Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

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aaleks
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby aaleks » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:35 am

The main problem was wrapping my head around that weird way of thinking. Latin has the same logic as German and the Romance languages. That makes it a lot easier.

I guess Russian just isn't about logic :D .
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I just want to say that actually I've never gotten that logic myself even though I'm native Russian speaker. I remember as back in school I couldn't understand most of rules we were taught. The more I tried the more (spelling/orthographic/punctuation) mistakes I did. As a result I gave up I started more rely on my feeling then on the rules. But it's my native language of course.
p.s. Sorry for mistakes :( , I didn't have a time to check this post
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby Xmmm » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:49 pm

blaurebell wrote:
Xmmm wrote:For all we complain about Russian, I guess Greek is just as hard.


I actually wanted to take Ancient Greek at university too and enrolled in Ancient Cultures as a minor to go with my philosophy major. Basically it was all Latin and Greek culture, philosophy and literature with obligatory Latin course and optional Greek course. It's a good fit for philosophy and I was really interested, but it seemed to be taught by a bunch of people who should have aimed at becoming school teachers rather than university lecturers. Not sure whether it was all the Latin + Greek grammar messing with them, but they not only had idiotic rules just like in school, but also "punishments" for breaking them, like extra homework or nonsense like that. On top of it they set the most useless waste of time hamster wheel homework in general. Like copying things out from a book :roll: In the end I switched my minor before ever reaching the Greek course. I always hated all the silly made up rules and hamster wheel activities of school, so I simply suffered too much on that course. Writing out verb conjugations and noun declension for a language one doesn't have to produce seems like a similar hamster wheel approach :?


At my university, people getting a Ph.D. in the classics were expected to be able to write Ancient Greek as easily as they could write German or French or whatever other foreign language they learned. And people who signed up for Intro to Ancient Greek were assumed to be Ph.Ds in training. We certainly had to do (short) English->Greek translations on tests (which is why I got the B+, and the Greek girl got the C+. She could read and understand pretty well but couldn't produce at all, just substituted modernisms).

Which might be an old school way of doing things, but makes sense. If Ph.Ds in the classics only have to be able to read Greek, then over time information is lost and in a couple hundred years people are just bs'ing each other and sneaking peeks at old English translations when they don't understand something ...
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby blaurebell » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:00 pm

smallwhite wrote:You seem to find Russian much, much harder than everyone else on the internet and on this forum


You're kidding, right? Most people who try to learn Russian give up! The small number of Russian learners on the forum should probably already be an indication of how difficult Russian is! People dabble and unless they have some particular personal reason or interest they give up, because it's just such a beast of a language. Most Russian learners on the forum are intermediate - advanced learners who have lived in Russia for a year at least and need it for work or university. They obviously don't complain right now, because they did all their complaining already some a while back! There are always a few who dabble and maybe continue, maybe give up, but among the recent beginners Fortheo just posted a rant in the Russian Study group about how frustrating Russian is and how there seems to be no progress! This is the experience of most Russian learners. In fact, even those who stick with courses over years often get stuck or never develop any level of comprehension. There were whole generations of East Germans who studied Russian for 7 or 8 years at school without getting beyond "My name is ... I'm x years old ...". In fact, of a whole generation of East Germans learning Russian in school I only know a single person who managed to learn Russian: My dad. He actually learned it not from the classes but from Russian Sci Fi books with the exact same method I'm using now. The only difference is that the poor man had to use a paper dictionary! And boy did he go :shock: when he actually arrived in a Russian speaking country after 10+ years of classes (7 in school, several years of university classes) and realised that he didn't understand a single word of what people were saying! Apparently, Russian women all speak at lightning speed - like my mum - and Russian men seem to have a whole arsenal of shoes in their mouth - his words, not mine! 10+ years and no listening comprehension! And he actually speaks quite nicely according to my mum, although apparently he never understood verb aspect despite learning Russian for 10 years in grammar heavy courses and speaking it for more than 10 years at home. He will get it right for frequent verbs, but for infrequent ones he might make mistakes apparently. Verb aspect, that's how Russians catch spies, my Dad says!

So, no, it's certainly not my method. Any other method would also be counter-productive for reading comprehension altogether. It's basically the only method to even get to any kind of reading comprehension without a dictionary before you're old and grey and have lived in the country for a while. Well, apart from maybe learning the most frequent 10-15,000 words with Anki brute force, which would probably be your choice.

