How to Overcome the Language Barrier?

I know about the language barrier firsthand. In 6 years of teaching Russian as a foreign language, I have met a huge number of students with this problem. Let’s first take a closer look at the concept, “language barrier” — what is that?


What in the world is this Language barrier?

You have been studying the language for several months now, you are already familiar with the basic Russian grammar, you started watching Russian films and reading Russian bloggers, but when it comes to start a real conversation with a native speaker and — God forbid — he\she does not know English, here where you get stuck.

You cannot coherently connect words into a single sentence, you doubt whether you are using the right word, or the correct tense, or the correct case. You face an absolute lack of confidence in yourself and your knowledge.

At moments like this you not only miss the pleasure from communication, but you want to shut your mouth. Or even worse — to run away and retreat into your shell in order to stop this torture.

But then you begin the self-torture and negative sqelf-talk: “Well, I’ve already been learning Russian for a month / six months / a year / 2 years, but I still can’t speak, I don’t have a gift for languages ​​/ I’m too old / I have bad memory / it’s simply not mine «

Causes of the language barrier

80% of students have psychological issues. 

  • Fear of being wrong. Yes, you are not a native speaker and you will most likely make some mistakes. But in 99% of cases, these mistakes won’t ruin the communication. And the good news is that Russian-speaking people know that Russian is in the top five most difficult languages. They are open-hearted to foreigners who speak Russian, and mistakes don’t bother them.
  • Fear of the unknown. You do not know how the dialogue will go, what topic you will touch upon, whether you will understand the person you’re talking to and will be able to answer something.

Tip: Ask to repeat. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Have a few universal phrases in your active stock:

  1. «Speak slower» — «Говорите помедленнее»
  2. «Could you please repeat» — «Вы не могли бы повторить» 
  3. «What does this word mean?» — «Что значит это слово?»
  • Some people are embarrassed because of their accent. No reason for that! To us, native Russian speakers, a foreigner who speaks Russian is just a gift of fate. You know that not so many Russians can speak English. And by default — you evoke admiration and respect, whatever your accent may be. Very often it’s taken as very sweet.

How to deal with it?

  1. Take a few lessons with a native speaker.
  2. Ask the teacher to focus on how you can improve your accent.
  3. Listen to Russian speech more. Audio books are great. Pause the  audio and repeat after the speaker — this part is for the most diligent.
  • Next fear: «I speak too slowly»

What if the person gets tired of waiting while I’m trying to express my thoughts.

Think about people who speak your own language. Surely, among them there are those who chatter, and there are those who speak slowly and select each word carefully.

Tip: Relax, people don’t expect high speed from you.

  • Fear of being misunderstood. This fear combines all the above mentioned fears. And if the problem has been neglected for long, then generally students withdraw into their shell and can hardly force out even words like «yes», «no», «hello», «good» and so on.

What should I do?

Now let’s talk about how you can improve the situation.

We have discussed the psychological aspects, now we will talk about the real actions that you can take.

  • Improving Vocabulary. This will help you feel more confident, regardless of who your companion is and what topic you have to discuss. You might be interested in 1000+ Words Course
  • Working on Grammar. At least an elementary base in grammar is needed, no matter how strongly we oppose the idea, but without grammar, we cannot build a correct sentence.

Learn to deal with verbs, they can be found almost in every sentence. And another important topic in Russian is the cases. In this situation, the Paretto principle works flawlessly. 20% of the effort will give 80% of the result. You have mastered 2 grammatical topics, spent not so much effort and can already connect your thoughts and words, avoiding a huge number of mistakes.

For this you might want to check this course RUSSIAN VERB CONJUGATION and this — RUSSIAN CASES — INTENSIVE COURSE

  • Lack of practice. To avoid stress practice your Russian with a speaking buddy. If you have one, that’s great — communication on a regular basis will give excellent results. Another option, which is even better, is a teacher. Why better? The teacher will correct your mistakes and you won’t have to learn all over again in the future. To my students I offer a conversation course, where we discuss different topics every day — Turbo Russian.
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