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29 Things You Will Only Understand If You Studied Russian

You don't learn Russian, Russian learns you.

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2. In those early days, every little victory is thrilling. Like when you can finally read the word "bread" after puzzling over it for five minutes.


4. "Pretend you've just been kicked in the stomach," your professor says, introducing the letter Ы.


"Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы! Ы!" you chant like a bunch of drunken sea lions.


9. Like David Sedaris in Me Talk Pretty One Day, you find yourself referring to a store that sells "couches, beds and tables" instead of мебель because the word is so damned hard to pronounce.

10. Your first attempts at simple translations are totally, hopelessly wrong, because Russian grammar.

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Messing up the aspect of a verb is guaranteed to be an ongoing, habitual and repeated action.

11. Just when you've mastered one case, you discover there are five others to learn.

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How I learned to stop worrying and love the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the instrumental and the prepositional.


14. Then you meet the verbs of motion.

@susarm and I still remember Russ 101 in college asking how to say "to go" and prof was all OH YOU AREN'T READY FOR THAT YET

15. Your instructor makes you describe a merry little trip around an imagined city, full of opportunities to ехать, идти, выходить, обходить, переходить and заходить.

16. You find it impossible to read a native speaker's cursive handwriting.

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Your Russian script is still worse than a third-grader's, but you've also lost the ability to write legible cursive in English.

17. You get used to speaking in imperatives, because otherwise you just sound weird.

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"I would like a cup of coffee, please" = too many words for the admirably no-nonsense Russian language.


21. When you've exhausted your Russian vocabulary, you throw an -овать on the end of an English verb and pray to the gods of cross-cultural communication.

22. When you get to Russia, you have to ask the bartender for a "Sprayt" or a "Long Aylend" in your most exaggerated accent to be understood.

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But you've been mispronouncing "vodka" and "Kalashnikov" your whole life, so cut them some slack.


24. But even if you hate it, you start introducing yourself with the Russian version of your name, because otherwise nobody will know what to call you.

Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.

Contact Susie Armitage at

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