SERIES: How to Learn Russian

Tip #1: Here's how to learn Russian words by using context.

People often wonder why learning a foreign language is so difficult, when learning our native language was effortless.

The answer involves good news, and bad news. The bad news is, in the first few years of its life, an infant has more than twice the neuron connections as you do. It gives them a big edge in learning language. There's not much we can do about that. And yet, the good news is that adults -- myself included -- are still able to fluently learn a 2nd language despite this handicap. How?

Here's the key, and it's my #1 Tip for learning any language: Learn words in the way your brain is designed to learn them, by using contextual learning.

What is contextual learning? In essence, the language center of your brain does not want to be told what a new word means. (Unfortunately, this is what virtually all courses, teachers, and textbooks do.) Instead, your brain wants to discover the meaning on its own.

Watch how easy this is, and how natural it feels: First, try saying this Russian word (пиво) pivo. It's pronounced like this: pee-vuh

So, what does pivo mean? See if you can figure it out yourself:

Heineken is my favorite kind of pivo. What pivo do you like to drink?

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or how about this...

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I don't like this bar. The only pivo they have on tap is Budweiser.

See? You know what pivo is, now, and I never actually told you. Your brain picked it up from the context of how it was being used. The fact is, you are designed to learn language precisely this way. That's why it feels so natural, and doesn't seem like learning.

Let's try another one.

Try pronouncing the Russian word "сок."

It's pronounced just like the English word "soak," but we'll write it this way, using the English letters "sok." (The Russian letter "c" is always pronounced like the English "s".)

Here is the word in context:

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I start every morning with a glass of Tropicana Orange sok. But my wife...

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...she prefers to drink fresh-squeezed grapefruit sok.

Again, you know what sok is, now, and I never actually told you. Your brain picked it up the way it learned every other word you know: From context.

Contextual learning is the fastest, most natural way to learn words. You just learned two common Russian words in about a minute, and it probably didn't feel like learning at all. That's the power of Contextual Learning.

In Tip #2 we'll learn how to remember Russian words easily!