David G.
Professional Teacher
My experience trying to pick up a Slavic language
Hi everyone!

First of all, I wanted to make clear that my goal in writing this post is not primarily to ask for advice (although advice is welcomed, of course) but just to share my experience and hopefully learn from your experiences, in case you have had similar ones in this regard.

As the title says, I am having trouble trying to make up my mind as to which amongst all the Slavic languages I want to learn. I have repeatedly started to learn, say, Russian, but after I while a quit and say to myself "let's try Ukrainian, it seems a little easier and I am more likely to visit Ukraine than Russia", but after some weeks learning Ukrainian, I say to myself "Maybe I should come back to Russian", because I love classical Russian literature, for example, but then, after a couple of weeks learning Russian again I say to myself "You know, you are not very likely to travel to Russia, why don't you learn Czech? You have always wanted to travel to the Czech Republic, you love Czech composers like Dvorák and Smetana", then I start learning some Czech, and then... You get the picture.

My "problem" is that, although I have a strong interest in foreign languages in general and Slavic languages in particular, I don't have a particular reason to learn one of them specifically: I am not planning to visit a Slavic country, I don't have a partner who comes from one of these countries, I don't need one of these languages in particular for my job, etc. In addition to that, it is obvious that I have problems keeping the focus on one thing. Also, it's it not that I want to, say, "brag" or something but it's true that I have a wide range of cultural interests and at the same time I tend to associate the interest for the language to the interest for the culture, so when I listen to a piece by Chopin, I find myself thinking "I should give Polish a go", and then, if a week later I am reading a translation of a novel by the Czech writer Milan Kundera, I think "Maybe it would be better to shift to Czech", but then the next week a buy a CD by Tchaikovsky and then...

I know it's ok just to dabble in a few languages if you don't have the intention to learn one of them really well, but the truth is that I actually would like to learn (at least) one Slavic language well and then use that knowledge to learn another or a few more, and I know that you cannot learn two similar languages at the same time, so I really would like to pick one, stick to it and learn it to a decent level.

I know all the classic advice: choose the one that you feel more attached to (but I can find emotional/cultural ties to almost all of them), or just choose the one who has more resources (that would be Russian, of course) or choose one which is well connected with the rest of them, so that it's easier to learn the others afterwards (some people say that would be Slovak, other people say Croatian, maybe also Ukrainian), and so on and so forth. I know all these pieces of advice are reasonable (I would myself use them to help other people) but the truth is that they haven't helped my so far.

I guess I am not alone, or at least I want to think so! :-)

Has anyone had similar problems? I mean, not necessarily with Slavic languages, but in general. I'd love to read your experiences. As I said, my main goal it's not to collect advice (although it will be welcomed) but to feel I am not alone in this :-)

Bye for now!
May 30, 2020 6:08 PM
Comments · 4

Nikola: yes, I should definitely try that! :-) I have heard of that but I hadn't actually heard it, it sounds great :-) Thanks!

Phil: Oh, it's nice to hear about someone else's experience. I have also been "tantalised" by Polish but I have to confess that the overcomplicated spelling has held me off. I remember trying the first skills of the Duolingo Polish course and many times I could kind of remember the word but I wasn't able to properly write it, so I got the answers wrong, which discouraged me. I still have this interest in Polish but I think that, since Polish and Czech are similar to some extent I am more likely to give Czech a go first, since I find the spelling a little bit easier. But I would definitely love try Polish too :-) I agree with you about the importante of cultural context. My "problem" is that I feel atracted by both "atmospheres": the most Central-european scent of Poland and Czechia and also the more "eastern" flavour of Russia, Bulgaria or Ukraine :-) As for my English, thanks for the compliment but you wouldn't think the same if you hear me speaking English. My spoken English is completely rusty! :-) Thanks!

Aud: I have to confess that I am not sure if your comment is sarcastic or not :-) If it is not, thanks for the confidence!
May 30, 2020
Hi David,
You could always try Interslavic :)

May 30, 2020
If I had such strong temptation to learn a few languages, I would start learning them all at once. Why not? Probably, your mind may keep focused on many languages.
May 30, 2020
I was in the same situation. No advice, just my experience: When I had the same choice, I chose Polish. Polish is similar to Czech and Slovak, but has over 40 million native speakers, which is second only to Russian, if I’m not mistaken. Also, there are many Polish people living in Western Europe and the Americas. Ukrainian is probably somewhere between Polish and Russian, but for me, even though the Cyrillic alphabet is not that difficult, it still seems like everything is easier with the familiar Latin alphabet used in Slavic languages such as Polish. Also, Polish (and Czech, Slovak, etc.) spelling and pronunciation are much more regular than Russian, even once you’ve learned the alphabet. Additionally, Poland, Czechia and Slovakia are closer to Western Europe culturally. Now you may find that boring, but to me, having something familiar to hold on to while studying a foreign language helps me to understand the language in context.
Anyhow, I only studied Polish for a couple of months many years ago, but it was a lot of fun. At the time, I also explored Czech and Yugoslavian — what you learn with one Slavic language will generally be useful for the others. By the way, David, your English is great!
May 30, 2020
David G.
Language Skills
Catalan, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese