I have been learning Russian off and on since 2007. I always had an interest in the language and the Russian culture but shortly after meeting Lena and her family, I was hooked.
I set off to learn the language by finding a private tutor on Craigslist. I found an odd Ukrainian character, Alex, that was a language nerd and was willing to teach me for $15 an hour. I met up with him twice a week at a Starbucks, and even though he was completely unprepared, I learned quite a bit. Outside of the lessons, I made flash cards and memorized a lot of common nouns and verbs. I progressed fairly quickly, but lost touch with Alex and my studying fell by the wayside.
In 2010, I purchased Rosetta Stone’s TOTALe subscription for a year ($1000 at that time). It was a pretty good way to learn vocabulary as a beginner. I found that their games were a cool way to help me memorize words. However, I dreaded the live tests with a native speaker at the end of units. Even at the most basic level, they’re completely in Russian and I never had what it took to formulate sentences. I found myself avoiding those and just sticking to the self-study portion of the course.
In the summer of 2011, I enrolled in a semi-private Russian course at a language school in Chicago. For about $500, I attended two classes per week for five weeks. This class was not very different from a super intense version of what you had in high school or in college. Very formal grammar lessons with crazy amounts of homework. Even spending 4-5 hours every night after work to study and to do homework, I couldn’t keep up. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I didn’t learn much, maybe the teacher wasn’t effective, maybe the teaching method wasn’t effective, but I certainly don’t think it was my lack of motivation.
Here I am in 2012, and after spending a few months in Russian-speaking parts of the world this year, I still can’t speak much Russian. Time to make some changes.