Category Archives: Huliganov's Russian Course

This contains the whole Huliganov Russian Course, from the beginning at the bottom to the end at the top, in order. This is intended to help people who have difficulty finding the parts they need on YouTube.

But you are advised to “click through” into the Youtube environment to watch, as there are comments on there by viewers, questions and answers, and sometimes errors spotted in these films by viewers, so that the complete experience of the course is actually on YouTube itself, by design. This is simply a simplified way of navigating it. If you wish to join the discussion either here or on there it is equally welcome – here the discussion will thread, there it will not, but what you write will probably be seen by more people.

Steps in language learning for those who have no track record of success yet.

cropped-20130930_191133.jpgIf someone wishes to learn from English with no previous success in language learning either French, Spanish, German or Italian then I recommend starting with Paul Noble’s audio only courses, published by Collins. For 8 further languages, namely Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Polish, Dutch and Portuguese I recommend the Michel Thomas series to absolute beginners. After these courses, or from the start for languages not covered by those courses, I recommend Pimsleur courses. All these are audio only courses and are done with no teacher following the instructions outlined by the presenter.

Once this audio material has been front loaded, it is time, if the learner is still enthusiastic, to work through a written course. Most of these also have audio which should be used earlier in the process rather than later. Good courses include such series as Colloquial by Routledge, the Teach Yourself series (older courses tend to be better than new in that series) Living Languages and the Essential grammar series.

To learn the material in the written courses I recommend my own method called the Goldlist method which is free on the internet if you google for it. It helps to memorise written material to the long-term memory with the least possible total time of engagement per word or phrase. It is more effective than having a teacher who will try to activate sparse knowledge too soon.

You should aim to develop fluency in reading because the difference between fluent reading and fluent speaking is three days of immersion. Not a hundred lessons at 20 dollars a shot. Teachers are only really necessary for languages where you cannot tell the pronunciation from the writing or which have highly complex writing systems – and for tonal languages for those encountering this for the first time. A teacher is more likely to impede the adult learner in most Inter-European language learning.

One small word of warning to the absolute beginner – be ready for words and phrases in the language you know to be used completely differently in the other language. Just to give you an example, take the English “What’s happening now?” In French this would be “qu’est ce qu’il se passe maintenant?” Now this means exactly the same in terms of what the French would understand as the English phrase “What’s happening now?” but if you literally translate each of the elements in the French phrase, you get “What is this that he passes handholding?” If a French person tried to learn English using a verbatim approach as you can see he would not make himself understood, but equally anyone trying to put “What is happening now?” word for word into French will find that they come up with something equally nonsensical to the French, moreover the words you would need to do it do not even exist.

I met an Australian one time who said he was “orry” when I asked him how he was. I said “Orry? What’s that?”
“That’s French, mate”,
“You mean ‘horrible’?”
“No, mate, it’s French for “good”, I’m good, mate”
“How is “orry” French for “good”?”
“What? You’re a linguist and you don’t know the French for “goodbye” which is “orry-vwar”?”
I smiled at the wit and then it gradually dawned on me that the guy wasn’t joking. This is the biggest hurdle people have at the beginning, an expectation that the target language is going to work just like their own, you just slot other sounds in instead of the English ones. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

If you can get your head around that, then you are ready to approach a foreign language.

Someone has had trouble remembering enough words with their Goldlist

Caption below picture: 'Wallachians distilling...

Caption below picture: ‘Wallachians distilling “Slievovitz”‘ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone (sic) wrote to me recently suggesting that the Goldlist was not for them as they had tried to do a distillation and only remembered 2 of 25 words.

Now I am someone who has just discovered that there is more than one metabolic type, that a good 45% of people are Matebolism B types as opposed to Metabolism A types, and that’s why the traditional diets based just on calories and not concerned with the whole sugar question don’t do the job but actually made me worse. Given that fact, I’m perfectly open to the idea that just as there is more than one type of metabolism, there may be another type of memory and that really not everyone will benefit from the Goldlist method – yes it is perfectly possible. I have an open mind on that question.

However, given that the Goldlist Method has indeed helped the overwhelming majority of people who have tried it, including some who could never learn languages using other methods and now can, as well as some others who were already successful polyglots with their own tried and tested methods who nevertheless saw enough merit in the Method to add it to their armoury of tools, I would be reluctant to give up on it just after not having a great result on the first distillation. Instead I would look at the reasons why a person could find that they distil a headlist and only manage to throw out 2 of the 25 and not something like 6, 8, 10, 12 or even 14 as is the experience of most people using the method. Read the rest of this entry

A conversation with a Russian learner about aspects of verbs.

English: Native language in Ukraine. Legend: U...

English: Native language in Ukraine. Legend: Ukrainian language dominates as the native language Russian language dominates as the native language. Bi-lingual, with a slight Ukrainian language lead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the followers of the video content on YouTube, Dennis, wrote asking about the question of aspects. I answered as I could and also as you will see got his permission to share the conversation so that more language learners would be able to take advantage of the topic.

