My favorite ways to learn Russian vocab, Part 2

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I’m obsessed with learning vocabulary. You already know that I read the dictionary for fun. 😉 It goes beyond that, though. I think vocab is the fastest, most fun way to learn grammar and culture. In the last post, I shared my four vocab favorites with you. This time, let’s look more closely at the benefits of ANKI and (of course!) memes.

(By the way, here’s My favorite ways to learn Russian vocab, Part 1.)




How does vocab lead to better grammar? Easy. Memorize sentences instead of words. That way, you get the word + declension (if needed) + context + a ton of bonus material. After enough repetition, your brain can take parts of the sentence and use it to make a different sentence. For example, how many ways could you end this sentence? Прости за поздний звонок, но



If you’re a beginner, don’t memorize квартираapartment. Memorize- У меня была квартира, I used to have an apartment. After enough practice, you could start forming other sentences with feminine nouns. У меня была собакакофеварка / машина, dog / coffeemaker / car.

At an intermediate level, try memorizing something like У меня была квартира, но я её продала два года назад, I used to have an apartment, but I sold it two years ago. This can later become У меня была ___, но я её продала ___ назад.

This is what I do with all new words. They all become “sentenced” before they go in my ANKI deck. If the word is presented without an example, I do The Google Trick– a quick internet search for the word will bring up millions of examples.

When my Russian wasn’t very good, I wouldn’t understand most of them, but I’d scan until I found something that I could understand. That’s the sentence I would copy + paste into ANKI. Filtering search results to ‘news’ is helpful too, since most headlines are short and easier to understand.

Now I have this crazy ANKI deck, haha. I don’t even know where some of these things came from!



At the current moment, I’m working on perfective / imperfective verbs (who else struggles with this?) using this aaaaamazing grammar explanation. Literally every example is going into ANKI for later review. Just looking at получить and получать does nothing for me- I always get them mixed up- but memorizing Нет, мы еще не получили and Нет, мы никакого письма не получали is a huge help for my brain.


Okay, so that’s how you can eventually build up an innate “grammar sense” using ANKI. But what about culture?

Memes to the rescue!!

SO TRUE. (Hey, there’s even some grammar for you- без and с.)





If you follow Street Russian on Facebook, you know how much I enjoy memes 🙂 Here are some quick cultural lessons via memes (and please ignore the ругательство, swearing):


“Even I know Moscow better than you.”

Reminder: once upon a time, Napoleon invaded Russia. He had a pretty terrible time there, but he did get to see the capital.


“I’m not a person anymore, I’m a damn salad.” “Ha, how f*cking funny.”

Okay, caesar salad, got it. But did you know there’s also a well-known dessert named after Napoleon that’s very popular in Russia?


“Steve, Bill, tell us how you became so wealthy.” “I never whistled at home…” “And I never took the trash out after 6 PM.”

Russian superstitions 101: Whistling at home / taking the trash out at night = Das vidaniya, money!


Sure, there are a lot of terrible memes out there too, but I still find it worthwhile to go meme-ing every once in a while. They can teach us so much about culture and history in a short, funny way, like in the three memes here. And honestly, I don’t always understand what they’re referencing. One of the first Russian memes I saw said something like Ты русский если знаешь что значить Лебединое Озеро на всех каналах, You’re Russian if you know what Swan Lake on all channels means. I had no idea what “Swan Lake on all channels” meant, so I had to ask someone. And wow, that was a big one. (Do you know what -or rather, when- that means?)



And there you have it- my two steadfast vocabulary habits 🙂 I hope this post has given you some inspiration and new ideas about learning vocab. Do you have any tips or tricks that you use in your studies? Any favorite memes? Leave me a comment below!

2 Responses

  1. Jasilyn Albert
    | Reply

    “Memorize sentences instead of words.” <<That is such great advice and something I learned when I first moved here. Unlike Spanish, Russian really cannot be translated word for word into English. It's why Google Translate sucks so much!

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Haha, oh yes, trying to translate word by word is a recipe for trouble :p I used to say things that I thought made perfect sense (coming from English) and people would give me the weirdest looks!

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