Russian can be a challenging language to learn, just as many languages can be. For Westerners, it has the added difficulty of a completely different alphabet, and pronunciations that aren't natural to Romantic and Germanic speakers. Of course, Russia itself is a powerful economic force, and it's one that has a great history as well. That makes the pursuit of learning the Russian language all the more important, and why finding a teacher in Russian is the best way to proceed if you're serious about learning.
Who's Qualified to Teach Me Russian?
There are two types of educator that you will typically want to rely on when learning Russian:
- A native speaker: Someone who was born and raised in a Russian speaking household can provide you with great levels of insight into the language, including learning different pronunciations, proper etiquette when speaking to elders or young people, and some of the nuances of everyday conversational Russian that books and instructional videos may not cover.
- A certified foreign speaker: The Test of Russian as a Foreign Language, or TORFL, has different levels of certification and mastery, ranging from Level 1 to Level 4. In order to work and live in Russia, foreigners must attain some level of TORFL certification, which could be higher depending on your chosen field of work. At TORFL Level 4, a speaker has reached a level of fluency that is comparable to a native Russian speaker, and thus may be qualified to teach Russian officially. TORFL Level 3 speakers are certified to teach as well, but typically at the Elementary level of education.
Still in both cases help of a tutor having experience in teaching Russian as a foreign language will be invaluable.
There's a far greater abundance of native speakers that are certified to teach than there are foreign speakers, so you're more likely to find a tutor who is from Russia. This is obviously a good choice for students and professionals that are interested in learning Russian that they can actually use in daily conversation, or who may be interested in learning technical vocabulary associated with their line of work.
The Value of a Certified Russian Language Teacher
Being a teacher that's certified to teach Russian is an important achievement, because it denotes one's ability to provide instruction to students and professionals that need actual, functional language skills for their education or career. It's not enough to rely on books and translation guides; certified teachers can take the educational experience a step further, and offer some important insight into the language, its cultural associations, and more.
- Vocabulary: A Russian language teacher can help you to learn the foundations of Russian vocabulary, from proper pronoun usage, to changes in tense and how they can significantly differ from sentence structures in languages like English. Vocabulary is going to be one of the main pillars of learning the language as a whole, just as it would be with English, and a Russian teacher's experience in the growing, modern Russian vocabulary is absolutely indispensable. Think about how many new words have popped up in the English language within the past decade, specifically those related to online matters: The Russian language grows at the same rate.
- Pronunciation: Think of all of the hard and soft vowels of the English language, and how some words, like sow and sew, can change their meanings dramatically once a vowel has changed. That is also true of Russian, and it will be particularly important to learn proper pronunciation of Russian as there are very different vocal sounds associated with the language that aren't used in the English language.
- Reading, writing, and listening: Finally, learning Russian with a certified teacher will help you to better understand text-based Russian and spoken Russian that you can use in practice every day. A proper grasp of the Russian alphabet and a good foundation for understanding Russian that you hear can open doors for translators, lovers of history and art, and for those that are interested in one day moving to Russia.
Instructors at the ECHO Eastern Europe Language Centre can connect students with certified, experienced, and friendly Russian teachers and tutors for those that are interested in learning the language. Available for both regular and intensive courses, these instructors are all fully capable of teaching the language to students from many different countries.
How Else Will a Russian Teacher Help Me?
Aside from teaching Russian as a foreign language, a Russian teachers can also provide students with directions toward helpful resources, such as websites that can provide text, libraries which can provide important Russian books, and even cultural landmarks that students may want to learn more about to better their understanding of Russia.
Tutors and teachers in Russian can also work with students that are interested in Skype calls with native speakers, so that students can practice conversational Russian with real, live people. This alone can help to accelerate the learning process dramatically for students at many different levels of experience and mastery.