What Does “Perfect” Look Like?

In truth, “perfection” isn’t what any student of Russian should aim for. Instead, we look for increasing levels of proficiency. We want you to feel comfortable using Russian, and your comfort will increase with your understanding of vocabulary, grammar, and usage.

Simply put, learning Russian is difficult. As languages go, Russian takes longer to master than most. According to the Foreign Service Institute’s rating of language difficulty for English native speakers:

  • Spanish, Italian, and French require an average of 600 classroom hours
  • German requires about 700-900 classroom hours
  • Russian requires a minimum of 1100 hours to master.

Only Arabic, Japanese and Chinese are ranked as harder to master, taking upwards of 2200 classroom hours.

scaleProficiency: Climbing the Pyramid

As you begin to learn Russian, it’s helpful to consider three levels of proficiency: novice, intermediate, and advanced. No one starts at the top of pyramid, and it takes time, effort, patience, and persistence to rise from one level to the next. You’ll have greater success and move more quickly through these stages if you commit to the Language Pledge!

Novice (The Memorizer)

  • Novice Low: —no functional ability (may give greetings, identity information, name familiar objects; lots of misunderstandings; requires lots of time for an answer); knows 5-10 words.
  • Novice Mid: minimal communication (isolated words, simple 1 or 2-word memorized answers, recycling of words; difficult to understand); knows 25-50 words.

Intermediate (The Survivor)

  • —Can create with the language (depart from memorized words and phrases)
  • —Asks and answers simple questions
  • —Speaks in complete sentences and can connect a few sentences in a coherent order
  • —Makes mistakes, but is easily understood by speakers who regularly deal with second language learners

Advanced (The Storyteller)

  • —Narrates in the past, future and present; tells stories
  • —Describes in detail
  • —Handles a complicated situation (can cancel a reservation or report missing luggage)
  • —Talks about others and current events
  • —Can speak in paragraphs
  • —Makes occasional mistakes, but is understood by speakers who are not used to dealing with non-native speakers