Is it hard to learn Russian?

After 1 month of studying it, what do I think about learning Russian language?
This is a video of me talking in Russian with Katia and Nastya, two native russian girls, after 32 days of studying the language.

The Incredible part is that…

The incredible part of my Journey into the Russian language is that it took only few days to be able to understand basic conversation, being able to partecipate and talk with people.
I am living in Vilnius where many people speak Russian, but I never made the effort to understand the language and it just sounded like background noise. Now I can understand people when they talk and I recognize lots of words. Incredible.

I understand Russians…and I can talk with them

As I said, it’s incredible how short time it takes to be able to understand a language. With the basic words in place you can start to make educated guesses and most of the time you are right. And once you understand what people are saying you can find your way into the discussion to get yourself understood.

Learning Russian Is Fun

So far the journey has been simply fun. All I do is

  • Russian Music (My all time favorite Родион Газманов: Осторожно
  • Michel Thomas cds
  • Memrise to get vocabularies
  • Bliu Bliu to get exposure to content I can understand
  • Watching Friends in Russian (Season 8 Episode 4, The One With the Videotape!)

Сериал Друзья 8 сезон 4 серия - смотреть онлайн
I am getting so many new vocabularies form Friends. I know almost every episode by heart so when I listen to them in Russian I know already what they will say.

And maybe it’s fun because I am not studying the grammar!

Is Russian Grammar Hard to Learn?

I have no idea. I hear from everybody that Russian grammar is simply impossible.
So I decided to entirely skip the grammar. People are worried that if they don’t study the grammar they won’t be able to speak correctly and according to these believes, my Russian should be really broken…but I don’t think I am making a lot of mistakes on these videos, at least no more that I would make after studying the grammar.

I am trying to understand the essence of the language. When I speak I try to feel if it sounds right or not, without thinking of any rule (as I don’t really know any rule).

I can read Russian

I am not very good at reading yet but after a month I can read it 60/70%. I am learning how to read simply by listening to the audio version of many texts and connecting sounds with words or phrases.

I can’t write in Russian

I made the decision not to learn how to write in Russian. I can write my name and few other words but nothing more. I want to become really good at speaking and reading first, after that I will start focusing on writing. At this stage it’s too early and too painful.

The Road to Mastery

My videos kinda look all the same, I am saying the same things all over again. But even if consciously I don’t have the feeling I am progressing very fast, as the first days, I know that subconsciously my brain is absorbing Russian and making new connections in my brain. Plateau are normal when you are acquiring a new skills. I read GEORGE LEONARD’S BOOK “MASTERY” and I love what another reader has to say about it:


One of the most valuable realizations that came from the book is learning to love the plateau. You will spend most of your journey toward mastery plateaued.


I wish my level would be better but for the amount of effort I have been putting, in just a month, I am surprised of the results. Next week I will move to Berlin and I am looking for Natives to talk with. I also decided to wake up earlier in the morning and work for 30 minutes every day on acquiring more words.

Learning Russian it’s fun!!

Interview with Olly Richards – I Will Teach You A Language

Today we have a guest on our blog: Olly Richards. We met Olly at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin and we had an interesting conversation about learning languages.
Olly runs the website Check out his story.

Who are you and where have you lived in the last 12 months

I’m Olly, 33, from the UK. I’m living in Doha, Qatar at the moment, where I’ve been for 18 months. However, I’m getting ready to move to Cairo in September, which is really exciting. I’m getting ready to start learning Arabic next month, which will certainly be a big challenge!

Can you tell us something about your First Time.

My first time was in Paris, the city of love! ☺ I was 19 years old, and I had just taken a year out of university. I couldn’t speak any other languages besides English, but I had the travel bug. My ex-girlfriend had told me all about the gap-year she’d spent in Paris, so I thought I’d go there too and see what happened.
I bought a one-way ticket on the Eurostar and turned up in Paris one rainy November morning. I remember it was cold and wet. I found a place to stay, but needed to find a job. The owner of the place I was staying put me in touch with the owner of a youth hostel in the Montmartre, saying that they needed a receptionist.
I jumped at the chance, went for an interview, and only when I got there realised that the interview was probably going to be in French.
It was.

Believe it or not, I fudged my way through it by nodding a lot and occasionally saying “oui, je comprend!” For some reason unknown to me, the guy gave me the job. I was now settled in Paris.
I was working the night shift in the hostel, which was nice and quiet. I used the time to study French as much as possible. Customers would come in and ask things, the phone would ring, sometimes the boss would drop in.

