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Hunter-Gathering in Russian, French, and German u.a...

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:36 pm
by Ingaræð
[Old log here]

Having dabbled in Russian over the last few years without getting very far, and with time ever-ticking away, I've decided that I need to pull myself together and get certified. I'm also eagerly impatient, so I've had the crazy idea of sitting the TRKI in July rather than waiting until next year.

I have 20 weeks left and can spend most of my time studying (I'll try for a minimum of 4 hours per day). I'm currently aiming for the Basic (A2), but after 10 weeks I'll evaluate and see if maybe I can scrape a 1st Certificate (B1). I think I'd rather ace the former than fail the latter. I'm aiming for the 2nd Certificate (B2) next year.

Also, I have two hurdles to get over that are much bigger than learning Russian: actually getting to London for the exam; and I am a chronic procrastinator (if it was an Olympic sport, I'd be a medal-contender). Hopefully my bullet journal and copy of 'The Now Habit' will help me get there this time!

I have a bit of a headstart: I can read and write Cyrillic; my pronunciation and listening skills are pretty good for my level; and I previously did about 49 lessons of Assimil's Russian without Toil and 27 of Russian.

Study Resources

I have all the generations of Assimil, and will start with Russian intensively and continuing work on pronunciation (I'm determined to get those Rs!). The rest of my resources include Modern Russian, the New Penguin Russian Course and the Pushkin Institute online courses (if I'm correct in thinking that they're free). I'll decide exactly what to use as I go along. I'll look at tutoring/language exchanges for speaking practice further down the line, when I've got a solid base. There doesn't seem to be much available in the way of past papers.

Fun/Native materials

Yay for Youtube! I can watch 'Мухтар. Новый след', Mosfilm classics, Final Fantasy playthroughs, and listen to 80s music for free. For reading I have Anna Karenina, the Дозоры series (and films) and some Darya Dontsova. I think I'll also get some Agatha Christie translations as I've the read the originals a lot over the years, so that will make L-R/LWT a lot easier. I'll prioritise studying to begin with though, and I'll save news-type stuff for when I'm at a higher level.

I think that's about all for now. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an awful lot about others' experiences of the TRKI on the English-language internet. I'll try and log my progress at least once a week. I'm also aware that the exams will probably be harder than those I've taken in the British education system. I just have to keep telling myself: don't panic, and take it one lesson at a time!

Re: A Procrastinator Acquires Russian or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Take the TRKI/ToRFL (07/2020)

Posted: Sun Feb 09, 2020 8:57 pm
by Ingaræð

Re: A Procrastinator Acquires Russian and French or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Studying

Posted: Sat Apr 11, 2020 5:27 pm
by Ingaræð
So, the TRKI plan is off for now courtesy of the Covid-19 lockdown. Silver lining: I can be relaxed about which languages I study, how I do it and when. I had a long break from active study while I was 'prepping' for the impending lockdown, but have picked things up again now. Current goal is getting receptive skills good enough to start using native content comfortably.


I've switched from Assimil Russian back to the older Russian without Toil. My impression is that RwT focuses on acquiring grammar and vocabulary by pointing out patterns for your brain to assimilate, whereas Russian provides (comparatively) lengthy descriptions of grammar rules/case endings and (as someone else described) the authors forgot the adage 'repetitio est studium'. My brain definitely prefers the RwT approach. Also, I question whether the book is really so 'outdated': the words that I can pick out from Putin's recent addresses are those I've learned from RWT, eg. достаточно. I will still use Russian for pronunciation work, echoing the audio.

My pronunciation continues to improve, down to two things I've found out which I think are key for native English speakers (maybe others too) but apparently rarely mentioned. Firstly, from
One more thing that should be mentioned is that Russian consonants are pronounced with less tension than in English. If you want to have a good Russian pronunciation, you should pay a special attention to this fact.

