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You are learning to speak Russian and that is great! The challenges are many but the “juice will be worth the squeeze.” One question that some people are particularly curious about is this: where will I get a chance to speak it once I am comfortable doing so? Would you spend years of your life learning to sew fancy clothing without giving thought to when and where you’d wear the fruits of your labor? Not likely. Many people think that you really only speak Russian if you are in Russia – this may have been true at one point in time. Today there are many other places, outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union, some of them are likely close enough for you to take advantage of.
Due to the vast size of the Soviet Union’s military machine, some people in these countries speak Russian: Poland, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and others in that region. Likely, since you are reading a blog written in English, you don’t live in any of these countries. You might be surprised to know that there are nearly a quarter of a million Russian-speaking people living in and around London, England, according to www.orthodoxeurope.org. This site also mentions that there are an estimated 8 million Russians living in Western Europe. When the Soviet Union collapsed on December 26, 1991, the floodgates were opened and so many people did what they could not have easily done prior: escape!
If you live in America, you may know that before Alaska was purchased by the United States of America in 1867, it belonged to Russia. Many Russians stayed behind.
Perhaps a bit closer to home, Brighton Beach, New York, has a huge Russian population and is quite well known for this. I discovered a nice link here that will give you a list of the top cities in the U.S. with the highest percentage of citizens born in Russia.
It is also worth repeating that Russian-speaking people can be found all over the world these days. Once I came to America, it was not too difficult to find people from Russia – it is much easier now with the internet. I have lived in three states and have had no trouble finding Russian-speaking people in each location – I really didn’t even have to look for them. You can try locating the nearest Russian/Eastern European grocery store; most likely some or all workers there will be Russian natives. Buy some authentic groceries and get some Russian practice in the process. Make sure to pick up a Russian newspaper, they are usually free; in some cases you can even get a free subscription. The papers are nice to have because they usually list Russian events that are coming up in your area. Another place you can try visiting is a Russian restaurant, there are two in South-Eastern Michigan, where I live.
Should you not live near any of the aforementioned places, try visiting local universities and see if they have a Russian language or Slavic department. Sometimes there are interest groups that you can join for free. They might offer weekly/monthly gatherings or events like tea parties.
If nothing else seems to work, try Facebook. There are many Russian groups there that are location specific. For example, look for “Russian Michigan.”
You ought to be proud of yourself for spending the time to learn a new language and the best way to reward your efforts, while at the same time improving your skills, is to speak it!