My French began to improve quite rapidly.
What I learnt from that experience was that if you can create the right situation for yourself, you can learn a language very quickly indeed. Our brains are capable of great things – we just have to provide the conditions for learning to happen.

Olly Hokkaido

Do you have any terrible experience? Like a language you could not 
learn and you gave up?

My biggest regret in language learning is that I’ve let my Italian slip. I used to speak it very well, and spent some time in Italy, but these days can’t say very much at all.
There are two reasons that this happened.
Firstly, after leaving Italy and going back to London I didn’t make any effort to keep up my Italian.
Secondly, and this is related to the first point, I began learning Spanish at the same time as I arrived in London. As you know, Spanish and Italian are so similar, that unless you really try hard to use both languages on an ongoing basis, it’s inevitable that you will lose one of them.
And that’s what happened to me.
Lesson learnt – you have to keep it up!

Tell us about an “easy” experience

Spanish, after having already learnt French and Italian, was comparatively easy. There are so many similarities between the languages that you don’t have to learn a whole lot from scratch (as I later did with Asian languages, for example). Once you learn things like common noun and verb endings in Spanish, it’s quite easy to transfer knowledge over from other romance languages.

Olly Richards

Why languages and not…..

At the root of it all, I think, is that I’m a people-person. I love connecting with people and learning about other cultures. Language learning has simply been the logical consequence of that. That’s not to say it just happens easily, but that passion has led me to seek out people to spend time with and be around, and in those conditions languages are much easier to learn.

Can you tell us your secret weapon to learn languages.

I really can’t point to one thing, but rather a set of principles that combine well together to make language learning easier.
Those, in short are:

  • Be clear about what makes you passionate about the language – cinema, people, books, music… whatever. This is what will keep you going when motivation slips.
  • Speak with native speakers regularly, ideally in a language exchange or with an informal tutor. You don’t need a teacher. People often overlook this step, but I think it’s a crucial step in developing your own persona in the language, as I mentioned in this Japanese video: 

  • Read and listen to texts at the same time, ideally texts which are slightly above your current level
  • Have a system for capturing vocabulary and revising it (spaced-repetition flashcards work for me). Don’t just nod your head and smile when you learn a new word – capture it somehow or it will be lost.
  • Have a simple routine that you keep to everyday, however small

Do these things well, and I defy you not to improve!

Is there anything you do, maybe not so effective but kinda unique,
your sort of talisman.

No. I’m kind of middle-of-the-road. I spend a lot of time speaking with people and using my SRS app (Spaced Repetition System)

Do you try to read/watch content? Is it easy to find?

It depends on the language. I often lose patience looking for content that both appeals to me and is also at the right level. Good content is easier to find in certain languages than others, often because of script problems. Cantonese, for example, is a spoken language, so finding written content is extremely hard. Japanese kanji is very difficult to read without the phonetic script (furigana) to help you, but hardly any authentic content has that, except for the occasional word that even native speakers don’t know. Technology is advancing all the time, though, and I think the landscape will look very different 5 years from now. Exciting times!

yakimochi shop

Did you ever try to use Bliu Bliu?

Bliu Bliu is one of the most exciting websites I’ve seen for a long time. Right now, because of the languages I’m studying (Cantonese and Egyptian Arabic), it’s not a great match for me (nothing is!!), but when I come to work on my other languages I will certainly be stopping by!

Your final words – anything you want to share with our passionate
community of language lovers.

I mentioned earlier that I’m starting to learn Egyptian Arabic. On my website I will be documenting the entire process with videos and blog posts, showing you exactly how I go about learning, right from the start. If you think this would be useful for you, I’d love to have you follow along! Just head over to the site at and sign up – I’ll send you all the updates.

Where to find Olly Richards


Vaida Žūsinaitė about Languages

Today we feature on our Blog the interview with Vaida Žūsinaitė.
She is a Lithuanian professional athlete, sharing with us her experience trauma related to languages.

1:20 she share her secret trauma from school: how focusing on grammar makes it really hard for shy people to practice languages.
1:50 Vaida tells that sometimes you only need 1 word to speak.
3:15 Race for Life, let’s see if Vaida can really run and jump

If you need a personal trainer you can find more about Vaida on her personal website – – and her Facebook page.

