I have been learning the Russian language since 2014, and I am nowhere near speaking it fluently. Being the optimist that I am, I look on the bright side of things and see the past two years as a trial and error effort to see what methods work best for me. Some of these methods might help you, and some of them might not. My hope is that at least one out of these five will be helpful to you in your own language learning journey.
Have the desire to learn your target language
I have been fascinated with the Russian language and its culture for a long time. After reading dozens of books and taking multiple classes on Russian history, it was only a matter of time before I started to learn the language. I think it is beautifully intricate and has a cadence that I have not heard anywhere else. It’s also a useful language to learn and isn’t going away any time soon.
My first experience learning a new language was in High School when I was required to take a foreign language course, and the class I chose was Spanish (it was either that or French). The biggest reason I can speak more Russian than I do Spanish, even though I was taught Spanish for two years in a classroom setting, is the fact that I had no other incentive to learn Spanish other than I had to. Whereas when it comes to Russian, I want to.
Don’t settle on one method
Investing in something like Rosetta Stone is a good idea, but don’t let it be the end all be all when it comes to learning your target language. I suggest using various learning tools: audio sets such as Rosetta Stone or Living Language, apps such as Memerise and Duolingo, and online resources – such as Youtube - can be helpful towards your progress.
Read children’s literature
I first thought that reading my favorite literature in Russian would be helpful, but it’s way more helpful to read a children’s book with simple vocabulary than it is to read something that translates the works of Stephen King or J.R.R. Tolkien. Children’s literature is a gateway towards learning new words and seeing how they are applied in every day life.
Think you don’t have enough time to learn a new language? Practice it during the times when you are occupied. Watch your favorite T.V. shows that are dubbed or subtitled in your target language when you are eating breakfast or lunch, or listen to music in your target language when you are driving and learn the words later. Immersing yourself in a language provides a way of learning that is unlike anything else. Personally, I love Russian Hip-Hop and Russian Jazz, so this method has been enjoyable for me.
Talk, talk, and talk some more
And don’t be afraid to look like a fool while you are doing it. The best experience I’ve received in these past two years is talking to as many people as I can in Russian, even if I make mistakes. Whether it’s to a stranger I meet at a coffee shop, Skyping with a friend I have met in my travels, or utilizing blog forums like fluentin3months and finding friends to practice with in exchange to teaching them your native language.