My brain had recently started to pick up on this when listening to Russian, but not enough to identify it properly yet (I just used to think that Russian women sounded super-feminine!). The second thing was on Русский Реддит (annoyingly, I didn't note the original link): a native was complaining that English speakers kept putting a 'y' in between palatalised consonants and vowels, and how terrible it sounded. (What?! That's what all the books are telling me to do!!!) But listening to the Russian audio again, я and е really do sound the same as а and э - the consonant is the only thing that's changing.

The Russian 'r': I found a partial translation of a video from a Russian speech therapist which is aimed at teenagers who want to learn the sound at home, and a follow-up video is here. Copying the exercises is easy to do even if you don't understand what she's saying.

I had a listen-through of the first lesson of Modern Russian. I think it would be enjoyable and a good learning method for me. I won't use it before I've at least finished with Assimil, unless I feel the need to drill certain grammatical patterns that aren't sticking.


I've decided to pick up French again as it's probably the language where I can get to comprehension of native materials the fastest. I planned on doing French without Toil and Using French before using some books/audiobooks in LWT and/or L-R. I got halfway through FwT (at speed), but found the dialogues kind of boring. I had a look at Using, and decided that I couldn't be bothered with that either. Dialang says I'm B1-B2, so I'm not sure how much I'd get out of it anyway (though I'll probably look at it again at some point, knowing me...!). I previously did a passive wave of New French with Ease, which I found pretty easy, and I think I'll use Assimil again in the future for pronunciation practice (echoing).

My current goal is enjoyable vocabulary acquisition. I've been reading Agatha Christie's novels since I was a kid, so I decided to do some L-R with Mort sur le Nil as there's an (apparently) unabridged audiobook available now. Unfortunately it's of a new translation and the corresponding ebook has DRM, which I'm assuming will prevent me from making a parallel text or putting it into LWT. Which is....annoying. So I'm now using an earlier translation in LWT, with Google Translate for audio as it's better than nothing. I have a pile of Christie books and some other novels with audiobooks to keep me going, and at some point I'll get stuck into news/geopolitical articles as well.

Current future language goals

Have at least two languages in 'active study'. Dabbling in others is ok, but just sounds' acquisition. Improve German to at least B2. I figure knowing the 6 UN languages will get me good coverage of what's going on in the world, so that means learning Arabic, Spanish, Mandarin (and probably in that order). Maybe pick up Welsh again, in case it's ever useful (or worst case scenario, the lockdown makes it hard to leave the UK in the future). Maybe some other Mediterranean/West Asian languages?

I guess languages are like Pokemon for me: gotta catch 'em all! :D

Re: Hunter-Gathering in Russian, French, and German u.a...

Posted: Wed May 27, 2020 1:19 am
by Ingaræð
New log title (again), inspired by Iversen:
And yes, there are language learners who expect to learn all their words from genuine speech and texts, but I see them as the hunter-gatherers amoung os. Those who use dictionaries and language learning tools like Anki in a systematic way are the farmers.

I'm not going to write 'properly' here anymore - transferring everything in my head into writing just takes far too long. So, a collection of organised 'notes' from now on. (Yet somehow an even longer post... :roll: )


- I've been wondering whether MBTI/Jungian functions correlate with learning styles (might post about this elsewhere). As an ISFP, I need to keep things fun. I also learn best and quickest by doing. How to adapt this to languages? Maximum sensory input: both hearing and seeing words, visual cues, context, self-talk... Content/instruction where I can assimilate patterns, not rules and tables. Anki with premade decks is fun, but I learn little from it.

- Procrastinating. I come up with a plan/learning idea for a language, am super-enthusiastic/-motivated with prep, but procrastinate when ready to start it. WHY??? Too big a task? Unachievable goal (seems like climbing Everest)? Fear of failure? Frustrating, because procrastination is a form of anxiety, and you can't cure it till you figure out the root cause. Ugh....

- Re-read a few posts in my old log. Turns out I often forget previously-reached conclusions and just keep going round in circles...


