How to attain native fluency in Russian

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Antigravitas
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How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby Antigravitas » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:12 pm

I'm willing to spend decades on this, but I have no way of going about it. I've been experimenting with various language-learning methods for about 4 years, and still have barely made progress in terms of fluency, the progress is mostly in the form of knowing 'about' the language but it hasn't converted into any form of fluency. I'm also having difficulty since certain words in Russian, despite having analogical counterparts in English, are used differently somewhat, and I can't figure out when to use those words in a way that would make me sound native (it seems it's not enough to know the English translation of most Russian words). Fortunately, I'm just beginning to get used to the mobile stress accent, but am far from perfect (I still have to look its placement on wiktionary on some words). My main difficulty is having to figure out when to use set phrases and words in a way that would not reveal me too much as a foreigner, and also the tone used and 'pitch' to make the sentences sound more authentic.

My dream is to be able to output colloquialisms, idiomatic expressions, and witty remarks in Russian in the same way as I'm able to do in English and Tagalog, but this seems like an impossible task, since it's impossible to just absorb cultural Russian-ness from textbooks or movies, or maybe I"m missing or lacking something (maybe i'm culture-deaf or something). Does it just come about naturally after years or decades of immersion in textbooks or movies, etc. or is it something you need to actively strive towards. Any tips or general advice that u guys cud offer that might help me quench this fire of doubt so that i can keep machete-ing forward thru the dense jungle, that is Russian?
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby s_allard » Tue Jan 26, 2021 2:23 pm

Since I am working diligently on Russian myself, I'll have a quick go at this question. First of all, whoa!, you're not going to attain native fluency in Russian any time soon and probably not in the foreseeable future if the goal is to speak Russian like a Russian. This is not to discourage you but unless you have lived in Russia at an early age, you will not sound like a native speaker. I know that some other participants in this forum will dispute this statement but I have never seen any proof to the contrary.

That said, in terms of tips or recommendations, there is no magic solution. There are lots of books, methods and endless websites available. The big step I intend to take once we get out of this pandemic is a stay at a language school in Russia. Maybe that should be on your bucket list.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby Agorima » Thu Jan 28, 2021 4:39 pm

Unless you were in Russia at the age of 3-4-5, it's unlikely you will ever attain native fluency in Russian.
The best way to progress in learning is to live in the country for several years as a student, or as a worker.
And after lots and lots of trials and errors, you will eventually learn from your mistakes, and reach some degree of fluency.
It would take 1 year for B1, 3 years for C1 and at least 5-6 years for C2.
I am telling this not to discourage you at all, but the Slavic languages are hard to learn for non-Slavic speakers.
I cannot vouch for Tagalog, but the English grammar is very simple compared to Russian.

The only suggestions I can provide for now are 2:
1. Stick to 1 or 2 language learning methods which work best for you;
2. Don't be obsessed with perfection in speaking, it's the worst way to learn and the easiest way to burn you out mentally.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby AroAro » Fri Jan 29, 2021 9:40 am

Maybe that can help you somehow. She started learning Russian at the age of 56 and is now a literature translator. Of course literature translators do not always attain native fluency but for sure they know a thing or two about the process:

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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby jackb » Fri Jan 29, 2021 1:33 pm

Unless you were in Russia at the age of 3-4-5, it's unlikely you will ever attain native fluency in Russian.


I agree and disagree.

In respect to sounding like a native in terms of accent, I think it is possible, but I have know idea of the likelihood of doing it. I work where more than half of my coworkers are not native English speakers. Some are distinguishable by their accents and some aren't. At some point though, they are all distinguishable as non-natives.

It's usually in a social conversation where a cultural references comes up. There are certain things people of a certain age are supposed to relate to or know. Not knowing or relating to these things put you on the outside. Our discussions, references and jokes come from our shared experiences which is also reflected in our language. If you have no/little shared experience, you'll know all of the words and maybe the subject matter, but you still won't 'get it'. It's similar to spending time with people that are 30 years old/younger than you.

All of this is not to say the it can't be done. How would I know if they had truly achieved cultural fluency? I think you should go for it and create a log to track your thoughts.

Good luck!
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Le Baron
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jan 29, 2021 4:22 pm

I don't believe many (if any overall) non-native speakers ever attain total native 'fluency' in any language. There are bilinguals who grew up with two household languages (with varying usage) who do well, but even here there are gaps caused by one language actually being or becoming dominant. You can't live in e.g. France, with Hungarian parents, and imagine you speak Hungarian like the people walking about in Hungary all day speaking Hungarian as the main means of communication; going to school in Hungarian; having relationships in Hungarian; thinking all the time in Hungarian. It's unrealistic. There are so many deep nuances built up over a lifetime - aided by being given that head-start in the language as a native.

I'm sure many of these can be absorbed when you live with them for a long period, but part of your journey as a foreign learner is taken up with a form of learning the language that simply isn't the same for the native speaker making the same cultural journey. They're accruing cultural information via a medium they have already pretty much mastered in essence. The learner is doing both at once, alongside a differing cultural reality and the language structure of their native tongue taking precedence deep in their brains. It takes some dedication to solidly pursue the acquisition of these linguistic/cultural nuances over several decades with the same zeal.

