Russian Course


My thanks to Natasha Brown for putting this lot together in the correct order with all the links:

Уроки с Виктором Дмитриевичем Хулигановым

  1. Hello Mr. Huliganov,

    I was wondering how you have achieved a native speaker proficiency in multiple languages? How did you acquire a native speaker accent? Is there a hope to sound like a native speaker when you learn the language at age 30? Any tips will be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Svetlana

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    • Hang on, there a second, Svetlana.

      I don’t claim to have native-like pronunciation in a whole bunch of languages. Certainly you can expect to hear, to write and to read in a way that competes with natives but there is neither any guarantee nor any need to get rid of your accent and make it like a native accent. One of things the whole Huliganov thing teaches is that he functions as a professor, teaching things very intricate and erudite in English, but with a strong Russian accent and plenty of minor errors. All it does is to make the sound more interesting.

      If I concentrate or if I sing, I can indeed sound like a native in a few other languages. I can’t keep it up in normal speech but I do have the kind of rhythm which means that natives start to disregard and not notice any oddness about my voice once they tune into it. To go further than that can be counter productive as understanding will notincrease and you lose the advantages you can leverage in communication by having a foreign accent.

      Many learners of English enjoy classnessness as a benefit of having a foreign accent, but insist anyway on getting a “native” accent, come to the UK, work on building sites at jobs below their normal competence and intelligence in order to get English, and happily replace their elegant foreigner’s English with something which too redolent of the labourer’s canteen to support their employment chances in any more elevated company. They had a better chance prior to this dubious finishing school for their accent. Other countries don’t have as much class tension and covert snobbery as UK society does, but in Poland for instance if you sound like a Polish emigre you are not as well-received as a total foreigner taking the trouble to learn Polish.

      In order to get a better accent without pushing all the way to a native level one, the key is to listen to good actors in films, news, audiobooks and get a real sense of the music, the inflection of voice, in the language when different kinds of utterance are being made. Not so much on a word by word basis, but using phrases and sentences, as well as entire novels and plays. This develops the internal voice in a language which automatically transfers to the outer voice.

      Speak slowly and not quickly. Speaking quickly and slurring speech might mask imperfections, but won’t help communication. Speaking slowly gives you time to concentrate on the proper pronunciation of sounds you have difficulty with, and these can be exaggerated while concentrating and then when you relax the exaggeration you have something more like the way natives relax it.

      Always go for a higher style and avoid slang. by definition slang is use of a language that even natives do not all know because it is the language of the sub-group. If you did seem like a naticve and were surrounded by people that knew the slang, then it might help. In most cases, though, it will result in some natives thinking you made a mistake as a foreign learner, not that you imbibed some subculture from the language that even the person you are speking with doesn’t know.

      To improve verbal skill, practice with your mouth in different positions with regard to tongue, teeth cheeks, nose, as there is a different way of holding the mouth in different languages. Tongue higher/lower, lips pulled in a certain way, palate held lower, throat muscles tighter. Just as you would do or maybe did do as a kid, you can practice with minor adjustments to vowels and consonants and pitch and then put them all together. You may have done this to impersonate other accents of your own language or specific other people. You can read or recite to a recording mechanism the way people used to do in language labs, but as said at the top, there really probably is no need for such things to become a major part of your study.

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      • I enjoyed this reply. There is indeed a difference between having natural, high-proficiency pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm and having a native-like accent. My personal reaction to speakers with the former is a higher instinctive level of respect for the linguistic capabilities and efforts of the speaker. In contrast are those speakers who studied since early childhood in bilingual schools and can indeed approximate certain native accents, but who too often opt for linguistic fads and even the English of criminals. This latter group is but a minor irritation until they assume that addressing me with their “native-like English” is somehow a mark of intimacy, friendliness, and the right to take familiarities. That’s when I turn cold.

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      • Thank you so much for taking the time to write this very comprehensive response. Thank you for the valuable advice and tips on how to improve pronunciation.

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  2. Francisco Ugarte

    Estimado Huliganov

    Disculpe la intimidad, pero es así como nos tratamos en nuestra cultura.

    He estudiado varios idiomas, pero apenas soy fluente en tres: inglés, portugués y castellano.

    Su método y particularmente su personalidad, son extraordinariamente atractivos.

    Lo felicito por su creación.

    Un gran abrazo.

    Si viene a Brasil tendré mucho gusto en recibirlo.

    Francisco Ugarte

    Like

  3. james kenney

    sir, your russian lessons have been very helpful to me. this is also true of advice concerning language learning strategy.

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  4. H. Allan Aho

    I’ve been learning Russian for about a year now, and your method is very helpful to me. I’m in no particular hurry to become fluent, and I have many distractions, but I stick with it and your Goldlist method is very useful. I also enjoy your music and jokes. As a professional musician, I can also appreciate your singing talent. Russian will be my third language. Presently, I speak English and German equally well, and a curiosity is that both of my parent were Finnish. As it was in many immigrant families of the time when I was young, my parents did not speak Finnish at home (USA), except when the children weren’t supposed to understand. I taught myself German while living and performing in Germany after serving there while in a US Army Band. Some of my relatives are annoyed by the fact that I’ve now chosen to learn Russian, and still do not speak Finnish, but I find the aesthetic properties of Russian irresistible. So, thank you for all that you do.

    I am bothered though, by a statement you make in lesson 12 RL102.That is to remember the Red Army for the liberation of Europe. You will probably expect me to say that the other allies should take more credit, but I’ll leave that aside. For me, it is important to make the point that the Red Army also invaded Finland, and took Karelia. This was certainly no liberation and it should not be forgotten. There is no way to whitewash what happened in Finland and ignoring the facts is almost as bad as denying them. It doesn’t wonder me that Estonia has removed some Soviet statues and monuments, being that the Estonians and Finns are brothers and sisters with the Karelians in ethnicity. Nevertheless, thanks again for a very informative website. One last thing, if you are interested, take a look at the Russian film “Кукушка”, a gripping story of a Finnish soldier, a Russian soldier, and a Karelian farm girl.

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    • Russia under Stalin was not a well-behaved country but the fact remains that most of Europe is freer now than it would be if Hitler had won. Finland did not do that for us.

      Finland had its own war with Russia and fought well. They are respected by Russian people for their toughness and this is a major reason why Russia gave them back their country at the end of the war. Or anyway most of it. Finland was far better treated than Poland, for instance, another valiant country.

      Finland of course is no angel itself. Many of the peoples under its rule are Lapps or Swedes and not Finnish at all. You can hardly complain then if some ethnic Finns live in a place considered Russia.

      All in all, countries are useless, man-made boxes but the blood shed by ordinary soldiers defending liberty is real enough.

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  5. Your videos are very helpful. Thank you for being kind to share them!

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