Russian Language Blog

Listen While You Read, or – Read As You Listen Posted by on Sep 10, 2009 in language

In three days I’ll be returning to Russia – more specifically, «на Урал» [to the Ural Mountains] – but until then I have a great tip for all of you. One of the things that make learning a language outside of the country in which it is spoken very difficult is because it is hard to learn its melody. It is hard to learn how to speak it if you’re not sure how it is pronounced; what it sounds like. To make this problem a little bit smaller – to give a helping hand, so to speak – you could try listening to Russian books as you read them. Or the other way around – read them while listening to them. This idea came to me the other day when I was once again browsing through the splendid Russian site about Varlam Shalamov (I know, I know, this summer has been a little too much about this brilliant author, but sometimes I can’t help myself) and came across a section called «аудиозаписи» [recordings] where you can download (very legally and entirely for free) files with Varlam Shalamov reading some of his own short stories and poems. So I did. And was very pleasantly surprised both by the sound of his voice and the way he read his own works. Especially good is the recording of the short story «Белка» [The Squirrel] found in his short story collection «Воскрешение лиственницы» [Resurrection of the Larch Tree]. I recommend first locating the short story’s text here, then downloading the short story’s sound file here, and look at the text while you listen to Varlam Shalamov reading it. I loved it. I hope you’ll all like it just as much as I did.

And remember – this is one thing you can’t do with authors like Dostoevsky; download a file where he’s reading «Преступление и наказание» [“Crime and Punishment”] and then follow his voice in the text…

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  1. teacherjulia:

    I’m a language teacher as well as a student of Russian, and I want to agree with you that connecting reading and listening are very important. I encourage learners to listen to poems as they read them, or to listen to an audiobook as they are reading the book.

    You said “this is one thing you can’t do with authors like Dostoevsky; download a file where he’s reading «Преступление и наказание» [“Crime and Punishment”] and then follow his voice in the text…”

    No, you can’t find Dostoevsky reading it, but it’s not very common for authors of English works to read their own books, because a great writer does not necessarily have a great voice. However, you CAN find Crime and Punishment as an audiobook and therefore you CAN follow the voice along with the text.

    You just type in audiobook (or аудиокнига) and they’re not so difficult to find. I downloaded A Series of Unfortunate Events done in Russian, along with the e-books, and have been listening to those. Popular American books are often translated into Russian and have Russian audiobooks that you can listen to along with the books, such as the Harry Potter books, and the Chronicles of Narnia.

    But I did want to say that Russian audiobooks do exist, especially for popular titles, such as Crime and Punishment.

  2. Lisa:

    I also highly recommend simultaneously listening and reading. I do it myself when I listen to archived shows on Echo of Moscow radio while reading the transcripts. That’s particularly fun because I find a surprising number of mistakes in the transcripts!

    Thanks for the tip on the Shalamov stories.

  3. Jen:

    Brilliant Josefina! Thanks, I had never thought of that. I tried to read some Pushkin aloud on my first trip to Russia…I’m pretty sure that the driver was laughing at me the whole time. )))

  4. JohnnyGulag:

    That is precisely why I have wanted to go to my beloved in Volgograd to learn the language, not to mention having the pleasure of being next to her!

    Continued thanks!

  5. Plastera:

    Once in my life, I had journey through Russia… It was a wonderful trip….Drove through the Ural Mountain….

    Sorry I’ll back to you…

  6. Serge:

    Why is it that Internet did not exist 25 years ago? Your site is a pure delicacy and should be spread among all schools (for Russian learners)! a lovely way to learn in a professional yet friendly and interactive way!

    It is such a pity that my knowledge of Russian is so basic now due to complete lack of using it…..but at least I have fun seeing the (very well explained) grammatical explanations, and the whole site in general!