Russian is a beautiful, subtle, expressive language, but it can be challenging. So on this blog I’ll be sharing my favorite tips, gathered over my 30 years of studying Russian and 15 years teaching the language.
Today’s topic is mnemonics: memory techniques to help you remember complex information.
You’ve probably been faced with instructions like these:
“If the word ends in ж, ш, ь, щ, ч…” or
“For stems ending in г, к, х, ш, щ, ч, ж…”
The problem is that memorizing seemingly random strings of letters is hard. Ever tried remembering a password like eI3(xY#&msc5! ?. It would be next to impossible.
A classic technique is to create a memorable phrase where the first letter (or sound) of each word is one of the letters to be remembered. So
г, к, х, ш, щ, ч, ж, ц
Garlicky crispy hot shrimp with fresh chips was chosen by Jacques for the tsar.
It’s a silly phrase, but its silliness makes it easier to remember than a string of letters. And once you’ve learned it, you’ll always know the 8 letters involved the three crucial spelling rules:
7-letter rule: after г, к, х, ш, щ, ч, ж, write и instead of ы.
5-letter rule: after ш, щ, ч, ж, ц, write е instead of unstressed о.
8-letter rule: after г, к, х, ш, щ, ч, ж, ц, write у instead of ю, а instead of я.
Here’s another handy one:
Jacques ships soft English cheese cheap – yay!
ж ш ь щ ч > ей
This one helps us remember that words ending in these 5 letters end in -ей in the genitive plural: пять мужей, сколько врачей, etc.
And one last mnemonic:
Nearly all gorillas prefer the Daily Independent.
I’ll leave this as a puzzle for you. Can anyone guess what this mnemonic is helpful for? (I’ll provide the answer in an upcoming newsletter and blog post!)
If you have thought up your own mnemonics to help with Russian – perhaps in a language other than English? – and would like to share, leave a comment below.
Спасибо за внимание!