1. Get started by learning the Cyrillic alphabet
Start here if you still haven't taken the first step to writing in Russian: learning Cyrillic. Don't worry! It's not nearly as scary as it looks, and there are countless resources online to learn it. Some good websites include RussianLesson.net's first lesson or the University of Chicago's Cyrillic Alphabet Basics but if you need more practice, you can also find plenty of others with a quick internet search.
You can also check out some of the many Youtube videos which teach the Cyrillic alphabet such as RussianLessons.net's or RussianPlus's.
2. Learn Cyrillic cursive handwriting
"I just learned a new alphabet - now I have to learn ANOTHER one?!" Cyrillic cursive letters are sometimes unrecognizably different from the printed letters they correspond to. Even if you never write or read cursive in your native language, you will probably have trouble completely avoiding cursive Cyrillic, which is more common and cursive-style letters also appear in certain typed fonts, especially anything in italics. For example, the word здравствуйте becomes здравствуйте when it is italicized.
It's a good investment to spend a little time practicing writing cursive in Russian, to help you understand different fonts and your teacher's or other Russians' handwriting. You might even prefer to write in cursive all the time!
If you're in Russia, you can also check out the local bookstores (such as the famous Дом Книги on Nevsky Prospekt or the chain store Буквоед) for books aimed at teaching Russian children how to write.
3. Learn to type
Once you know the alphabet and how to write in cursive, the next step is to start typing in Russian. If you missed it, check out last week's post on how you can do that and why you should.
4. Write - as much as you want, as often as you want, about whatever you want - and have it quickly corrected by native speakers with Lang-8
Once you know the alphabet and even a little bit of Russian, it's time to start writing. The only way to improve our writing is by - surprise! - actually writing. But what should we write, and how can we be sure that what we write is correct, especially in a language with as many opportunities for mistakes as Russian? Wouldn't it be nice if we had our own personal Russian secretary to proofread everything we wrote, no matter how basic or how comples, no matter how many mistakes we made or what the topic was?
Sure, your teacher will correct your occassional writing assignments, and you might also be lucky enough to have a language exchange partner who is willing to look at your writing from time to time, but sometimes they'll take a while to get back to you, or you might feel bad asking them for help all the time.
With Lang-8, you get quick feedback from real, native speakers on whatever you write in Russian (or another language you're learning), without having to annoy your friends and teacher by constantly asking them to check your writing. Your text will be corrected line by line, often by multiple people, and usually within a day or even a few hours. For each line of your text, the native-speaking user can correct your language, say that there are no mistakes, or leave a comment. They can also give feedback on the text as a whole, often about the subject or some words of encouragement.
Lang-8 functions like a blog in which you write posts in the language you're studying. Unlike a blog, though, you're not necessarily expected to write anything particularly interesting, and there's no need for coherence from post to the next. Just write something, anything, in Russian (or any other language you're learning!).
- Introduce yourself.
- Tell a story about your day.
- Make a simple list of things you have and things you don't have.
- Make one or two example sentences for each of the vocabulary words you learned in class today, or with those stubborn words you were supposed to learn last month but can never seem to remember.
- Write a dialogue between a shopkeeper and a customer, or a teacher and a student, or a parent and a child, or an cosmonaut and an alien.
- Give detailed instructions on how to do something simple, such as make a sandwich, tie a shoe, or wash dishes.
- Take some of the questions from your textbook and answer each one in two sentences.
- Describe your favorite place, or your least favorite place.
- Think of a text or dialog you read in class and try to rewrite it from memory, or adapt it slightly.
- Write a letter to your future or past self.
- Retell the plot of your favorite book or movie.
- Make a list of questions you'd like to ask a famous person.
- Write a poem.
- Give and support your opinion of a controversial political issue.
- Think of ten people you know, and in complete sentences, tell their names, their ages, their professions, and something they like or don't like.
- Decribe a thing or famous person in detail, without giving away what you're talking about, and see if your readers can identify him/her/it.
- Make a list of life goals or of Russian-learning goals.
- Write a job ad for your current job or your dream job.
- Make a sentence for each pronoun of a verb you have trouble conjugating.
Learners everywhere from A1.1 to C2.2 can use this site. No matter what you are able or inspired to write, just write! You could even type up a short paragraph on your phone during your morning commute every day, post it before class, and review the corrections and feedback on your way home.
Don't feel like you have to write a long essay in order to post. Actually, since the native speakers choose which posts they want to correct, it's often better to write several shorter posts instead of one very long post. If you also include a translation of what you wrote in Russian in English or your native language, you might get more feedback, as Russian speakers can also use it to practice their English (and to understand what you are trying to say if your Russian text is not clear).
What's the catch? The only thing you have to do in return is occassionally correct some other users' writing in your own native language. You can choose which posts to correct and when you want to correct them, so this won't be too much of a burden or commitment. You don't have to always choose Russian speakers who are learning your language (it could be a Japanese speaker or a French speaker learning English for example), but it's a good idea to sometimes correct Russian speakers too, because they'll be more likely to correct your posts in return, especially if you provide especially useful corrections or comments. Lang-8 also allows you to chat with other users and add them as friends, so you could also find language exchange partners through the site.