1. You sound awesome when you speak it
Take a listen with our Memrise Pro native speaker videos:
Russian is one of the coolest sounding languages in the world, and your ability to speak it fluently will be sure to impress. Especially if someone calls you up randomly and you have to start speaking it on the phone!
2. A LOT of people speak it
Russian is one of the world’s most commonly spoken languages, and is the lingua franca for nearly all of the former Soviet Union. Between 150-180 million people speak Russian.
3. Read some of the most beautiful poetry and literature ever written – in the original
Some of the greatest writers who’ve ever lived wrote only in Russian. If you learn Russian, you’ll be able to read the likes of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin, and many more, all in the original.
4. Find out the difference between t.A.T.u lyrics in English and in Russian
t.A.T.u is probably the only Russian band anyone outside of Russia has ever heard of (apart from maybe Pussy Riot). One fun game to play is to compare the lyrics of their songs in English to in Russian. Did you know that in the Russian version of “All The Things She Said”, the song is actually called “I went insane”?
5. Gain an insight into another world
© Alex Florstein Fedorov, Wikimedia Commons
Russia and the Russian speaking world are places that never cease to fascinate. Due to the history of Communism, and their relative remoteness, life in places like Russia, Siberia and Kazakhstan is quite different to in the rest of the world. Learning the language is the very first step to understanding this enigmatic place. As the writer Fyodor Tyutchev wrote: “Умом Россию не понять“, which means “Russia cannot be understood with the mind.”
6. Learn a whole new alphabet
And do so by decoding top secret enemy plans with Memrise’s Cyrillic chatbots!
Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which was adapted from the Greek alphabet. It uses many letters that look like Latin letters, but actually are pronounced differently, like ‘Н’, which is actually an ‘N’. That makes learning to read and write Russian feel like learning a secret code!
7. Feel like a pro when saying English words like “chizkeyk” and “long ayylend” in Russian
Photo (C) Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose
Russian takes many words from English and other languages, like brand names, and it can be really fun to pronounce these in your best Russian voice. Can you guess these words from Memrise Cyrillic Decoder Chatbot 101?
БОСТОН, ЛОНДОН, КОСМОС, ТРАМ, МЕТРО, БАР, БАНК, ДЖЕЙМС БОНД
8. Master the art of doing an impression of a Russian accent
No-one can do a better Borat voice than someone who speaks fluent Russian. Trust me! Not even Pierce Brosnan…
9. Actually understand what people are saying in James Bond
Sometimes there are whole scenes in James Bond movies in Russian with no subtitles, such as in From Russia With Love. If you can speak Russian, you’ll get the satisfaction of being able to understand these and explain them to anybody watching with you. Also, in video games like Call of Duty, sometimes the Russian soldiers give you hints in Russian with no subtitles, so only Russian speakers can understand.
And have I already mentioned that we have a super-secret spy theme in Memrise’s Russian course where you learn to decode enemy secret plans? James Bond stuff 😎
10. Go to Russia, survive the winter, spend the rest of your life knowing you’ve won
There’s nothing quite like leaving the house one morning and it being -40C and everything is under two metres of snow. And there’s no experience like living through that and surviving to tell the tale. If you love snow, Russian is the language for you.
11. Master Russian grammar and know what it’s like to finish a marathon
Sometimes studying Russian grammar can feel exactly like the cyclist in that video. Just when you think you’ve done it, you discover there’s a whole lot more to go. Russian grammar is a real test of logic and stamina, but is extremely rewarding once you get there. Don’t give up!
12. Learn some mind-boggling idioms
If idioms are like colour in a language, then Russian is one of the most colourful languages imaginable. They involve all sorts of farm animals, foods, and political officials. For an impressively exhaustive list, see here.
13. Start understanding loads of other awesome Slavic languages
Slavic languages all seem equally baffling and impossible at first, but once you’ve learned one it’s amazingly easy to start picking the others up. They all have plenty of words in common, and much of the grammar is very similar too, although with some differences. Learning Russian could be your foot in the door to understanding what other people in Eastern Europe are saying too!
14. Open up new career prospects
It sounds cliché, but the Intelligence Services are always complaining that they are woefully understaffed when it comes to Russian speakers. That means learning Russian could be your gateway to a brand new exciting career in the building in the picture above (or was that just a decoy?). But as the Russian speaking world is so big and represents such a big market, there are also many other jobs in finance, law and international business where knowing Russian is a real asset.
If you’ve never heard of Cheburashka before, this is the adorable Soviet-era toy that is the centre piece of every Russian speaker’s childhood memories. Welcome to hours of procrastinating watching all of his videos on YouTube and trying to learn the lyrics.
16. Discover dill and other Russian delicacies
Photo (C) Liz West
There is one green herb which is unavoidable in Russian cuisine: dill. You will find it on literally every type of food you can imagine – soups, chips, fish, meat, vegetables, mayonnaise, salads, more dill… Love it or hate it, one thing’s for certain, and that’s if you go to Russia you will find yourself having to eat it!
17. All other languages will feel easy in comparison
When faced with the task of learning a mammoth language like Russian, all those days of worrying about ‘ser’ and ‘estar’ in Spanish or different genders in French will shrink out of your memory. Did you know Russian has six cases? And at least two aspectual pairs for every verb? And a seemingly infinite number of combinations required just to express the word ‘to go’? And a totally different alphabet and a vocabulary that looks nothing like any language you’ve ever seen before? Welcome to the real challenge!
18. Understand the secret language from “A Clockwork Orange”
Anthony Burgess deliberately used Russian to create Nadsat, the secret, menacing slang of his classic novel A Clockwork Orange, and the film that followed. If you speak Russian, you’ll know what ‘droogies’ and ‘devotchkas’ are, or what he means when he keeps ‘viditing’ things.
19. Get your own Russian name
In Russian, everybody has a first name (имя) and surname (фамилия), but also a patronymic (отечество), which is always based on their father’s name. To address someone formally, you would have to call them by their first name and patronymic. So if your name is Joe Bloggs, and your father’s called Steve, your Russian name would be Joe Steveovych Bloggs. And if your name is Mary Bloggs, and your father’s called Steve, you’d be Mary Steveovna Bloggs. Get it?
Learn Russian with the Memrise Official Course, including native speaker videos for Memrise Pro Users!
Alex is Memrise’s Language Learner in Residence. He spends his time working with the Language Research Team, making fun videos about languages, and contributing to the Memrise blog. He tweets @rawlangs_alex.
In his free time he enjoys cooking, watching films, and walking his dog. He also writes books, like this one.
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