Bliu Bliu live version

Last weekend we were invited at a big festival here in Lithuania called PLJS (Meeting of World-wide Lithuanian Youth).

Bliu Bliu was invited to help people learning languages.

There are big communities of Lithuanians in the States and for all emigrants, keeping the language of their parents can be a challenge:

  • No language course available, unless you live in big cities or big communities
  • Often parents choose not to teach their native language to their children, being afraid they won’t learn english as native

During the festival we presented Bliu Bliu and our way of learning languages. People have various believes when it comes to learn languages and most of them are quite negative.

Learning a language can be fun and interesting.

During the festival we were teaching Lithuanian, Italian, English and Russian. People were quite excited to be able to have simple but interesting conversations…after only 30 minutes

1) We started by teaching fundamental words and phrases.
2) We introduced one topic for specific vocabulary (flirt, politics, festival, sports, business)
3) We spiced things up with words, phrases and expressions to sound like a native.

The results were impressive. In 30 minutes people could improvise a conversation, get to know each other and use expressions that only natives use, making them sound really authentic.

Video from our beta testing.

It’s windy and impossible to hear…but watch our for the Panda!


Are you attending PLJS 2014?
Here is the PDF with all the words and phrases to create interesting conversations


How much Russian can you speak in 15 Days

Here a video we made about Claudio’s progress in the Russian language.


  • This was the first time we met Margarita
  • Conversation is improvised
  • Claudio is not taking any class


So far, Claudio did not formally study any Russian grammar



PS: we just found out that Margarita (маргарита) is one of our user – she is studying Spanish on Bliu Bliu. Oh Yeah!



A lovely article from


What is the best feature of Bliu Bliu?
I think the best thing Bliu Bliu offers is that it makes you feel confident. No matter what is your level Bliu Bliu always finds something you can understand. It takes 20.000 jokes in a language and reorganizes them from the easiest to the hardest. And the more you click on words telling Bliu Bliu which ones you know or don’t know, the more Bliu Bliu adapts and find content tailored on your level.

Read the entire article here

Learn Languages – the Italian Way

I know I know, you are thinking that italians are famous because they DO NOT learn languages.

But let me tell you why Italians don’t learn and HOW I use the italian way to learn languages fast and effective…while having a lot of fun!
Bliu Bliu

Why Italians Don’t Learn Languages

I bet you have seen already the video of the Italian in Malta!

We are terrible english speaker. We have a horrible pronunciation and we do not understand anything people are telling us.

We spend 5/8 years at school doing boring exercises, learning all the grammar you can imagine practicing boring dialogues

Problem is that Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and all the 6 guys from FRIENDS, they all speak italian. In Italy you can listen to real english only from music. We do have a lot of tourists and we do understand what they are saying, but we reply in italian to them. This is why they go back home speaking italian.

But Italians CAN Learn Languages

Italians are good at few things: pizza, coffee, pasta, you probably know we are quite good with LOVE. And by love I mean PASSION. We are very passionate people and when we like something we put an amazing amount of passion into it.


And this is when Italian learn languages very quickly. If we fall in love with somebody, or with the local culture, with the people, the food, the movies, then we have no enemies.

LOVE: My Approach to Languages

I recently started learning Russian. I have been studying for about a week and I just love it.
I started with Michel Thomas, learning few verbs, nouns and phrases.
And from day 1 I started to speak with people.

Stalk from day 1
Benny Lewis is famous for his “Talk from Day 1″ – I personally Stalk from Day 1.

I jump to random people and just talk. All I care it’s to make sure it’s fun and easy to understand for both sides.
My dictionary is limited but I always have some special phrase that I use to make them laugh and interact with me. It never feels like language practice, I make it feel like fun, also for them.
Some of my favourite phrases in all languages are:

  • would you marry me?
  • would you like to dance with me?

RADIO BROADCAST, not conversations
It is more like RADIO BROADCAST than conversation. There cannot be a conversation yet as I don’t know so many words, but I have my show prepared and I keep improving it every time I test it on somebody. I am able to predict what they are going to ask me, so the all “conversation” is more or less staged, with me in total control and ready to bring it back to known territory. I create conversations so that the natives always reply to me with something that I can actually understand.

Build on top of what I know (n+1)
I have my show and what I do is constantly adding new peaces to my radio program. In the beginning I can talk for 30 seconds. Than 1 minute, then 2, then 5, then 10. And I say the same things all over again, simply adding few new words into the SHOW based on what natives keep replying to me. I become so good at anticipating their reactions/answers that it starts to feel quite natural.

