How To Return To Language Study When You’ve Been Neglecting It

It's like someone on the internet made this image just for me! ;)
It’s like someone on the internet made this image just for me! 😉

Dear friends, I realized something terrible yesterday: I have not been studying enough Russian as of late. Things really became clear when I went to post a short sentence in Russian on Twitter and couldn’t remember how to spell the past tense of the Russian verb for to watch (the infinitive is смотреть, if you’re wondering, and the past tense I needed was смотрела). It was then I realized that I need to step up my Russian studying or risk forgetting basic things that every competent speaker should know.

If you’ve ever been in such a situation with your language study, here’s my advice for what you can do.

Don’t panic.

It took a while to learn the language, right? It will take a while to forget it, too. What I mean is you aren’t just going to wake up and say, “Hey, I can’t speak Russian/German/French/insert your language of choice here.” The learning was gradual, and so is the forgetting. That’s good news, as it gives you a chance to halt any forgetting immediately when you realize it’s started to happen.

Just do it.

I don’t know about you, but when I haven’t done something for a while, whether it’s language study or playing violin, sometimes the hardest thing is starting. I’ll feel bad that I haven’t done it in ages, then I sort of psych myself out of it as I think about how bad I’ll be when I eventually do start again. This is all pointless and just leads me to continue putting it off and feeling bad.

Here’s the thing, though: all you have to do is dive back in and do one small thing. For me, it was watching a short (about thirty-five minutes) documentary in Russian I had saved in my YouTube account. I understood most of it as I watched and after I started, I immediately felt better.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember when I just said that I understood most of the documentary I watched? It’s true that I didn’t get every word or every sentence. But that’s okay. At least I was watching, listening, and learning new phrases and sentence structures. I’m just going to keep watching videos and reading articles and going over things from my language notebook.

Don’t worry about “catching up.”

If you’ve been neglecting your language study for even a short amount of time, there’s probably going to be some regression. Maybe you don’t remember some vocabulary, or you forget how a certain grammatical concept works. Or, like me, you forget how to spell a basic verb. This is normal. Don’t worry about getting yourself to your previous level. It’s more beneficial to build a language study routine into your day and just go from there—for example, watch ten minutes of video and write down ten new words in your language notebook every day. It may not be much, but if that’s all you have time for, it will add up and in a year, your language abilities will be great.

Have you neglected your language learning? How did you get back into it?


8 thoughts on “How To Return To Language Study When You’ve Been Neglecting It

  1. It’s been a long time I’ve admitted that my Russian “doesn’t have to be perfect” 🙂 but I’ve been neglecting it for too long now, and it seems that the forgetting curve is steeper than the learning one.. 😦 but thanks for the reminder! I really need to do something about “catching up”!!! My own little advice: lately I’ve noticed that I tend to skip the short messages posted by my Russian friends on Facebook, as I’m too lazy to try and read them. Well, that’s bad! From today on, I will take up the challenge of reading them again, even if I don’t understand them all. 🙂


    1. You should read them! Stuff on social media is often informal and similar to how people speak, so you’ll get to see how real people use Russian in natural, non-stilted way, which textbooks don’t always cover. 🙂


  2. Great advice. I took a 15 year hiatus from my Russian and returned to it a few years ago.

    An old friend turned me on to Busuu and it was a great way to refresh those tired old brain cells. I realized it was all still in there – somewhere.

    At Busuu I was able to connect with some great Russian folks, with whom I now regularly speak on Skype. In fact, it was through one of these folk that I discovered your site. (We practice reading stuff, and he suggested Tyutchev – which you had posted.)

    Additionally, the same friend (much smarter than me!) pointed me at: There is an awesome amount of great material here. I divide my drive time between listening to their podcasts and the news.

    I’ll never be a native speaker, but I can carry on a decent conversation and understand pretty well.


  3. Oh, I drop in and out of studying all the time so this was such a good post for me! I sometimes find that I need a break of a day or two though – and then after that time the vocabulary/grammar I was struggling with has managed to implant itself properly into my memory. That doesn’t always work but if I’ve been studying hard for a long time, then it tends to. Weird. I also especially like the point about just getting back into whatever you were doing too. I have to do this with working out – if I don’t exercise for a few days then I talk myself out of it when what I need to do is just go outside/put a video on and do it. Thanks for this post, it’s great! 😀


    1. Thanks! 🙂 I like your blog a lot, so I started following it. I really need to do a language challenge again… I’ve done them in the past and had a lot of fun.


  4. Great post Natalie! I often feel like I’m neglecting my language learning, I try to at least keep the skills I have current by doing regular reading and listening (audiobooks are great!) throughout the year. I might nto be making forward progress, but at least I’m not sliding too far backwards either 🙂


Comments are closed.