From The Desk Of
Natasha Spivack

Founder and President


Let me make one thing perfectly clear!

Do I need to learn Russian? This is one of the frequent questions from my clients ask me. This question usually follows the question about her learning or knowing English. I am often asked to recommend a language tape set or computer-based translation program.

It is interesting that most men believe that learning Russian is some type of obligation they must endure. Learning each other's language, unfortunately, is really a double standard.

Since she will be coming to an English-speaking country to live, it is essentially mandatory that she learns English. It will be a case of immersion. Therefore, knowledge of your language is mandatory for successful integration into society.

On the other hand, it is not necessary for men to learn her native language. Typically, men are not going to take up residence in her country or become immersed in the Russian or Ukrainian language or culture for any significant length of time.

Of course, this is not to say that men do not have other valid reasons to learn to speak her language. Some reasons are not as valid or as useful as others.

By the way, Russian is a very complicated and difficult language to learn. I can say this with some authority. As you know, I am a former professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. For ten years, my job was teaching Russian to English speakers. While some were able to grasp the endless list of rules and exceptions, others were unable to get it.

In many cases, it was truly a case of a language disability—the inability to learn a new language. Learning a new language is like learning to play an instrument. In theory, anyone can learn a new language or to play an instrument. However, only those with a natural talent are really able to master either one.

Some men want to learn Russian to impress the women with their own intelligence and dedication. That is, if the woman can learn English, he can learn Russian. The reality of this is that she will be initially impressed and happy that you decided to learn some Russian. But, that is where this ends. Russian or Ukrainian women are not going to stand up and cheer (or even notice) that you have continued with the pursuit of their language. Once the novelty wears off, she will consider it old news.

There is also a group of men who want to learn Russian because they view this knowledge as a valuable communications tool to be used in their future relationship. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult goal to achieve. It is easy to become frustrated and disappointed when the progress does no occur at the desired rate. In most cases they abandon this when it becomes obvious that switching back to English to communicate is the preferred method.

Finally, as I mentioned above, some men view learning Russian as their duty or as an obligation. It's a very nice thought, but there is no need to feel obligated. This attitude will make the entire process of learning dreaded work instead of something to look forward to accomplishing.

Before you decide to learn Russian, you need to carefully consider your goal. Why do you want to learn Russian? Do you want to understand and speak the language? How will you feel after the new wears off and it is no longer helpful? Only after you have a clear statement of the mission and goal, should you consider this task. It may be that after an honest assessment, you don't need to learn Russian as bad as you initially thought.

I recommend to my clients that they consider learning Russian, not so much for her, but for themselves. If you have decided to learn Russian for the appropriate reason(s), then here are some other things to consider.

It is easier to concentrate on learning to understand a language that to speak it. Therefore, you may want to concentrate on learning and comprehending through listening. There are numerous cassette or computer-based 'programs' which stress comprehension through listening. You can decide whether to participate in or skip the speaking parts.

Understanding Russian when you hear it is quite helpful. Russian women switch between English and Russian quite often. For most people, when they hear these abrupt switches in language they are uncomfortable. It may be helpful for your confidence, comfort, and security to understand the content of her conversations in Russian. Again, you need not be able to speak the language to understand a telephone conversation she's having with a friend or family member.

In this and most other examples, you need to know the vocabulary of the language. You don't need to worry with the complex grammar or structure. Going deeper into the vocabulary will allow you to follow along much easier.

Natasha Spivack, Professional Matchmaker

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