As for the rest of the internet: Most of what you read on Google comes from folks selling some kind of language learning snake oil and they obviously want you to buy their stuff instead of giving up before starting in the first place. I'm not finding it harder than these people, I simply don't lie about it! Articles like "Russian is not as difficult as you think" usually come from people who already spent several years on it and lived in a Russian speaking country for a while. Sure, in 5 years I'll probably find it hilariously easy too! If you look beyond the folks selling their snake oil and actually find some serious websites they usually start with "Learning Russian takes time" and they are sprinkled with "Try to be patient" or "Don't get discouraged" and "This is actually much less confusing than it looks in the beginning". Well no, it actually remains just as confusing and illogical, it's just that after a while your brain adjusts to all the weirdness and it will simply seem easier.

So Russian is hard, and I simply admit it. I'm not particularly thick or inept with languages. I even got degrees to prove it and learned French in 3 months. And it's still hard for me! I even have a significant advantage having grown up with it. It doesn't really help me beyond the sound system though - I only remembered stuff like "apple", "cow", "dog", "milk" or "bicycle" maybe. These are surprisingly infrequent words in regular conversation when you're not a 5 year old anymore!

Trust me, for most people out there, Russian is a beast. Although quite possibly to you the difference between Greek and Russian might seem negligible coming from an entirely different language altogether. I would suggest you try it out and see how you get along with it. Maybe it's easier for you than for the rest of us? I'd actually be really interested in the outcome of that experiment!

smallwhite wrote:, and you're just at reading.


Actually, reading is usually tackled last in Russian, because it's the hardest skill. It needs the most vocabulary, the sentences are much longer than what you encounter in spoken language, the word order is also much wilder and there are difficult constructs that appear much more frequently in written language. Also, there is a danger that reading might kill your pronunciation because stress can't be predicted from how a word is written. I'm not "just" at reading. What I'm doing is actually immensely successful and I'm already at reading, something that most learners only tackle after having reached B2 production. Reading is only an easy skill in languages with lots of cognates.

smallwhite wrote:Could it be your method? Or the books?


The books ... well, I have to admit that Russians don't complain about the quality of the translation which is a sign that it actually has quite a number of thoroughly Russian characteristics. Maybe a little harder than a bad translation of a children's book, which I wouldn't even want to read. And for me this pretty much IS a children's book: I read the whole series in German when I was 8! It certainly isn't War and Peace or some such high brow stuff, pretty regular genre fiction. I'm not sure I can go any lower than that with material for natives. Native children's books are definitely more difficult than this one, because they are less close to the English sentence logic.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby neofight78 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:18 pm

blaurebell wrote:
smallwhite wrote:You seem to find Russian much, much harder than everyone else on the internet and on this forum


...They obviously don't complain right now, because they did all their complaining already some a while back!


Err... no we do :? In fact I've now got about 4.5 years of complaining under my belt. :lol: Although your method is not for me, it's obvious you are making some good progress. I don't see that you are struggling any more or any less than anyone else.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby Fortheo » Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:22 pm

I can concur that Russian is indeed very frustrating. I also agree that the majority of Russian learners on this site seem to be at least low intermediate and thus slightly more accustomed to the difficulties of Russian, and despite that I still see Arnaud and neofight and others having some frustration from time to time, too. I can only think of two people on this forum who started Russian this year as complete beginners and both of us are struggling (granted it's not my main focus right now).

From my perspective, Lilly (is it okay to call you Lilly?) Is doing very well with her approach to Russian.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby smallwhite » Tue Jul 18, 2017 6:39 pm

I didn't say you were struggling! I said "You seem to find Russian much, much harder than everyone else..." As in you talk like Russian should've been Cat VIII** instead of Cat IV. I know you're making progress; I've seen the stats. (So, bonus points for finding it harder yet still making progress like others do). So your books are rather hard. Bingo, then. But that's all you want to read and you're having fun so it doesn't matter to you if the process is hard or not. It only matters to me because I'm considering Russian.

I learned Russian for 138h several years ago and Greek for 190h this year. You're right, I do find them similar; German as well. By the rest of the internet I didn't mean ads for snake oil, but discussions on whether Russian or Greek was harder, with similar votes both sides. And by you're just at reading I meant you're just at the 1st stage of your Russian journey as you said you do reading first and listening and speaking later.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby neofight78 » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:52 am

smallwhite wrote:I didn't say you were struggling! I said "You seem to find Russian much, much harder than everyone else..."


