Language Practice

LEARNING STRATEGIES

How will you communicate in Russian at all times? What will you do when you don’t know a Russian word? We asked some of our students what advice they could offer you as you prepare to start a summer in the Russian School. Here is what they had to say. Watch the video and read their advice below.

Dump pride.

Dump pride.

Dump pride.

Setting goals & staying motivated.

The teachers at Middlebury know what they are doing. They will put you where you need to be. If you need to be switched to a different level, do not fret! If you don’t understand something, ask.

Base your motivation on a solid foundation.

Start with a solid foundation.

Start with a solid foundation.

Setting goals & staying motivated.

Find a solid reason for learning Russian. Some days you’ll think it is too difficult, that it’s impossible, that you feel you aren’t making progress, and that it is probably just better to quit and move on with life. Anchoring yourself to meaningful purpose will help you weather those storms.

Commit to the program.

Commit to the program.

Commit to the program.

Setting goals & staying motivated.

You are at Middlebury to learn a language. So do that. Arrange your life such that your summer is dedicated to you. Do not let other people or obligations pull you away from the language pledge.

Stay healthy

Stay healthy.

Stay healthy.

Dealing with stress.

Find a routine that takes care of your body. Classes start the same time every day, so figure out a healthy routine that you can manage and stick to it. Exercise regularly. A daily 30 minute stroll around campus will do wonders for your mood and health.

Give your brain a rest.

Give your brain a rest.

Give your brain a rest.

Dealing with stress.

Participate in a club that uses a different set of skills than those required in the classroom: volleyball, soccer, painting, cooking, choir.

Not a straightforward process.

Not a straightforward process.

Not a straightforward process.

Learning the language.

Get comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Don’t waste too much time wondering why, just run with it, and stay curious because an explanation might come along later. Sometimes you just need to submerse yourself and nurture an intuition.

Review materials several times.

Review materials several times.

Review materials several times.

Learning the language.

It is not possible to see material for the first time and master it in a single read-through or during a single lesson. Review, review, review. Don’t despair if you still don’t understand. Learning a language is a spiral, and you will eventually get it.

Cramming isn’t unsustainable.

Cramming isn't unsustainable.

Cramming isn't unsustainable.

Learning the language.

If you read a new grammar lesson for the first time on Thursday and take a test on it on Friday, having never practiced the material in speech or in writing, you might squeak by on the test, but you will not retain that material for the next week. Subsequent grammar lessons build on each other, so you can’t just cross your fingers and hope that you won’t see that topic again.

Use your words.

Use your words.

Use your words.

Learning the language

Grammar is not a boring thing you have to suffer through before you get to the important stuff. It is the scaffold you hang all the other material on. Make up occasions to use the grammar and new words you are learning. Use all those irregular nouns to make up stories about armchairs, brothers, stools, clouds, people, horses, children, and daughters as you walk around campus.

Find your own study methods.

Find your own study methods.

Find your own study methods.

Learning the language.

Online flashcards, notebooks, the resources on this web site. There is absolutely no single, best method to learn a language. And all methods require time and effort. If you don’t see results from your method, experiment with alternatives, ask friends, classmates, and teachers

Celebrate your new words.

Celebrate your new words.

Celebrate your new words.

Learning the language.

As you learn new words in the classroom, celebrate them - use them in conversations that same day, write stories with them, put them up on walls in your room… You need to come across a word many times in different contexts to really master it.

Don’t learn naked words.

Don't learn naked words.

Don't learn naked words.

Learning the language.

Learn words and invite their relatives. For example when you are learning the verbs давать/дать you can learn 20 other verbs easily by learning different prefixed forms of that verb pair—and hen those prefixes tend to have similar meanings throughout the language, which will help you make a good guess as to their meaning when you encounter them again.

You don’t have to be perfect.

You don't have to be perfect

You don't have to be perfect

Staying in language.

Over the weeks and years you will refine your language skills. Remember you are a child in this language. No one gets upset at children as they start speaking—we praise them and support them. Learning the language is your full time job and you shouldn’t have any hangups on how you sound.

Aim to think in Russian.

Aim to think in Russian.

Aim to think in Russian.

Staying in language.

Take the “Language Pledge 2.0.” Instead of just speaking, writing, or reading in Russian, take it a step further and commit to thinking in Russian too! Listen to Russian music. Watch Russian movies. Put the Russian subtitles on for both music and movies for an extra bonus.

Use what you have.

Use what you have.

Use what you have.

Staying in language.

Use what you have. Say what you can, not what you want. Minimize your use of “Я не знаю, как сказать по-русски…” Use the words you know! If you can’t get to your point directly, talk yourself towards it. When you do homework, use the words from your recent course work and covered themes, don’t spend too much time looking up unfamiliar words in the dictionary.

Talk.

Talk.

Talk.

Staying in language.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. Talk as much as you can to whomever will listen. Listen to them, smile, nod, ask questions, tell jokes. You can learn a lot about a language from a book, but you cannot learn to speak unless you speak.

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