I recently ran into a very cute Russian cartoon that is one of the famous “Masha and the Bear” series. This is a very enjoyable, well-made cartoon with two cute main characters - the annoying girl Mash and the caring bear Misha. This adorable cartoon is full of cultural nuances and authentic vocabulary that could be useful for beginning Russian learners. However, the questions is whether or not students of Russian can learn any language and/or culture by just watching a cartoon?
In fact, the answer is not very simple. It is true that watching movies and cartoons is one of the things that is always recommended to do if you are studying a language. However, it all depends on how you watch a cartoon. If you just passively watch it, it won’t help you learn a language. You will certainly enjoy the cute funny characters and the wonderful 3D animation. You might even understand the main idea of the movie and admire the beauty of the Russian language. Moreover, you could catch and comprehend a few words from the context; however, chances are that you will forget what you heard the next hour. In other words, watching a cartoon for fun is one thing, but learning a language from it is something completely different. You can’t just watch a cartoon. You have to study it and focus on every word that is said there.
Some students might think that watching cartoons is a little bit childish. If you have a thought like that, here are my reasons why Russian cartoons are good for learning a language.
Cartoons are good for you because they:
expose you to Russian culture
are short, and in most cases you can study them as a whole piece instead of breaking into segments
have more authentic vocabulary than in a textbook
allow you to pick up conversational phrases and idioms
To sum it up, watching Russian cartoons can benefit your language learning, but only if you do it the right way.
You have to review a cartoon several times. Watching it just once, it’s like looking at your flashcards just once.
If a cartoon has subtitles, turn them on. Write down at least 10-20 words and phrases that you want to learn. Make flashcards and review the words often.
You have to be actively engaged with the cartoon: speak along with the characters mimicking their pronunciation and intonation and even copy their body language (if possible).
When you review the cartoon several times, you must know it very well. Turn off the subtitles and check what you remember. You can even turn down the volume and speak for the characters.
Find a study buddy (a conversational partner, a tutor, a teacher) to play the part of one of the characters in the cartoon and practice dialogues with you.
Of course, it takes time and efforts to study a cartoon, but this is pretty much the point of learning a language. Good news is that it will get faster and faster, and eventually the time will come when you enjoy watching a cartoon in Russian the same way you would enjoy a cartoon in your native language.