Russian Language Blog

How to Learn Russian While Enjoying Yourself Posted by on Jan 14, 2011 in language

They say you need to practice something for 10,000 hours or so to get really good at it. This means that if you spend 2 hours a day studying and practicing Russian language and you do it every single day of the year, it’ll take you almost 14 years to get functionally fluent.

It is «обескураживающий результат» [a discouraging result]. And that’s in the ideal «ситуация» [situation]. Honestly, how many of us can devote «каждый божий день» [every single day] to studying a subject, any subject?

«Единственный способ решения этой проблемы» [the only way to solve this problem], the way I see it, is to increase the number of daily hours spent learning Russian. Last year I wrote a post outlining some possibilities for the budget-friendly Russian immersion experience. All these measures, however small, do add up.

Some more ideas:

  • «Википедия» [Wikipedia] – how many times a day do you look something up in a Wikipedia? Do you know that many of its entries, close to 700,000 of them, are available in Russian as well? So next time you read through the English version, check out the corresponding Russian entry as well.
  • TED – yep, also available in Russian through captioning. TED Translations is a volunteer project that’s open to everyone, by the way.
  • «Банкомат» [ATM] – Recently I was pleasantly surprised to see that you can switch to Russian at Wachovia ATMs around town. Maybe your bank doesn’t offer this option yet, but the point is opportunities for language learning arise in unexpected places.
  • «В сети» [Online] – check if any of the websites or online networks you frequent offer localized Russian versions. For example, you can switch your Facebook language settings to Russian.

But that’s all small measures. Here comes the biggie – «русифицируйте своё хобби» [Russify your hobby]. Instead of trying to find extra time in your day to learn the language, you will learn while enjoying your hobbies and pursuing your interests. And you get to converse with Russian native speakers who are also «единомышленники» [like-minded people].

You might also find out that you’re sharing interests with some «знаменитые россияне» [famous Russians], including

  • «астрология» [astrology] – a serious interest of Ivan the Terrible.
  • «плотницкое дело» [carpentry] – Peter the Great was quite a carpenter. He was also a shipbuilder, a city planner, a boot-maker and an art collector.
  • «игра на скрипке» [playing violin] – this was one of the favorite pastimes of Russia’s last Emperor, Nicholas II.
  • «езда на велосипеде» [biking] – Vladimir Lenin got totally into it while in Europe.
  • «автогонки» [car races] or anything else car-related – turns out, Leonid Brezhnev was a car enthusiast (kind of scary ‘cause he also was a big drinker).
  • «пение» [singing] – Mikhail Gorbachev recorded an album “Songs for Raisa” in his wife’s memory.
  • «рыбалка» [fishing] – that’s just one of the many hobbies of Vladimir Putin.

Of course, it helps when you have a bit of «поддержка на ранней стадии» [support at an early stage]. So here’s what I have in mind:

Let us know what your hobbies are and we’ll put together short vocabulary and resource primers to get you started. You can either comment here or on our fanpage.

And if you already used this method successfully (or otherwise), we’d love to hear from you!

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  1. abigail david:

    14 years…such a long time! Except for one semester of formal class I’ve been trying to learn Russian on my own for about 4 years and it’s been great! Regarding your post today – I wanted to share how I’m combining the continued language study with my love for God’s Word: My husband gave me a KJV English/Russian Synodal parallel Bible for my birthday and I’m not only following along while listening to it being read in Russian but also writing each word (verse by verse) in a notebook with the actual translation so I can learn rather than just memorize new words. Thank-you for the encouragment and interesting topics on ‘How to Learn Russian’ blog. :o)

    • yelena:

      @abigail david Abigail, thank you so much for sharing. What a coincidence – just a few days ago I went to a friend’s house (she’s Russian) and saw the English/Russian Bible on her bookshelf. She also mentioned that reading it helped her to learn the language, only in her case it was English 🙂

  2. Karyn:

    Great list! I went back to your linked post, too and I have a question:

    do you have any favorite programs or stations on СмотриTV? Looks like they have so many options – I don’t know where to start!


  3. David Sampson:

    С детства мне нравится астрономия. Вы бы включила её?

    Я в одиночку изучаю русскый язык около десяти лет, и всегда ищу новые способы учения.


    • yelena:

      @David Sampson David, of course, я с радостью включу астрономию в список тем. [I will gladly include astronomy in my list of topics.] I’m absolutely fascinated with it and back in highschool dreamt of becoming an astrophysicist.

  4. Lorien:

    TED Talks are always fantastically interesting, what a GREAT language learning resource!

  5. Ken Martin:

    Swimming? (At the YMCA in San Francisco where I go there is a large group of old Russians who come to swim almost daily. For some readon there are no Russian young people.) Reading 20th century literature about the Soviet years, such as Erofeev, Rybakov, Aksyonov? Thanks for your blog. Ken

  6. Moonyeen:

    Хобби: Я делаю издели из светного стекла: лампи, рамы для фотографий, цветы и.т.д.
    Спасибо за слова! Муни

  7. Thomas Maholski:

    My hobbies are gardening, learning Russian, and flying.

  8. Kim:

    Knitting/crocheting! I also picked up a russian cookbook. Maybe some cooking measurement vocabulary might be helpful.

  9. Anna:

    Love the Blog and learn a lot – my interests –
    Art, Photography, Gardening and F1 Motor Racing – Profession – Medicine

  10. David James:

    Мой любимый хобби – это генеалогия. Тоже кулинарное искусство. Спасибо большое за отличные предложения о руцифицированнии!

    • yelena:

      @David James David, I’ll definitely cover both your hobbies in the upcoming posts. Thank you for awesome suggestions!


    That’s how I started. 🙂
    I had been to Moscow for three days and took some photos.
    I wanted to learned what they show, upload them to Wikipedia and place them in respective articles.

    A second hobby is a web directory of my hometown,
    where I added Russian links.

    • yelena: Ikar, I’ve never had the courage to edit Wikipedia entries. Can you share the ones you added photos to? And a link to your hometown web directory, пожалуйста.


    My photo collection from Moscow is here:

    The links in the image caption often go to pages with the image.
    If you click an image, you can find the complete list of pages using it near the bottom of the page (inlcuding other language Wikipedias).

    Especially satisfying is to find that an image has been included by other editors – like my Nowodewitschi image. Although the cropping is odd, because Transfiguration church was in scaffolds, it’s now used in 4 articles, even Москва!

    Besides my own images, I’ve reworked the collection inГермания#Достопримечательности , which had a bias towards the Hamburg area,to be more representative.

    My linklist isКарлсруэ