Speaking in a second language is not nearly as straightforward as you might think.
In fact 'To speak [using] another tongue' is far more literal than you might imagine.
Proficiency in more than one spoken language can often feel like having interchangeable tongues which are swapped in and out of the mouth when needed.
And yet the tongue doesn't do ALL the work.
Here's Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire to explain further:
You hear that? If you learn Russian you're eventually going to get another soul.
The only problem with this is that it will be a Russian Soul.
This complicates things.
Ask Pushkin about Russian souls, ask Gogol, You can even ask Dostoyevsky if you like....Each of them will say the same thing:
Russian souls are not like other souls.
Here's a passage from Tolstoy:
Compare it with this:
This raises a list of questions.
Why are these descriptions so different?
Are they mutually exclusive?
Is one of them right?
Is one of them wrong?
Why are you telling us this?
What on earth does this have to do with helping us learn Russian?
It has everything to do with learning Russian. Let me explain...
Traditional language courses divide learning into four main parts:
Reading, Writing Speaking and Listening
However I have discovered there should be a fifth.
When I speak French, the result is far better if I pretend to be a French person at the same time. I mimic the gestures, the expressions, Sometimes I even throw in a Gallic shrug for effect.
If I'm speaking Italian my gestures change. My movements slow, my head sits slightly further back on my neck. The corners of my mouth turn down. sometimes I think I'm the Godfather.
In short, when I speak another language, my body language changes in the same way that my tongue changes. And through this over time, when speaking that language, my thought patterns change.
Now I'm sorry to say you can't acquire a Russian soul that easily. Apparently there's a waiting list. I suspect you need at least five cold hard Russian winters under your belt to be even considered for one.
You might get one one day but it'll take time.
Before you can even begin the application process you'll need to acquire Russian mannerisms.
Luckily, this is far easier.
Go to Youtube and search 'Happy Russians'.
Watch a few videos. Mimic their movements. Copy some of the words they say; just the sounds if you don't understand the words.
Now search 'Sad Russians'
Do the same.
Now look for 'Angry Russians.'
You get the idea...
'Russian Fail Compilations' are an excellent source of watching Russians with their guard down. They have a great sense of humour and are happy to laugh at themselves.
Once you've got an idea of how Russians move and sound you'll need to develop a key phrase. This needs to be something that unlocks your feeling for Russian behavior. It needs to be something you can say in a Russian accent and in a Russian way. Imagine doing a short funny stereotypical impression of a Russian at a dinner party. Does everyone laugh? Good. That's your phrase.
I use the following:
In Soviet Russia bear hunt you...
This is perfect because it has multiple levels of Russian built into it. You literally cannot say it without sounding Russian.
The last bit is simple. Every time you engage with learning Russia, you repeat your phrase. If you've picked a good one, and if you apply yourself like a good little Slav you'll soon be learning to speak Russian AS A RUSSIAN.
Drinking vodka, squatting, being fantastic at chess and calling yourself Sergei are all optional.
Here are a few more phrases. Let me know how you get on....