Monday, August 6, 2012

Are Russian words too long?

 Чувствовать, необыкновенный, железнодорожный, бессердечный, преподаватель, североамериканский... These words are so long! How can you learn them at all? Russian language might seem tough, but fear no more – I'm going to show you that even such monsters as железнодорожный are learnable.

First, remember that big words are made from smaller words and morphemes. For example 'North American' in Russian is североамериканский. It's made from words северный (northern) and американский (American). Северный is made from север (north), and aмериканский is made from Америка (America).

Преподаватель (a teacher) is made from преподавать (to teach) which in turn is made from давать (to give). Пре-, по- and -тель are prefixes and a suffix. So in the heart of this big word lies a short давать that you can easily learn.

From железо (iron) we can make железный (iron, adj.), from дорога (road) — дорожный (related to roads), and together they make железнодорожный — railroad (adj.). Looks less scary now, doesn't it?

Поприветствовать (to greet) is made from привет (hello) by adding a few morphemes. I'm sure you know привет already. ;)

По-весеннему (like in spring) is made from весна (spring).

Подогретый (warmed over, heated) is made from греть (to warm).

Бледно-жёлтый (light yellow) is made from бледный (pale) and жёлтый (yellow).

Припарковываться (to park) is made from a shorter парковаться (to park) that has a familiar root -парк-.

Безумие (insanity) is made from ум (intellect, mind). Сумасшедший (insane, crazy) literally means с ума сшедший — [one who] stepped down from intellect.

The more you know about how Russian words are made, the easier learning them will become. Next time you see an unfamiliar long word, try to see its root(s) first.

Another thing to know is that these words actually make things a bit easier for you. When I started learning English, I often got confused with short words that had various meanings. 'Cut', 'bow', 'bar', 'desert', 'set' and many-many others have so many meanings that I sometimes just hated these words. Of course context helps but in that time I would have preferred to just learn a completely different word. :) These long Russian words, on the other hand, rarely have double meanings, so at least they don't make your head hurt from trying to guess which meaning exactly the word has now.

So, did I succeed in making Russian a bit easier for you or are you still hiding under the table in fear? :)


  1. Mmmmmm, thank you for your big effort. I was knocked down.

    1. It's rewarding for me to know that I might help someone learn Russian :)


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