  • Conversation started Thursday

  • 11:18


    Dennis Meurders


    Dear David,

    Thank you so much of the add. I’m honored! 
    I’m a very big fan of your youtube videos concerning the Russian language. I use them in addition of my Russian language course and I ust say that they give me a headstart of the rest. So they really help!
    I was wondering however if you could tell me which video talks about the time aspect ( поличать vs поличить) if you know what I mean with that. We talked about it yesterday in class and most people (including myself) find it very difficult.

    I hope you can help me out with this one.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    Dennis Meurders Read the rest of this entry

RL101-7 The Sibilants

Playout date: 12 November 2006
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – medium use
Location: Capetown Arabella Sheraton, South Africa
Other people featured: None
Genre: Lesson
Music used: “Vdol’ po ulitse metelitsa metyot” with my wife
Languages used: Russian, English
Animals featured: None

In this seventh lesson in the 10 lesson course on the Russian alphabet known as RL-101 series, we find ourselves in the Arabella Sheraton in Cape Town South Africa, with table Mountain looming behind my head. This is the perfect setting to place a new set of consonants on the table, namely the sibilants.
The problem with the sibilants as far as Cyril and Methodius and their acolytes were concerned is that that is a group of consonants which you simply would not find in either Latin or Greek. To this day these sounds present difficulties to people transcribing Russian sounds into Western European languages. So whereas the sounds that we have met until now have come from Greek into the Cyrillic alphabet, the missionaries to the Slavs had to look for another source in order to render these sounds in Slavonic.

Hebrew was the next choice, being another biblical language. The letter shin and the letter tzaddi are both sibilants in Hebrew, so they were brought in and also amended, so that from shin we derive three sibilant letters in Russian, and from tzaddi we derive two.

The words introduced in this lesson are as follows:

that .., что
borshch (beetroot soup) борщ
in (acc/prep) в
Warsaw Варшава
you (formal/plural, acc/gen) вас
Washington Вашингтон
goodbye до свидания
stomach желудок
wife жена
woman женщина
fat жир
arse жопа
hello здравствуйте
how’s it going? как дела?
how? как?
when? когда?
end конец
of course конечно
face лицо
on (acc/prep) на
because потому, что
why? почему?
Friday пятница
Tashkent Ташкент
you (inf sing, acc/gen) тебя
comrade товарищ
what? что?
spy шпион
shi (cabbage soup) щи
egg яйцо

Goldlist Method Discussion on LingQ Forums – How to learn languages

Image representing LingQ as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

This is a link to a discussion on the Goldlist Method again by some pretty hardcore polyglots, most of whom seem to like the method, although unsurprisingly there are dissenting voices. After all, the people who have already learned a number of languages successfully will already in the main have their pet methods, and the fact that any people in that category are willing to add the method to their arsenal is a great boon. My main case for it rests however with the people who have written to me getting success for the first time in language learning by applying the method and understanding the underlying truths about language learning – which of course it doesn’t have any kind of monopoly on – which were the reasons they failed before with conventional classroom learning, and not from their own fault.

I don’t think I will join in the discussion on LingQ, one YT friend indicated that the discussion is there, but on previous occasions when this has been discussed and I’ve chimed in it has put the discussion to death a bit. And believe me it is a great pleasure for me to read intelligent, unfettered discussion about the method.

Please go and have a look. You don’t have to be a registered member of LingQ to review the site, although you might want to look around and see if a sub there is for you. I like Steve Kaufman and have no qualms about plugging his place. Most people spend a lot more on Language Learning than they’d need to spend to get a top-level membership on there, and be engaged in studying and teaching languages all day and every day.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes from the discussion, by various people:

The method was first invented by an English guy living in Poland (I believe his name is David James.) He seems to be a little strange…

Heh heh.
Perhaps he is simply living proof that human genius and human madness are very close together!?

Very possibly. Who knows?

Some of this videos are funny, some aren’t.
I cannot possibly comment. None of them are particularly funny to me, I have to say.
I have been using the Goldlist method since last December, and it seems indeed that on average I remember 30% of the words in each list. I have only done the first distillation so far, but it seems to work indeed, and it is faster than an SRS protocol.
It is a kind of SRS protocol, but more drawn out, more trusting of the amazing human unconscience than either Anki or Supermemo, even though they reflect experimental findings about memory more closely than my method does. And of course it doesn’t need a computer. We spend enough time on them and finding diacritics can seriously waste your learning time. On the other hand just clicking between alternatives doesn’t engage you as much in the word as actually writing it.

I didn’t know about Mr James’ contribution to the polyglot book before Sebastian pointed it out in his post yesterday. I spent several hours last night reading most it, and I agree it makes pretty interesting (and unusual) reading.

I liked the way he describes learning Italian in classes at school, while teaching himself Russian at home using Linguaphone and the older version of “Teach Yourself”. The result: he got a top mark in the ‘O Level‘ Russian Exam, and a lower mark in the ‘O Level’ Italian exam – leaving his Italian teacher entirely perplexed! :-0

His recollections of having a little run-in with the KGB while on a student exchange in the old USSR during the 1980s is also quite funny in the telling (although the actual experience of a KGB-third-degree was doubtless anything other than ‘funny’ for a student 19 or 20 years of age!)

