What do you think the most spoken language in Europe is? The answer might surprise you: it’s Russian. Interesting, right? From a linguistic point of view, Russia dominates the European region with over 120 million native speakers across the continent. In this article, we’re going to explain why, how many countries speak the language and, most importantly, how difficult it is to learn. Let’s get started!
Why is Russian the most spoken language in Europe?
It’s true: Russian comes out on top of German, English and French in terms of the number of speakers on the European continent, as a result of various factors. Even today, there is much argument as to where the real border between Europe and Asia is located. Rather than a purely geographic question, it is instead a matter of general consensus.
Most people agree that the Ural mountains mark this border, separating eastern Europe and western Siberia. What this means is that everything located west of the Ural mountains forms part of the Europe and this, in turn, implies that Russian is mostly European.
75% of the population of Russia lives to the west of these mountains. In other words, some 110 million people. And they all speak Russian.
But, can it be said that Russia is European? This is where opinions differ. Some leading figures in the country believe that Russia may be considered a European state, while many others strongly deny this. Beyond Russia,, the Russian language plays a key role in Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania and Moldovia, despite not being an official language – for historic reasons. On the other hand, in Belarus, for example, Russia is the official language, alongside Belarusian.
In this regard, it’s worth noting that the number of Russian speakers living outside of the country is falling, as the various post-Soviet states seek to establish their own languages.
On the other hand, it’s fairly logical that this language would be the most popular in Europe. According to the Ethnologue publication, Russian is the eighth most popular mother tongue, with 154 million speakers across the world. In fact, only three European languages rank higher than Russian in terms of numbers of native speakers: English, Spanish and Portuguese.
However, it should be noted that most speakers of these languages live outside of Europe. Bearing this fact in mind, it makes sense that Russian would enjoy such an prominent place within Europe.
This language is therefore one of the most widely spoken in the world, behind only Chinese, English and Spanish. What’s more, it is also one of the official languages of the United Nations (UN).
Is it difficult to learn Russian?
Not as much as you might think – and to prove it, we’re going to tell you a few facts. The Cyrillic alphabet that governs the most spoken language in Europe may be quite intimidating, but did you know that it only has 33 letters? In fact, if you compare it with the 3,000 characters used in Chinese, it seems pretty straightforward.
So, take things one step at a time, and once you’ve started learning the alphabet, you’ll have already broken a huge barrier to speaking this language.
Another interesting fact that might encourage you to give this language a try is that, when it comes to verbs, the Russian language only has two or three tenses: past and future, or past, present and future. On the other hand, in Russian, there are no articles like “the”. So, does it sound a little more doable now?
What you may struggle with is the language’s six cases: but remember that once you’ve managed to master them, you’ll have overcome one of the greatest challenges in learning this language.
As with any other language, the fastest way to learn to speak it is by practicing in the country itself. And, it’s important to remember that, in Russia, unlike many other countries, foreign languages are much less widely spoken – so, if you have the chance to visit for a season, you’ll be forced to put aside any insecurities and speak Russian.
Well then, considering all the above, is it really that difficult to learn Russian? There is no clear-cut answer either way. It requires exactly the same work as learning any other language, and you’ll need to follow the same steps, with plenty of commitment and motivation. Just like in life!
But, what we can tell you is that, if you follow a consistent learning process, you’ll quickly see the fruits of your labor and you’ll be surprised to find that it’s not as impossible as people often make it seem.
At Blarlo, we can help you to learn the most spoken language in Europe with the best native teachers, with the chance to practice speaking Russian as if you were in the country itself. Are you up for it?