3 In Others / General

#2 Learning the Russian Alphabet

I’m not sure what I’m planning to do with this series of posts, but I hope to share more details about my journey to learn Russian and hopefully this might be helpful to those who’s also picking up a new language. 🙂

The first thing I like to do when learning a language with a different script is to learn it. I cannot (and will not) rely on romanisation as I don’t want to rely on it. And it’s bad to write the target language in your native script because it tends to encourage matching of sounds of the target language into your native tongue when the sounds are not exactly the same!

I’m using a Japanese textbook which comes with a CD 🙂 One of the best feelings of knowing a foreign language is that it opens up even more resources to learn a new foreign language. It also helps to kill two birds with one stone cos you are practicing two languages at one time 😀 (I’m weird like this).

Things to note when learning a new script

1. listen instead of read
2. no need to memorise – write and practice
3. don’t obsess with the details (e.g. pronunciation rules)

Listen instead of read

Many textbooks like to use explanations like [a], same as [a] in [tar]. Or linguistics terms like “fricative” “palatal sound”. Or open your mouth 45 degrees, have your tongue touch the roof of your mouth (ok I made the last one up but you get what I mean).

Ignore these instructions. I can’t stress this more. I don’t know about you, but instead of helping me, I feel like such explanations make it sooo much harder to learn the new sounds.

Just listen, listen and listen

No need to memorise

Haven’t you done enough of that in school? I’m not asking you to have a photographic memory, but rather, avoid rote memorisation where you are just staring at a piece of paper and forcing yourself to remember everything. Practice and let your mind / hand / ears get used to things. The more you do, the faster it will become part of you.

Don’t obsess over details

Many books like to introduce the pronunciation rules all at one go at the start of the book. For people like me who like to read page by page (without skipping), it’s really stressful trying to make yourself understand alllll those pronunciation rules before progressing. It’s like you feel compelled to do so, or you can’t flip that page and progress. (and you get stuck there forever). Pronunciation rules are NOT meant to be internalised and understood in a sitting, and definitely not at the start of your learning journey.

Read through them, try to get a sense of them, and move on.

I like to learn new words through listening, and when you do so, the pronunciation rules don’t matter so much. If you come across a word later on and feel like its not pronounced the way it’s written, then go back to the rules page and see if you can identify something that can explain the changes. This way, you learn faster.

Eg. Это – the unaccented [o] is pronounced as a [a] and I realised it when listening to the audio.

Spent a night revising the alphabet and I think I’ve more or less gotten the hang of it! 🙂 I learnt the Russian Alphabet 1.5 years ago, so it was easier for me to pick it up again even though I couldn’t remember it prior to the revision. Some things just stay 🙂

Till the next post!

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  • Reply
    1 October, 2019 at 10:53 AM

    I agree with you on all accounts. I even have a master’s degree in linguistics, and I find listening WAY better than following the official linguistic-y language. It lets you hear how it actually sounds (and involves less thinking).

  • Reply
    1 October, 2019 at 1:52 PM

    So by not memorizing do you mean that you focus on reading over writing the alphabet ??? Some people obsess over being to write the alphabet letters and drill them but I personally prefer to just read a lot and then eventually gain the ability write out the letters ( so I skip the memorization / drilling part ) .

    Your post is only about reading it right ???

  • Reply
    1 October, 2019 at 1:56 PM

    Hmm I am thinking if your advice is helpful for pinyin. I refuse to memorize pinyin since I’d rather just read/listen a lot to notice/learn all the idiosyncrasies than memorize. My appreciation for hiragana and hangeul doubled when I found out how unreliable pinyin is (when you don’t have all the rules and exceptions memorized )

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