I don't see a meaningful distinction between the two here. In any case I don't agree with the observation.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby blaurebell » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:45 am

smallwhite wrote:I didn't say you were struggling! I said "You seem to find Russian much, much harder than everyone else..." As in you talk like Russian should've been Cat VIII** instead of Cat IV.


No, as Fortheo and neofight pointed out I'm not the only one who finds it hard, and to them it doesn't seem that I find it harder than they do! All Russian learners coming from Cat I or II languages find it hard, it's as simple as that. And that applies to all Cat IV languages. That's why they are Cat IV! To me Cat I languages were always relatively easy and I had lots of fun learning them. Cat IV is a whole other game entirely and it's more of a masochistic kind of fun to be learning one of them.

Just because these languages seem similar to you coming from a completely different language, doesn't mean that they actually are all that close. Russian and German might seem close to you from your perspective, but when you look at them in detail you suddenly realise that they only have 4 things in common: verb prefixes, 4 of the 6 cases and 3 genders that are actually much more predictable in Russian than in German and present tense. Everything else is pretty much completely different and German makes a lot less distinctions. Verbs of motion, verb aspect and one of the additional cases seem like a completely unnecessary complication to me. I mean, seriously, with verbs of motion you are not only likely to pick the wrong one, but also get the verb aspect wrong at the same time. That's a lot of variables to keep in mind for a single word. Add to that the cases + animate vs inanimate and your chances of getting through a sentences without mistakes is incredibly slim. Sure, with lots of drilling one gets used to the cases and verbs of motion, but frankly verb aspect seems to be some kind of arcane magic with no logic whatsoever.

And German is equally non-sensical to Russians. The word order, articles and gender make no sense whatsoever to them - gender in German simply has no logic. And the more infrequently used tenses also give Russians problems, I think some of them might not even exist in Russian. In any case, now that I know more about the structure of Russian I can actually pinpoint where most of my mum's mistakes in German come from. German is just as difficult for her as Russian is for me. And she actually never got past B2 production in German in 35 years and failed miserably at learning English, although she's had plenty of good reasons for learning it. I actually have to translate between my husband and her because my husband failed to learn German and my mum failed to learn English. My husband speaks and understands a few Cat I languages, my mum only Cat IV and II languages. Between them they understand 7 languages and share not a single common one. That Cat I to IV gap is difficult to bridge.

smallwhite wrote:And by you're just at reading I meant you're just at the 1st stage of your Russian journey as you said you do reading first and listening and speaking later.


Frankly, the initial period is always the most difficult period for me. I know most people find it the most enjoyable period because it's all new and fresh, but for me it's the time where things seem most uncomfortable, make no sense, are very repetitive or give me headaches. It's very hard to have fun with a language if you don't understand it without strain yet. Once I break through the comprehension barrier for me it's just a whole lot of fun with native content, reading good books, watching TV and movies + writing and speaking. Maybe I could do without all the grammar drilling necessary for the B2+ push, but I still get a sort of perfectionist kick out of it. It isn't actually straining for the most part. And I actually get incredibly impatient if I can't just push past that repetitive, boring, headache inducing period in the first few months. With most Cat I languages I doubt I'd need more than 3 or 4 months to get to B2 comprehension and usually it's not even a strain anymore after 2 months already. With Russian I have been stuck in semi torture time for far too long already. It's been almost 7 months of daily strain and headaches! I should be past this, but since my health can't take more than 1-2h of daily strain, I feel like I'm progressing far too slowly. But well ... Russian. I suppose another 400h and I'll be complaining less :roll:
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby smallwhite » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:26 am

blaurebell wrote:Frankly, the initial period is always the most difficult period for me. I know most people find it the most enjoyable period because it's all new and fresh, but for me it's the time where things seem most uncomfortable...

Yes, you find your current stage more difficult than others do, and I noticed.
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Re: Lilly's log - French, Russian, Spanish and Italian

Postby blaurebell » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:27 pm

smallwhite wrote:So you do find your current stage more difficult than others do and I did notice.


