Ask anyone what they think of the Russian language, and you’ll likely hear the same answer: Difficult! If you believe the negative stereotypes about Russia, the lack of interest in its language seems understandable — it’s far away, freezing cold, and so on. Nevertheless, there are several reasons to learn it.
Russian Is One of the World’s Most Spoken Languages
On the list of the most widely spoken languages globally, Russian comes eighth. It’s spoken in Russia, of course, but also in Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Israel. It’s also a popular second language for much of Eastern Europe because of Russia’s lasting political influence.
Russia Is the Largest Country In The World
Fun fact: It’s actually the biggest country in the world by area, and is significantly larger than the runner-up country, Canada (Russia has 6.6 million square miles, compared to Canada’s 3.8 million). In fact, it crosses 11 whole time zones. And now imagine just how much there is to discover in this endless country! Russia has a full 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the Kremlin and Lake Baikal to the Golden Mountains of Altai — there is immense cultural and ecological wealth to be found in Russia.
Russians Don’t Speak a Lot Of English
Russia has some of the lowest rates of English proficiency around. Only about 5% of Russians have a command of English, and in the majority of Russian cities, you’ll find almost no signs written in the Latin alphabet. Not exactly a tourist’s dream. So if you want to conquer the lands of the old Russian Empire, you can’t get around without at least a basic knowledge of Russian. It’s definitely worth tackling the Cyrillic alphabet and learning some phrases in order to connect with the locals on your trip!
Russia Isn’t a World Away
No question about it — the land of the Tsars is exotic, straddling many of the cultural traditions between Europe and Asia. Maybe that’s why so many people think that Russia is somewhere way off in the distance and has nothing in common with the English-speaking world. But actually, you can fly to St. Petersburg from London in just a little over three hours, which is shorter than the time it takes to get to Athens. Even for individuals based in the US, Canada and Australia, most of Russia’s top travel destinations are in continental Europe, so it’s not out of the way if you’re planning a grand tour of Europe!
Learning Russian Is a Challenge
In this way, Russian lives up to its hype. It’s one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn and has a complex grammatical structure. And the Cyrillic alphabet seems so foreign that it’s enough to put some people off learning the language — but it’s actually not nearly as scary as it looks. When you do learn it, you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment from the fact that you can read another alphabet! Getting to grips with its idiosyncrasies means leaving what is familiar behind and throwing yourself into the unknown. Yes, it’s scary at first, but you’ll feel amazing once you start speaking sentences.
Russian Is a Language of The Future
The fact is, Russian is far less popular as a second language than, for example, Mandarin — another language even more difficult for English speakers to grasp. This low popularity is a shame because there are a number of economic opportunities currently arising in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. And guess what: To get in on the act there, you have to speak Russian!
Russian Is Part of a Larger Family
As soon as you learn a bit of Russian, a whole range of other languages is suddenly accessible to you. Russian is a member of the Indo-European language family, and specifically the Slavic family. Even with just a beginner’s grasp of Russian, you can quickly understand the other Slavic languages.