I've met people who seem very fluent to me after a relatively short time in a country. I think that aside from the few with a genuine facility for this there is an explanation for it. Some people are just great mimics and willing to take on another persona. It's a personality type, like my uncle who emigrated to Canada aged 26 and within two short years had a Canadian accent. His wife still doesn't. Some people are more willing or want to fit in. Also there is a fair sense of the Dunning-Kruger effect (not in a negative sense!) where a person doesn't know what they don't know. So here in the Netherlands I meet people with great English who make fairly boastful claims of having 'native fluency'. I'm more personable in real-life, so only in my head do I say: 'No... you don't have native-like fluency. You're a very good foreign speaker, but I can detect errors you can't in both speech and writing'. I'm certain this happens to all speakers of a foreign language where tact and unnecessary pettiness about small errors are rightly left unspoken and instead people (quite rightly) compliment you on your achievements.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby lemme_try » Fri Jan 29, 2021 7:03 pm

I saw your post few days ago, and wanted to share my experience on the topic. Just for the context. I am bilingual, which includes Russian.

Russian language is one of those languages, reaching fluency requires a lot of hard work and prolonged constant immersion.

The most foreigners I've met never reach fluency, even the relatively fluent ones tend to have thick accents. They have trouble understanding colloquial language and idiomatic expressions altogether.

The most of the people from Caucasus region of Russian, and post-Soviet countries have thick accents and their Russian is limited to oral skills, and younger generation have trouble speaking Russian altogether. Even during the Soviet times, these regions had similar problem to a lesser extent, even though the de-facto language was Russian. It was more pronounced in the rural regions. Why did it happen?! Simple, lack of interaction in Russian, the rural population tend to use their own native languages, and interaction in Russian was limited.

It is not all bleak. I know a French girl who has high level of fluency in Russian, met a native English language speakers who have relatively hight level fluency. The French girl's father learned Russian as a hobby, and the girl had interest in Russian language from early age. But she picked it up only during her studies in university. Went for an exchange to Russia, then stayed there for a master's degree. Ended up working there. She wrote her thesis in Russian, she used Russian everyday, and lived like a Russian, hanging out with the Russians.

I met an American guy who did a course in California, in language learning institute( can't seem to recall the name). He was pretty fluent, but had some issues. Met bunch of missionaries randomly, who spoke impeccable Russian, met some who spoke fluent Mandarin. Got no idea how they learn it, but they are doing something right.

Anyways, as far as autodidacts go, I've never met anybody who spoke decent Russian. For us, the language learners, it is much easier to understand foreigners when they speak a broken language. But for an average Russian would have trouble making out the words when a foreigner has a strong accent.

I understand, a lot of people don't have the resources to go abroad, or even to take classes. We got our commitments and responsibilities. But it is possible to create an environment which simulates it, at least to a degree.

I am not going to tell you anything new, but I feel with Russian, the immersion is the key. Speaking it and using it is very important. But that's difficult to do right away. So, drilling certain grammatical constructions, drilling certain sentences and phrases is imperative. People don't want to do this, but working through grammar is very important in Russian. People are against rotary memorisation, but yeah, sometimes that helps great deal in Russian. Shadowing does wonders. Just trying to watch something, or read something hoping to pick up a word or two is not efficient way of learning at all.

You might never have the native level fluency, but if you stick to it, keep working through, patiently and arduously, you can get to the level where you can pretty much read anything, you can watch and listen stuff, make yourself fully understood and understand the other person. Those are realistic goals.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby lemme_try » Fri Jan 29, 2021 7:23 pm

Le Baron wrote:I don't believe many (if any overall) non-native speakers ever attain total native 'fluency' in any language. There are bilinguals who grew up with two household languages (with varying usage) who do well, but even here there are gaps caused by one language actually being or becoming dominant. You can't live in e.g. France, with Hungarian parents, and imagine you speak Hungarian like the people walking about in Hungary all day speaking Hungarian as the main means of communication; going to school in Hungarian; having relationships in Hungarian; thinking all the time in Hungarian. It's unrealistic. There are so many deep nuances built up over a lifetime - aided by being given that head-start in the language as a native.


Lol. I agree with your sentiment to a degree, but you are generalising too much. Perhaps based on your experience?! It all depends on the families, and on the receptiveness of the person. Interactions happen with people outside of family as well. Then there is media consumption. If the environment is truly bilingual, it is difficult to have a large gap between the languages.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jan 29, 2021 9:06 pm

Real instances of the gap being small, even for bilinguals, is itself so small that there's even a special phrase: 'true bilinguals'. There are indeed variations in usage for different families, but one language generally always dominates.
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Re: How to attain native fluency in Russian

Postby leosmith » Sat Jan 30, 2021 3:09 am

Antigravitas wrote:I've been experimenting with various language-learning methods for about 4 years, and still have barely made progress in terms of fluency, the progress is mostly in the form of knowing 'about' the language but it hasn't converted into any form of fluency.

Pinoy ka ba? Although you have studied for 4 years, is it possible that you didn't study so many hours? If you were doing 2-3 hours/day, which is a sweet spot for me, you would most likely be B2 headed for C1 imo. On the other hand, 2-3 hours/week might get you between A2 and B1.

I think what you want to do could require up to 2-3 hours/day for 10 years. Even then, you would probably be busted by native speakers for word selection or idiom usage on occasion.

I could suggest methods, but you've told us nothing about what you have done up to this point, and if the issue is lack of hours, no amount of method advice is going to fix it. Either way, good luck!
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