Very true.
Those CANNOT be his own eyebrows
It’s a fair cop, I borrowed them from the Eyebrow Library. They are in fact a pair of bookworms, and can often be found hovering over their prey.
I won’t do all of the ones I liked as I would prefer people to go and read the whole discussion in situ.

Title: RL101-6 The next 5 – 2/3 of the way

Playout date: 27 October 2006
Camera: Logitech Webcam
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – heavy use
Location: Home
Other people featured: None
Genre: Lesson
Music used: I can’t help falling in love, Elvis Presley, karaoke.
Languages used: English and Russian
Animals featured: None

We look at another five letters, which is enough to take us two thirds of the way through the Russian alphabet.  That won’t mean being able to read two thirds of the words, of course, as most words are five or more letters long, and it only takes one of the these letters to be in the third not yet learned for the whole word not be readable.  However from this point on, the volume of words that we can indeed understand in full begins to increase out of proportion to the remainder of the journey.
Today’s letters are still letters deriving from Greek and not looking the same as in Latin, however these letters are also not written the same as they were in the original Greek.  That’s basically the idea of the course – back at the beginning we took a look at the six letters which are the same in Cyrillics as in the Latin alphabet we are probably familiar with ( hint – you’re reading it now) after which we looked at letters whose form in Cyrillics look like Latin letters but which sound different, and in each case they were also in Greek, and the Greek sound is basically the same as the Russian one.  We then went on to look at letters which are pretty much the same in the Cyrillic alphabet as they are in Greek, but which don’t resemble Latin letters and are therefore less likely to cause confusion.  The natural progression here is to look at the letters which really derive from Greek, but which also look slightly different to the way they looked in Greek. This will be followed by letters which derived from Hebrew instead, and then the mop up of the few letters left over at the end.  That’s basically the approach we’ve taken in this course to the Russian alphabet.

RL101 – 5 Revision of the first 17 letters

With 171 likes to 3 dislikes at the time of posting this up to blog, this remains one of my most popular pieces. The revision of the first half of the Russian alphabet contains already a list of words, 31 in total, using the letters learned so far, unlike the previous lessons, which concentrated on letter only.

The joke “I spoil that woman” and the song Katiusha sung by myself and Elena have also elicited flattering comments from the viewership.

The word-list for this lesson is as follows, in alphabetical order of both languages:

адвокат lawyer café кафе
вот here is country страна
где where daddy папа
город town, city garden, orchard сад
да yes glass стакан
дерево tree he он
дом house, home here is вот
кафе café house, home дом
кот tomcat it оно
кто who juice сок
мама mother just, straight on просто
медсестра nurse lawyer адвокат
метро underground train mother мама
налево on the left no нет
направо on the right not не
не not nurse медсестра
нет no on the left налево
окно window on the right направо
он he she она
она she sister сестра
оно it soldier солдат
папа daddy there там
правда truth, true toilet туалет
просто just, straight on tomcat кот
сад garden, orchard town, city город
сестра sister tree дерево
сок juice truth, true правда
солдат soldier underground train метро
стакан glass where где
страна country who кто
там there window окно
туалет toilet yes да

The Goldlist Method and Pronunciation of a Learned Language.

The chinese word for "National Language&q...

The Chinese word for "National Language" in Traditional and Simplified (ugh) Characters, Pinyin and 3 outdated transcription methods.

I haven’t always been as explicit as I could be on the matter of pronunciation of languages, and how the Goldlist method works for that. A great question from Mitch which I saw today puts his finger on what learners could perceive to be a difficulty while using the Goldlist method and how best to approach this question. 

First his question, which you can see in the page on the Goldlist Method.


1 question. The gold list is activated after 3 days in an immersion environment. This will require correct pronunciation. How do you go about getting this for each word? Do you find audio for each word on your list? I don’t remember doing this as a child. I don’t think I asked someone how to say this for every word I found. I’m missing something.

Thanks Viktor.


This is actually a very good question, so in addition to answering it here I think I’ll also make this answer a fully fledged article on the front page of the blog. I’ll kick it off here and continue on the full article.

The first thing I will take issue with is your statement “this will require correct pronunciation”. I am not sure what “correct pronunciation” is, all I know is that there are people who mimic native pronunciation better than others and they may sound like better linguists when what they probably are is just better voice actors.

What you definitely need to have an awareness of is how that word is supposed to sound so that you would be able to say it understandably – without having a native listener confusing what you were trying to say, and to recognise the word when another person says it.

You don’t need to worry about this mythical holy grail of “correct pronunciation” in the way you’ve formulated it in the question.

Now for most languages in the world, and surprisingly not for the so-called “easy” language of English, one of two things is true. Either the normal way of writing is a lot more phonetic and devoid of exceptions than the English is, or in the cases where this is not the case there are ways to write it more phonetically. Read the rest of this entry


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