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Do We Write as We Hear?

Is it enough to read just a single dialogue to understand how to learn Russian?

Any speech sound we hear is called a phonem. During studying a foreign language by an adult person, some striking effect is observed. A person hears new phonems, but there's no their exact image in person's memory. That's why a brain, accustomed to certain algorithm of work with speech, approaches person's memory zone as a trusted computer. This zone contains a card index of sounds heard before, and a brain takes out an approprite variant from it [1]. Pay attention to the fact that your brain choses something maximally resembling, but not what you've heard. Don't blame your 'computer': it couldn't have chosen anything other because there wasn't anything other in the 'card'! 

We talk with words consisting of phonems, joint with each other. To understand a word, we need to hear its phonems at first. To hear phonems, we should listen to them well and get accustomed to differentiating them. Maybe, that's why newborns don't even try to repeat sounds after their mother at first and just listen to them attentively. They start гулить /to babble/ by little and little only by two-three months. (Гули was the name for doves in Rus, and гулить means to produce sounds similar to doves cooing). First children's phonems can't be understood even by their mothers, that's why kids just begin to learn how to master their voice and reproduce a needed sound by trial and error method. 

Small kids start talking only at the age of two [2]. By the moment of begining of conversation, the system of differentiating of phonems and composing words, which child begins to repeat, has formed in child's brain. This ability appeared as a result of hearing mom's or nanny's, who were beside the baby, speech (as is known, women pronounce nearly 1000 words per hour) [3]. Knowing how much child keeps awake [4], we can count that the quantity of heard words during this time amounts to aproximately 5 million. Having divided them over the range of an average mom's vocabulary (10000 words) [5], we'll get that before the moment of starting conversation a child has heard every word in average for 500 times. This means that a word must be heard exactly so many times for recognizing sounds in it before starting to learn how to repeat it. 

While studying foreign speech, a strong tendency to come from listening to words to reading quickly arises among adults. Sometimes foreign students are encouraged by telling them that ''it is written as it is heard'' in Russian. However, that's not true. There are up to 43 phonems in Russian language [6], and there are only 33 letters in Russian alphabet[7]. That's why we need to learn to hear a word at first, and then start learning to discern how it is written. 

You can easily check what you've learned by yourself. Dialogue ''Зоопарк'' /zoo/ /en/dialogues/all_dialogues/zoopark/ sounds for 20 seconds[5]. That's why you need to listen to every of its 57 words for not less than 500 times to form the right phonems of its words in your memory. You have to spend nearly three hours for this. Download dialogue from the web-site, listen to it for three hours, and only after that start training to look through the text of the dialogue, following the sound. As a result of three-hour work, you'll make sure that words you hear and those, which are designated by letters and teach how to read according to the alphabet rules, sound not exactly the same way. Our congratulations, you've taken the most important first step to studying Russian!

1. Как научиться слышать и понимать русскую речь. /How to learn to hear and understand Russian speech/

2. Your Baby's First Words

3. Women really do talk more than men

4. Расписание сна /sleep shedule/

5. Словарный запас /vocabulary/

6. Фонема /phonem/

7. Русский алфавит /Russian alphabet/

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