Is it possible to learn a language without learning a culture? :)

After spending more than a year living in Australia and working as a tutor here I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many people are actually interested in my native country. Some of my students want to learn the language because they are planning to visit Russia somewhere in distant future, some had a distant relative of Russian descent, some just want to learn to speak Russian because it’s cool to speak “like those baddies from Mafia movies”.  Anyway, at first everything goes great, but after a certain amount of lessons  we approach a so called “midstudy crisis“, when the grammar constructions become more complicated and sometimes plain scary 🙂 Students end up feeling not motivated and, as a result, find themselves giving up, because ” Russian is just too hard to master”. So here emerges a very important question: was there enough motivation on the first place? What do our students actually know about the country which language they are learning to speak? Is it all that important?

The answer is “yes”! Getting acquainted with the culture not only creates a unique sense of growing familiarity, It also starts a fascinating process, known as “getting a feel for the language” which makes some of its aspects understandable on a subconscious level. It also goes without saying that learning a foreign culture turns you into a smarter person, totally immune to stereotypes and other sad things like that 🙂

Now, it probably would be better to specify what I mean by ” learning a culture”. It’s by no doubts a broad concept and it includes all kinds of things: history, language, folklore, literature, movies, cuisine and so on and so forth. All of these form one beautiful mentality of the people who live in a particular country.

So how do you apply this to learning Russian? It’s simple, really. You can start with something small: cook a Russian national dish or watch a movie with subtitles to get your ears used to the sound of the language. Listen to some catchy Russian tune and let it bring you closer to that mysterious “Russian soul”, which since ancient times has been expressed in songs. It may seem like not much, but it does help to stay motivated and gives you a sense of direction.  The thing is, to truly acquire any language, you must be in love with its culture 😉

Here are some ideas to incorporate Russian culture:

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