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I recently resumed learning Scots Gaelic and Russian. I’ve been studying the former intermittently since 1990. Russian is a more recent project. Both are self study, using text books. And both have to fit around my fluctuating health.

I was very good at French at school, and picked up dozens of computer programming languages before my progressive neurological disease struck at age 22. Among many other symptoms it significantly affects my memory, and increasingly so, far more than would be expected in someone my age.

Memorising vocabulary and grammar rules is very hard for me, though Gaelic seems to “click” better in this respect. I don’t find conversational learning approaches work well for me – I forget things too quickly, and am happier learning the written language and grammar. It’s also why Duolingo and me aren’t the best match. I need to be able to refer back visually to words and grammar to remember them. A grammar-based approach also fits well with my goal of learning to read, above all, the two languages. Not to speak them so much.

Russian is more of a challenge, unsurprisingly, given its dramatically different alphabet, making words very unfamiliar visually. There’s definitely more of a hurdle to overcome. Again I’m finding the grammar approach works best for me, though it does get hard very quickly! But I do make the best progress with this.

The biggest challenge practically with the Russian learning in particular is I need to sustain the momentum of my learning, and keep it moving forwards in a cumulative way. That gives me the best hope of dealing with my language memory problems. But it isn’t something I’ve been able to do for over a year, as my neurological disease was badly out of control throughout 2020. I’m doing better now though, after a belated adjustment of my daily drug doses.

So fingers crossed! I have my tuition books ready, and hope to make sustained forward progress. I’m definitely still more confident about the Gaelic than the Russian. But I can see forward progress in the latter too, and it’s fun.

Gaelic and Russian language learning books

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