Interview: A Master’s Degree in Moscow

with 4 Comments

Meet Neri, an adventurous Floridan living in Moscow!

We met on Instagram, where Neri shares beautiful photos of her adopted city and lots of clever observations on language learning. But she is far beyond simply captioning photos in Russian – in fact, she maintains a blog written entirely in Russian! Read on to learn more about Neri’s travels in the country and tips for learning Russian…

Neri, what’s currently your favorite word in Russian?

Probably, to this day still достопримечательность. There are other words I’ve learned that are also amazing like чрезвычайно but достопримечательность still holds a special place.

Do you use Russian for work?

I’m currently working for a Russian company that sells products on the US market. I use Russian everyday to communicate with colleagues and I’m also doing a masters in Moscow and my program is in Russian.


How long have you been learning Russian? What first drew you to the it?

I’ve been learning Russian for quite some time. I often count my first time abroad as when I actually started learning Russian- so about 6 years. I was always fascinated with Russian as a child and only got the opportunity to learn it in college. Maybe because I was interested in cold war history and space? I am from Florida so there’s that. There’s not one moment I can remember where I decided to learn Russian. I even wrote a blog post about why I choose Russian and I don’t think I gave a real answer.

Have you ever had your level of Russian tested?

So funny thing, I’ve done practice tests for B1 for B2 as for university you need a B1 level but I’ve never had a paper with a stamp telling me my Russian level. It’s kind of ironic that in a country that loves its documentation and stamps I don’t have one. I should get one though.

What’s it like getting your master’s degree in Moscow?

It’s been a challenge. I love that I am constantly learning something new and growing in my language abilities, as what I have to write or even communicate is not the Russian I use in everyday life or what I was taught in classes. There are days where it’s really rough and I ask myself why are you doing this? But then it passes.


What’s something about the Russian language that you think is misunderstood?

That it’s a harsh and very rough sounding language. I think media has a lot to do with how Russian is portrayed and it’s usually this menacing sound. I love the way Russian sounds and I love the way words can be formed. For example, the other day at work, I had to translate a Russian text and in English it became this really long sentence and my coworker asked is there a way to shorten it. I responded no, Russian word formation is brilliant.

Which Russian cities have you visited / would you like to visit?

I’ve lived in Saint Petersburg and in Nizhny Novgorod and went to a lot of the surrounding towns on day trips. I’ve been to Tula, Vladimir, and Suzdal. I want to go to Volgograd, Kazan, Vladivostok, and Ekaterinburg. Honestly, any city in Russia I’m okay to visit.


Is there anything that you really struggle with, like grammar or pronunciation? Do you have a plan of attack for improving your skills?

Oh, grammar is something I still struggle with and will probably continue to work on. It’s one of those things where in exercises I can do and remember the rules but applying when I speak and when I write that’s the difficulty. My personal goal is to get better at writing in Russian and that’s why I started posting stories and made my Instagram account. Pronunciation is another skill I want to improve on. At the moment I read texts aloud and record myself and send to a friend, so she can help me correctly pronounce words.

The best grammar таблица.
Russian cases.

If someone wanted to improve their Russian quickly and only had 15 minutes a day, what would you advise them to do?

Games, I love филворды. I’ve learned so many words and my passive vocabulary has definitely improved, and I got some stories from it.

I would also recommend podcasts. I often listen to them on the way to the metro and although I never finish a full episode, I do get a good 10-15 minutes of listening in. Meduza has some great ones and I listen to калькулятор and Розенталь и Гильденстерн


Neri, спасибо большое for sharing your story! I hope you continue to have a wonderful time working and studying in Moscow. And I hope we’ll be able to meet up in person someday and speak Russian together! 🙂

4 Responses

  1. J.T.
    | Reply

    Awesome interview with an inspiring expat. Thanks for sharing!

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Спасибо! Я очень рада, что тебе понравилась! )) By the way, we should do an update interview in 2021 about your language learning life and reading list!

  2. David Emerling
    | Reply

    Listening to podcasts, as Neri suggested, is a good way to develop a feel for how Russian words are pronounced. But, unless your vocabulary is at an advanced enough stage where you understand many of the words and, at least, get an idea about what the subject matter is, it’s not going to do much good.

    As I’ve said before, I often listen to a Russian radio station called Радио Фантастики. It’s basically an audio book that is read over the radio.

    A few evenings ago, I was listening to it and, after a while, I realized I was listening to one of the books in the trilogy that is the source of the HBO series “His Dark Materials.” I was familiar with the series. My comprehension skyrocketed because I basically knew what was being discussed which helped me figure out some of the words I was not 100% sure about. Then I realized – this is EXACTLY how (and why) young children learn languages. Everything they hear has CONTEXT! I was now listening to something that had context because I KNEW the subject matter, just as a child understands mommy when she says, “No, no! Don’t touch that” because of the context. Just listening to somebody speaking Russian and having no idea what they’re talking about may help your pronunciation – but it will not help your understanding all that much unless, as I said, your vocabulary is advanced enough to figure out the topic.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Yes, that’s a good point, David! 🙂 It’s so much more useful and enjoyable when you’re not totally drowning in the language. I was just looking at advice for learning Chinese and came across a similar tip. At the beginning, the learner could only listen to basic dialogs until she eventually earned admission to The Podcast Level of language learning.

      I’m glad that you caught that book on air the other day! My dad is really into the TV show.

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