For my friends this is boring, as they get to listen to this all over again. This is why it’s so hard to practice with friends: they get bored of you! A joke is fun one, maybe two times, not 1000. But I need to tell it 1000 of times to get better at it. This is why I used a lot of natives, between friends, random people, online people, to make sure they don’t get bored and I get a variety of feedback.

I focus a lot on pronunciation to make it sound as natural as possible, not worrying too much about the right words, the right expressions, am I being formal, informal…I don’t care. I just want to sound like a native. And this is the one and only time that I let native to correct me…but unfortunately they get bored after 3 times and my pronunciation becomes perfect.

Positive Reinforcement from Environment
I create a fake world where every time I speak I get positive reinforcement from the environment. People like when you speak their language, especially if you speak with confidence. And I flirt heavily, especially with older women. Who knows when was last time they got a compliment and here I am, studying Russian and telling them how beautiful and young they look. And seriously, this does not work with younger girls, it works only with 50/60 years old women. But it works like magic!

I don’t study the grammar. I have a good knowledge of it, having studied Italian, English, French, Latin, Lithuanian and Finnish grammar. I can understand why words behave in a certain way and I try to figure out grammar from real usage.

I certainly don’t want natives to teach me anything, unless it perfectly fits in what I know already. Natives are really bad with their own grammar. Students on the other hand are better and I listen to them when they have a valuable tip.

Avoid Difficult Stuff
When it feels too difficult, I just skip it. No matter how much it’s important, I don’t care. I want to keep it fun so that it is effective. When I get stuck, I just move on to something else, jumping from online course, talking with people, watching videos on youtube, music, tv series, anything.

I am focused on keeping the motivation at a very high level.

Make it a Habit
I don’t “study” for 3/4 hours and then forget about it, but I keep using the language as much as I can. I focus during the day with a timer for 30 minutes, morning and evening. But I also try to use the language in my daily interaction.
You can say a lot of Good Morning (Доброе утро) and Good Evening (добрый вечер) in a day.

Be Accountable
When I start a new language I tell it to everybody. As an Italian you might think that this is because we love to show off, truth is that if you make yourself accountable, then it becomes harder to drop out.

Once the world knows you want to be fluent in Russian in 3 months, now you are on a mission and you have nowhere to hide.

Use it for Real Interactions
I start posting interesting links I find on every social media so that my friends know how to help me. I use the language on Instant Messaging actively asking for help! I want the natives/fluent people to keep sending me good stuff so that I have a little bit of the language during the entire day. And most importantly, so that I connect the language with something useful that matters to me.

Call me lazy, but this is what I DO NOT DO

  • I don’t learn list of words – only words that I can use
  • I don’t do homework
  • I don’t write (not too soon)
  • I don’t try too hard to understand

The Journey is What Brings Us Happiness,
Not the Destination

When I learn a language my final target is to be fluent and be able to participate in actual conversations. But my reward comes every day, I don’t want to wait 3 months (or 3 years) to celebrate. I believe that the entire learning process needs to be fun, from day 1. It’s not always fun, not every day, not every time. But you will not become a good basketball player unless you have fun training and playing. Same goes with languages.

Learning languages is like an adventure, not just to discover words but to explore the world with new eyes. This is what really excites me about languages.

Learning Russian Language Day 10

Here how much you can (or cannot) talk in Russian after 10 days of learning the language.


  • Not attending any course
  • Using only Michel Tomas + Memrise + Bliu Bliu
  • Talking with Natives

GOAL: from 0 to fluent in 3 months


Language Mastery – John Fotheringham

There are quite a lot of blogs out there talking about learning languages.
One of them got our attention since the beginning of Bliu Bliu. We are talking about
Language Mastery – How to Learn Languages the Fun Way with John Fotheringham

Maybe because since 2012 we also love the fun way to learn languages !

John is an wonderful writer, a linguist, interested in psychology and he writes a lot about learning languages. We do agree 100% with everything he writes in there. It’s so nice to see how many already are on the same page.

John Fotheringham is not a big fan of the traditional methods of learning and he regularly post about new interesting ways of learning languages.

Here a list of things NOT TO DO if you want to learn a language

If you want to get a sense of who is John Fotheringham read his “33 Life Lessons Learned Living, Learning & Working Abroad for 10 Years“.