Russian as a foreign language

My specialization is English but the same approach can probably be applied to those who need to get oriented in Russian fast and with a minimal effort. Here is an English summary of my approach to the the teaching of languages.

THE PARETO PRINCIPLE RULES THE WORLD!  20% of the effort does 80% of the job. Key is to identify the important 20%.

NO GRAMMAR. Keep it simple. Short basic carefully constructed sentences need no grammar. No point concerning oneself with grammar when you barely know 500 words. When the time comes you will feel the need, grammar will fall of ready soil. A common mistake is to put the cart before the horse and attempt to learn grammar before there is any real use for it. Those who went through the local school system often know more English tenses then they do words.  Set your priorities right!

NO “PRONUNCIATIONS”. To be understood be clear and distinct. Tortured attempts at “correct” pronunciation make it harder both for you and those who have to hear your attempt at “Oxford English”.

FEWER WORDS TO LEARN. At times crude head-on memorization is unavoidable but why not use to your advantage extensive similarities and parallels between English and Russian? I bet every third English word resonated with something in Russian. Think of Russian and English as distant dialects of the same language.

THROW OUT THE TEXTBOOKS! Only real stuff. Street signs. Instructions. Movies. What you hear around you. Or texts so close to perfection they stick to your brain with little effort on your part. Shakespeare. The Bible. Old Bugs Bunny cartoons. English that is full of life is easier than the anemic quasi-language from modern textbooks.  Simpler is not always easier.

MOVE TO KEEP YOUR MIND WORKING. As much as possible I avoid being still. We’ll learn English (or Russian) while walking in the park, visiting events, shopping, cooking, whatever. If you can take 2-3 days off we can even go horse riding in the Tver region. I can arrange that easily and cheaply in my ex retreat near Staritsa where I am still entirely welcomed with anyone I chose to bring.

CONVERSATION PRACTICE. I always try to match Russian and English speakers so they get conversation practice off each other. Free and fun.

BE THE ONLY ONE. Normally I won’t do more than one session per day. I avoid assembly line situations not only out of my natural laziness but also  to to be able to concentrate on you, tune into your style, and understand your specific needs. English and Russian lessons are but a sideline and a diversion for me, as it should be with any teaching.

BUT.. Mumbling “I just want to learn English/Russian” is a sure way to demotivate me. No children or teens prodded by their parents please. My students got to have a goal. Ideally you need to get yourself ready for an important interview or an event coming up.  In 4-5 sessions we have to see a clear improvement. Anything smacking of a classroom if out. Yes, I realize this approach is not for everyone. That’s why I’m ready for a meeting to get acquainted and to feel each other out, with no fee expected, and no obligation on your (or my) part.

TOEFL/GRE/ЕГЭ welcomed. Well, not sure about the Russian State Exam. Looked into it as was amused and saddened by its clumsiness. More of the latter. But yes, exam preparation – the somewhat underhanded way – is my thing.

WHERE. I live right by Metro Alexeyevskay. Occasionally I’m at Novokuznetskaya. Or I can visit you if it is within walking or cycling distance from Alexeyevskaya. Lessons by Skype are possible if there is no alternative, eg. if you are out of town and need the sort of support only I can provide. Think of Skype as the last resort.

RATES. Average. “Appropriate”. I often have to take compensation for what I do but I try not to be greedy. No fee expected for the introductory session.

ABOUT ME. I’ve been doing English and interview (immigration, job) preparation since 1994. About equal understanding of both English and Russian and how these two languages, cultures, and world-views interface and interact and match and mismatch. My varied work and life-in-general experience will often help me in finding just the right approach in difficult and unusual cases.

CONTACT. In the normal course of things I prefer e-mail, especially for the first contact. When writing please say something about your background (education, work), interests, and of course why you need English. A couple of paragraphs telling how your life would become different if you were to suddenly find yourself in possession of fluent English (or Russian) would make a good start.

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