Is learning Russian a waste of time?

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People on the Internet are curious if they should take up studying the language. We are sure you shouldn’t learn Russian… unless you really want to.

Is learning Russian a waste of time? That’s a real question we found on Quora. So we had a look at how people answered - and also decided to weigh in on the subject. 

A question of motivation

“As a hobby, it's ok to do. Practical value is quite low, because after Putin dies, [the] USA or China will conquer Russia and [the] Russian language will die a short time after,” Alina Kaspr writes ironically.

Putting aside sarcasm, for sure learning Russian takes a giant amount of time and no less effort. We can speak endlessly about the many difficulties that you will face. Starting from the Cyrillic alphabet and pronunciation of the letters, you will have to tackle the six cases, changed endings of words, three genders and finally verbs… 

Getting through all of this requires a strong motivation. And prepare to be patient and consistent.

"If you learn Russian because you think you have to, then it is a waste of time. And not just with Russian, but with every language," according to Lara Novakov, who left this brilliant answer on Quora. “It is not impossible to learn any language, but the key to learning it is that you love it and that you are ready to put effort in learning it.” So, basically, like anything in life!

So you have to feel some love - and then learning the language will become a pleasure and not a pain. And finally, if there is no practical use for you learning Russian - then it’s really a waste of time. Unless you are looking for mind exercises to prevent Alzheimer’s disease - then learning any new language is perfect.

Find a practical reason to learn Russian

If not out of pure love, you can also think of some practical reasons to learn Russian. 

Maybe you would like to read War and Peace in Russian to take the middlemen – aka the translators – out of your conversation with Leo Tolstoy? This was exactly the motivation for British woman Mary Hobson. And she started to learn Russian at 56! Now she is 94 and has translated several Russian books into English. She says that learning Russian gave her a whole new world. (Read her story here)

Or maybe you would like to travel to Russia and mix in with the locals? Most people in Moscow and St. Petersburg have a good command of English, but in the regions there could be some problems in communication and not all street signs are translated into English. Regardless, we have some tips on how to travel around Russia, even if you don’t speak the language!

Or maybe you are going to do business in Russia, or with Russians? There are many investment opportunities and a big Russian-speaking business community both in and outside of Russia. “Russian is a very useful language in the world and is useful in doing business and traveling all over Central Asia,” Greg Kemnitz writes.

Or maybe you have a Russian friend (or a significant other) and want to understand him/her better? They will adore even your small attempts to speak and will be happy to help and support you! Here is a list of tips to impress your Russian friends.

Making friends with Russians could be another reason to learn the language. And it will also ensure you will find new friends, will be invited to stay at their places, to go to their dachas, to meet their parents - and even try babushka’s borsch. 

How to learn Russian - a piece of advice from those who did it

Mikhail Kotykhov thinks that learning grammar rules is a waste of time in contrast to speaking to people in Russian. “They will tell you something interesting, something more exciting than what you see on TV. Watching people using this beautiful language is certainly not a waste of time.” Mikhail advises singing Russian songs and reading beautiful Russian poetry.

Alena Voice shares this list of activities that will help you master the language:

“If you think that the Russian language is interesting (it definitely is!) and enjoy learning it - keep going, but add some practicality:

  • Find a penpal from Russia
  • Plan a trip to Russia
  • Start a teaching career (Too early? No! you can be a ‘native-English speaker’ tutoring Russian students online)
  • Discover Russian music or cinematography
  • Begin to learn Russian proverbs - and impress your friends as if you quoted Latin.” 

And here are other reasons NOT to learn the language – in case you can’t think of any!

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