When you first start trying to learn a language, it is often difficult to know how to get going, particularly if you are teaching yourself from tapes, or videos or books, or all three.  Here are some hints from a learner who found them useful.

Write individual words on flashcards.  Write the Cyrillic Word in large letters and under it write the transcription so that you know how to pronounce it.  On the back of the flashcard, write the English translation.  Practice with these cards, by looking at the Russian, saying it out loud (whisper quietly if you’re in company) and trying to remember what the word means.  Turn over if you can’t.  More difficult is looking at the English and trying to remember the Russian, so practise this both ways.  Take the cards with you everywhere so that you can use those moments sitting in a bus or waiting in a queue.   After a while, you will know which words you know, and which ones are causing you more difficulty.  Start marking the ones you can’t get with a red star or something each time you forget it.  These are the tough ones, and need more practice.

Listen to Russian when you are travelling.  Have your lesson tapes in your car or on your iPod, so that when you are driving or jogging or ironing your shirts or whatever, you are always revising the last lesson.  You can do your own recordings of words you are finding difficult – the constant repetition will get them well established.

Start every day by writing down as many items of vocabulary as you can remember.  To begin with, this will only be a few, but after a while, there will be too many words to write.  At that point, begin each day with writing down the new vocabulary you learnt the day before.

Try to THINK Russian.  When a letter comes through the postbox, don’t think “letter”, think “pissymo”.  When you want to have some tea, think “chai”.  Sit in a room and try to name everything in it in Russian.

Above all, don’t be afraid to try to speak it however many mistakes you make.  Everybody makes mistakes when they start learning a foreign language and nobody minds.  If you are afraid to open your mouth in case it’s wrong, you will never be able to say anything.  The mistakes don’t matter.  What is important is to TRY!  You will find that a smile and some stuttered words, even if they aren’t completely grammatical, will get you communicating for real in Russian.