How long does it take to learn Russian? There's no one answer that you can apply to everyone. We all take a different path to learn language.
So it’s better to ask. How long will it take you to learn Russian?
This is something we talk about with a lot more clarity. Of course, your timeline for mastering the Russian language will depend on a lot of different things.
- What’s your starting point? Do you know other languages like Russian?
- What’s your reason for learning Russian?
- What do you want to do in Russian?
- How much time do you plan to spend on learning Russian?
So, let’s look at each of these points so you can figure out how long learning Russian will take for you.
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What’s Your Starting Point?
- …do you already know?
- …have you been exposed to?
- …do you have a passing familiarity with?
Answering these will help you better pinpoint how long learning Russian will take for you.
If you have any experience with another Slavic language, then it will be very helpful indeed. If you know any of these, then the basics of Russian grammar and the core vocabulary will feel very familiar. Not your case? No worries!
Knowing a European language like Italian, Greek, French, or Portuguese is also useful for learning Russian. Like most European languages, Russian is part of the Indo-European language family.
This means that if you’ve taken any Spanish or German, then you already understand one of the fundamentals of Russian grammar like Russian verb conjugation.
As a result it’s much easier to learn the basics of Russian than a language like Japanese, Arabic, or Chinese.
The Russian language has borrowed a huge number of words from languages like Greek, Latin, French, German, Dutch, and English. This means that knowing any of these languages will give you a big boost for learning different words.
And by knowing English, you’ll already be familiar with thousands of Russian words.
Assessing Your Goals: Why Are You Learning Russian?
One of the most important factors for learning any language is knowing what you want to do with it.
So you have to ask yourself:
- What do you want to be able to do with Russian?
- What are your goals with the language?
You might speak English fluently but be totally lost if you listen to a group of architects discussing their work. The vocabulary that we need to talk about daily activities, business ideas, and philosophy are all very different.
Unfortunately, we will never be able to learn all the words. So you have to determine what your specific goals are.
- Do you want to…
- …be conversational?
- …watch Russian movies without subtitles?
- …be able to work in a Russian speaking place?
The more specific topics you want to discuss, the longer the language-learning process takes. If you want to learn Russian to talk with your partner’s family, then your timeline is very different from someone who wants to discuss classical Russian literature.
In either case, the sooner you force yourself to talk, the faster you'll learn the language! No matter what your goals are, you’ll only get there by talking in your target language.
Never forget – mistakes mean progress!
How Do You Learn Languages?
This is going to be the most common sense part of this article, but it’s really worth repeating that the time it takes you to learn Russian is directly related to the time you put into it.
Compared to other languages in the world, the time it takes to learn Russian sits somewhere in the middle. It will definitely take more time to get a handle of than other European languages like Dutch, French, and Spanish.
On the other hand, it will take a lot less time than a language with a totally different structure like Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese.
When it comes down to it, how you study and use your time makes all the difference in learning any new skill. Studying for two straight hours once a week will bring you less benefit than studying for twenty minutes a day.
Learning another language is a marathon, not a sprint.
A lot of people want to learn a language as quickly as possible, but it just doesn’t work that way. There’s a huge difference between learning vocabulary and memorizing it.
Really learning Russian in a way that sticks in your brain means not just taking in new vocabulary, grammar, and expressions, but also reviewing it…..and then reviewing it again.
This doesn’t mean that you have to dedicate an hour every day to learn Russian. Instead, you have to consider how you’re going to continue to interact with the language and take more in.
So….How Long Does It Take To Learn Russian?
So let’s talk about how long it takes to learn Russian.
As I stated, how long it takes is up to you, but there are some goal posts you can look at.
- Learning the Cyrillic Alphabet – You should be able to get the basics within a week and feel comfortable shortly after.
- Getting to a Basic Conversational Level – This will take a while longer and will take a few months at least.
- Getting to the Intermediate Level – After you reach a basic conversational level in Russian, your progress will change.
At the beginner level, you take in a lot, but here you won’t learn as much as quickly. Instead, this is where you refine grammar until it becomes a reflex and add to your vocab to speak with more and more nuance. This will take a few more months at least.
But when do I know Russian?
When it comes to language learning, there is no ‘ah-hah moment.’ No light bulb turns on. Instead, you walk away from a conversation and feel comfortable with everything you said and heard.
Learning Any Language Takes A Lifetime
Have you recently read a book or watched a movie in your native language and heard a word or expression that you’re not familiar with? This happens all the time.
No matter what level you are in a language, there will always be more to learn.
That means picking up more specialized vocabulary, getting familiar with regional expressions, and learning more idioms.
While that may seem daunting at first, don’t be discouraged! Just try to learn a bit every day and you’ll be speaking Russian with ease before you even realize it.