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.
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?