'll just sound a bit funny.

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  • 1 year later...

And her I come from the topic where the TS explained Russian pronunciation being easy, haha.

And I agreed with her. And yet I feel compelled to agree with posters on this topic too. I can't pinpoint exactly what is the MOST difficult thing in Russian, but my friends and acquaintances who are not native to the Russian language frequently complained about them having difficulties with listening to Russian, one of them even said that all she could hear from a video of a Russian artist singing that I sent to her was 'r-r-r-r-r-r-r!'.

Must be all the bears we frequently eat breakfast together with...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hmm...I find pronunciation to be very easy compared to tonal languages, for example. I guess that just goes to show how different people are. What I find particularly difficult about Russian is the grammar. Cases, verbs of motion, aspect, etc. Toughest grammar I've studied by far. 

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  • 4 months later...

I've just started learning Russian though according to my limited experience pronunciation is, in fact, the easiest part. Maybe that's because my native language isn't English. I'm not sure how close Turkish and Russian phonetics are though. The hardest part in this beautiful language isn't grammar either, at least to me. But the length of the words, when a word is shorter or more specific it's easier to memorize but in Russian many words have a lot of consonants so it makes it hard for me to memorize. Also in my opinion the hardest part about grammar is (i haven't studied them yet but) verbs of motion and perfect imperfect verb distinction.

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  • 1 month later...

Oh jeez, pronunciation is not the problem. People and teachers who worry over the difference between и and ы or ш and щ are doing themselves/a disservice. In the 20+ years I've studied/used this language, I've never had a Russian speaker get confused because I pronounced ы like и. 

Now use the wrong motion verb, and that can lead to confusion. Motion verbs are the bane of my (Russian studying) existence.

I've even been forgiven for using the wrong case or at least the wrong endings on nouns. Again, if the Russian speaker understands you despite you messing up the genitive plural for искусство, what's it matter? (I'm of course talking about using the language versus being tested in it.)

Meanwhile, I'll go study some more. (See how I just used go and didn't worry about the mode of transport or the aspect of the verb? Проклятые русские глаголы движения!) ;)    

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On 3/26/2016 at 1:48 AM, weltschmerz said:

Also in my opinion the hardest part about grammar is (i haven't studied them yet but) verbs of motion and perfect imperfect verb distinction.

Be careful with the terms "perfect" and "imperfect." Those terms work in English (and some other languages) but the terms you should use in Russian is imperfective (aspect) and perfective (aspect). There are slight differences between Russian imperfective aspect and, say, French imperfect tense. 

And to be honest, the verb aspects of Russian are easier than verb tenses in many languages, especially in Romance languages IMHO. 

Good luck! If you are ready for a good motion verb book, I can highly recommend Russian Motion Verbs for Intermediate Students by William Mahota. 

Cheers

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For me the most difficult has been all the declensions and cases. Changing the ending of the words has been quite a challenge! The second most difficult thing in my opinion has to be writing. I'm used to writing print and my cursive handwriting even in English is ugly to me so Russian cursive has been absolute torture! There are some similar letters, but I cannot for the life of me write letters like "ж." I really should practice more, but until I perfect my handwriting, the struggle goes on. 

As for pronunciation, I find it relatively easy. I never really struggled with it, just a few minor screw ups with the stresses. Sometimes I'm too shy to speak Russian, especially when one of my Russian friends insists that I repeat a word a million times. Of course only after I repeat it several times will he say that I was saying it correctly the whole time, but by then I don't feel like repeating any more words. Ah well, I love the Russian language and hopefully someday I will be fluent!

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On 5/20/2016 at 10:11 AM, potoloklol said:

The second most difficult thing in my opinion has to be writing. I'm used to writing print and my cursive handwriting even in English is ugly to me so Russian cursive has been absolute torture! There are some similar letters, but I cannot for the life of me write letters like "ж." I really should practice more, but until I perfect my handwriting, the struggle goes on. 

Your comment here reminded me of this funny demotivational poster:

 

russian cursive.png

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  • 3 months later...

The hardest is probably the grammar. Some letters are pronounced differenly in different words like letter "o" is sometimes pronounced like "o" or like "a". It depends on where the stress is in the word. But you aren't thinking about which part of the word you are stressing, so you most probably end up writing it wrong. 

When I started learning Russian, I had a problem telling apart letter like з, ж, ч, ш, щ. But later when you get used to hearing those letters in words, you will get them right. 

I still get confused when I have to tell the time in Russian. I always go for the safer option, which is telling the hours and the minutes. I avoid phrases like "quater to/past".

Oh, and the cases. I know that I speak Russian with mistakes and the main mistakes are the cases. I usually just tend to go with what I've heard people use in the same context. 

 

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