How to learn to hear and understand the Russian language.

Are you familiar with the situation when you're watching a movie in a foreign language, but do not understand what actors say? Despite all the hours you spent with Russian textbooks, Russian speech of an announcer of the news sounds to you like birds' singing and you are desperately trying to take a good look at the speaker's gestures and pictures, hoping to somehow capture an essence?

Do not worry, you're not alone. But what do you need to begin to understand a foreign language as your native one?

Inherently, an understanding of native speech sounds by children is a mechanism of information recognition. For example, one man, recalling his childhood, said that the words of the song "The Internationale": "rise up the human race," he understood as "a cart of cookies to the human race" and did not doubt it for a long time. A little girl without any hesitation interpreted a famous saying "do not cry Cossack, you will become an Ataman" as "do not cry a goat, or you will become a mother". In both cases, unfamiliar words "rise up" and "ataman" were replaced by children with already existed in their minds similar and clear soundscapes.

In 2004, Neil Bauman in his article «Hearing Health» [1] writes about an interpretation by brains the received from the outside information and created on its basis sound illusion. Brains, using input information, find in the nerve center similar musical memories and offer them as the interpretation of the external senses.

Let's ask a question, how many times it is necessary to hear a word, to form its stable audio perception. It is known that vocabulary of Russian children who start schooling consists of 4000 words [2]. An average number of words that is spoken by a woman per day is 16000 [3]. Let's suppose, that a child who is near his mother till his seven years, hears a half of these words. So during seven years prior to the beginning of school, he often hears the sound of each of the words known to him (about 5000 times).

A new language, which is being learnt, in terms of formation of zones of its perception in brains also requires multiple hearing of foreign words for their learning. For example, the dialogue "Zoo" on the site [4] sounds during 20 seconds. Therefore, to obtain a stable effect of habituation to the sound of Russian words in this dialogue, the learner will need 14 days if he diligently listens to the record for two hours daily. As a result of this work for the words of the dialogue a zone of Russian speech perception will be created in brains, that in its stability will be comparable to the center of native speech perception formed within childhood.

Thus, we find an answer to the question how to learn to hear and understand foreign language - listen a lot and often, try not to be distracted by pictures (it is better to use for this goal podcasts and dialogues [5]), get used to it, be patient and give your brains time for foreign speech to come in and find its place. And soon speech that you hear will become perceptible and your brains will recognize it stably and correctly. 


  1. Bauman N. Hearing Health. 2004. Available at

You can find Russian language schools and teachers:

Translation (ru-en)
Only registered users can use this function