- LWT: 8/130 texts (~24 real pages) of Mort sur le Nil. Google audio is terrible for intonation, but 99% accurate for sounds I think. I use blaurebell's method for LWT - add definitions etc. for words I don't know, then check 'mark all as known' box. Tedious as, otherwise!

- Learned that pronunciation of 'plus' varies according to meaning and grammar.


- By chance watched Inspector Borowski - turns out it's actually rebranded Tatort! Have seen ~15 episodes, but during dinner so wasn't paying enough attention to the language for any real learning. I need subtitles for northern accents. Tatort.Tube has all episodes, and at least some with German subs.

- Der Tod auf dem Nil in LWT - 1/171 texts (~3 real pages) and O.M.G. it's slow-going compared to French... Takes ~3 times as long.

- Preposition and case recognition/comprehension is not good - I learnt via tables in formal education, so a lack of pattern recognition/assimilation with instinctive meaning. Trawling through GWT for examples - and have I finally got 'in den Park' = to the park?! (The 'noticing' thing from....Kaufman?) Currently find this easier in Russian, with cases indicated as noun endings.

- Should do LWT with Kommissar Rex subs and videos.


- Мухтар on Youtube has Russian subs, so with a Firefox add-on I'm downloading and putting them into LWT, and going through them along with the videos. Sentences seem short and simple, so 'easy' grammar with tons of vocab and visual context.

- German (cases) and French (pas de) grammar knowledge has previously helped with understanding Russian grammar concepts (couldn't 'get' negative taking genitive till I realised it was like in French, then it instantly clicked. Polandball also makes more sense now).


- Courtesy of Radioclare, I've been binge-watching Na granici, a comedy/crime/romance telenovela - perfect escapism for keeping sane in lockdown! Got to episode ~76, but missed about half of those as they're not all on Youtube etc. Nova TV does 7 days free subscription, so will sign up.

- Starting Assimil Croate, because if I end up watching 200+ eps of a show then I may as well learn to understand more than 10% of what's going on. Hopefully the extra Slavic will help with Russian rather than bork it... Polyglots in Lomb's Harmony of Babel confused SP/IT/PT, but not Slavic languages, so hopefully will be the same for me. My limited Russian is helping. Focussing on comprehension, not production at this point. (Croatian countryside looks like a nice place to live! Brits prob won't be allowed in anywhere for a while, though. Thanks, Boris...)


- Dabbling: watched Wyner's pronunciation videos on Youtube. Didn't expect a discount with the Welsh 'h' sound! Listened to old and new Assimil, although with insufficient concentration for graded listening. 'Incomprehensible' listening is good for hearing/picking up intonation/'music' of the language (prosody -> sounds -> meaning).


- Dabbling: listened to Assimil. Watched/listened to a 'learn Pinyin in 5 minutes' video for native children.


- I recurringly feel like I ought to take this back up, but don't really want to (partly because it's tantamount to admitting failure). Watched an unfunny comedy (Beryl, Sheryl a Meryl or something), which surprisingly did not inspire motivation.


- For low-frequency vocab, Googling a word will bring up whole articles etc. to learn from context?

- LWT installation instructions for Linux work! In Linux Mint 19, at least. Though I still got an error because I made a mistake during installation (and let's face it, it's not a true LWT install if it's not borked on the first attempt :D ). Also forgot I'd need to redo Night Mode css (available at ... /c6495abc/ - FYI it's not optimised for 'test mode').

- When learning a new verb, use it in a sentence with 1st person singular (and also imagine situation/context) and brain will learn it more easily.

- Read Assimil/LWT texts out loud for active knowledge of new/infrequent words?

- D'Abadie in Harmony of Babel, Kato Lomb

I heartily recommend learning half an hour before sleep. Sleeping is a subconscious state that draws from the experience directly preceding the dream. Recently acquired information becomes firmly rooted and consolidated.

Not terribly effective if you're already struggling to keep your eyes open, though.