Actually no, I mean it in the exact opposite way! Experienced learners get through that initial drudgery and strain during the honeymoon period with their new language. When they start to feel less enthusiastic they have already gone through the hard part and breeze along just fine, at least with Cat I languages. The difference for me is that I don't have a "honeymoon phase" for any language. I get through that initial period on discipline alone. I have my honeymoon as soon as I understand and can read and watch all sorts of interesting stuff. In a sense I'm a pragmatic learner, I learn languages not because it's particularly fun for me to figure out their structure or to experience that feeling when things start to make sense. That might be mildly entertaining, but certainly not enough to keep me going. I learn them because I want to do stuff with them, speak to certain people, read certain books, watch certain movies, travel the country, do a photography project, that sort of thing. Languages only become fun for me when I can understand them already. I'd never be the kind of person who gets wanderlust for 20 languages and then abandons every one of them after the initial enthusiasm wears off. I can see why some people like that, but it definitely isn't for me. That's doing only the bit that I don't particularly enjoy! Best sign that you yourself ride the wave of your enthusiasm is that you've only done 138h of Russian and moved on to some other language. As I said, people dabble, but it needs real grit and good reasons to get anywhere with it. I doubt "It has more speakers than Greek" is a good enough reason.

Now, is Russian more difficult for me because I don't have a honeymoon phase? Nope, I don't think so. I don't think anybody can find things new and fresh for 6 months or more. With Russian that initial drudgery takes a lot longer than most people find acceptable and longer than most people can stay motivated on enthusiasm alone. So, for Russian the honeymoon phase can't possibly get you over that initial part where things are hard, even if you're incredibly enthusiastic and motivated. Russian always needs discipline and a lot of it. If anything Russian is easier for me than for other people, because I don't have the end of the honeymoon period throwing it all into question. It starts hard and becomes easier with time. The longer I keep going the more fun I have with it, not the other way round. And I'm quite likely more disciplined than most people too, which is in part my personality, in part my illness. Resisting cake on a daily basis is much harder than sticking with Russian. So, no, you're not picking up on anything there. I'm complaining about Russian right now, because I've already spent more than half a year with it on my second attempt and haven't yet broken through the comprehension barrier. 9 months and I still understand way more Italian without ever having learned it beyond A2. It's annoying, it's frustrating, I want it to end and finally watch some good movies instead of spending my time with endless dictionary lookups for several hours a day. I can't though because I don't understand those yet :cry: I'd be having fun if those dictionary lookups were to include only 10-15 words per page like I was with French after like 300 pages. However, after 500 pages I'm still at 30-50 words, with the occasional page of 60+ :? Other people would be frustrated with yet more grammar and yet more anki. There is no way around the drudgery with Russian.

What's so special about complaining after months of drudgery? Fortheo complained a few days ago about hardly any progress after 8 months and Xmmm just complained about being disappointed with only reaching B1+ comprehension after 2 years and having been stuck there for an entire year. Neofight replied that he passed B1 after 2.5 years, so Xmmm is actually right on track. And Neofight says he's been complaining for 4.5 years already, which suggests that it doesn't get much easier with time :? So, really, I don't know why you see my complaining as being any different from anyone else's complaining. We all use different methods - I mainly read, Xmmm watches a lot of stuff and reads transcripts, Fortheo does mainly grammar right now. And we're all complaining. Must be because Russian is hard.

And well, part of it is probably also a bit of the Russian mentality that's rubbing off: Endless complaining is very Russian indeed. My mum is a first class complainer and I frequently throw in sentences like "And now we talk about something nice instead"! I think learning Japanese doesn't really invite as much complaining although it's more difficult. When you get frustrated with learning Kanji you can just watch some anime with some wild story line and inappropriate humour after some sub2srs or watch some extremely funny Japanese motivational videos that don't really have to make much sense. You can also reread one of your favourite mangas in parallel text with the translation. It's all part of the game. Try the same with Russian and in most cases you won't find any subtitles for the movies, neither Russian nor any other language and for some reason even the comedies are so dark that they are actually depressing. I watched one recently and they were mainly shouting at each other for 2 hours. Also, none of the really interesting content apart from extremely hairy classical literature is even translated into other non-slavic languages, so forget about parallel content. So, what do you do? You just complain a little more and do some more grammar / anki / intensive reading / other kind of torture so that maybe one day you might have some actual fun with the language.

But then, I will stop complaining for now, and better get on with some stuff or the drudgery will never end.
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