I'm currently learning Russian and I want to experiment a bit. Having recently learnt Esperanto, it is a bit exasperating to go back to a language with grammatical genders. I'd love a course that teaches a form other than the "masculine" form first. I'm curious if there is any course for any language - Spanish, French, any obscure language with lots of grammatical genders - that takes this approach.

An example: In a podcast I'm listening to right now, I was taught the word for student using these words:

студент - a student

студентка - a (female) student

I'd like a course that does it this way around:

студентка - a (female) student

студент - a student

So, is there a course for any language that teaches the feminine form first?

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    Welcome back on LLSE and thanks for the original question.
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 2, 2016 at 21:16
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    @fi12 Actually, I'd just like a course that takes a different approach. Every course starts with the masculine and then the feminine. Why not do it the other way around? I'd love for it to be specifically about Russian, since that is what I'm learning right now, but I realize how unusual my request is, so that's why I'd love to know if anyone anywhere has done it. Dec 3, 2016 at 23:50
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    @michau, no that's not true. You don't learn them at the same time - just in the same space of time. You learn them right after one another. I'd like a course that says "студентка" and then teaches "студент". The male form usually comes first, and in many cases because it is the "default" form. The feminine is the "aberration". Dec 3, 2016 at 23:54
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    I think this is a good question and a fair criticism of most language courses which don't even consider this or ever mix up the order. For Russian, I agree with others who say that this is probably pedagogically unwise for nouns and past tense verbs, because in those instances the feminine forms are clearly derived from the masculine forms from suffixation. However, this is not true for the adjectives nor for the pronouns which decline like adjectives, and the feminine versions of those decline more in the inanimate accusative than the masculine or neutral forms which don't change. Moreover, Dec 4, 2016 at 17:12
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    the change in the feminine forms of adjectives for accusative mirrors the declension pattern of feminine nouns in the accusative and thus is arguably easier to learn. (ie masculine nouns don't generally don't end with ы or й or ый in the accusative, but feminine nouns do generally end in у). Also in the remaining cases the declension of feminine adjectives is much easier, hence it can be beneficial to learn first. So I think there is a good argument for beginning with the feminine form for adjectives in Russian. Of course, all of this assumes that it is easier to learn to add a suffix than to Dec 4, 2016 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


One language where starting with feminine nouns first is common is Latin. Latin nouns are composed of several declensions, the first of which specializes in feminine nouns. Many Latin courses and textbooks cover this first declension first, before introducing other declensions that contain most masculine and neuter nouns. Here's an online course/text from the National Archives of the UK that introduces the first declension first.

One might make an argument that technically there are First Declension nouns that are not feminine, but the declension clearly can be considered a feminine form that is subject to a few exceptions (and every natural language has a few).

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    I can still remember learning my first declensions of Latin under the feminine form as if it were yesterday and we used the Cambridge method at that time.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 7, 2016 at 1:52
  • I studied it with Wheelock's Latin and we also did the first declension first. I think the first word we learned may have been puella (girl).
    – Robert Columbia
    Dec 7, 2016 at 16:36
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    "In pictura est puella nomine Cornelia."
    – user2605
    Dec 9, 2016 at 19:05

I'm not sure if I understand what your experiment consists of. Do you want to check if it's possible to learn a language by learning female forms first? You don't need a special course to do that, simply ignore the male forms as they appear and only pay attention to the female forms. Or do you want to know if it's possible to construct such a course? There is no reason for it not to be possible, but at least for Russian, it would require a lot of attention to how you construct the dialogues, so I don't think that such a course exists.

Russian verbs have different first person form in the past tense, depending on your sex. For example, when you want to say “I wrote”, as a woman you say “Я написала” and as a man you say “Я написал”. Similarly for adjectives: “I'm happy” for a woman is “Я счастли́вая” and for a man is “Я счастли́вый”. So such a course would have to make sure that no male in the dialogues introduces new gender-specific forms, new adjectives are introduced in example sentences about feminine nouns, etc.

For the same reason I don't think any Russian course manages to consistently introduce male forms first, unless it's very short. To check that, I googled "Russian course" and looked at the first result. In the past tense lesson you have "пошла", "спросила", "ела", "жила", "позвонила", "окончила", "начала", "посетила", all introduced for the first time in their feminine form, and not the masculine.

So I doubt that anybody cares enough to make sure that all dialogues and examples always introduce the form for one of the sexes first and the other sex later. I think the most likely person to care would be Suzette Haden Elgin, the constructor of the feminist conlang Láadan. But the Láadan course defines the third-person pronoun as “he, she, it”, so it looks like she doesn't care either.

  • I think I understood your point about the past tense verbs, but not the adjectives. I don't think the OP is asking whether there is a course that considers the feminine forms of all aspects of the language before introducing any masculine forms of any aspect of the language, I had the impression at least that they are asking for a course which, at least sometimes, when a new topic is introduced begins with the feminine form and then goes to the masculine, e.g. написала написал средняя средий, not the following: написала средняя написал средний. If that makes any sense. Dec 4, 2016 at 17:29
  • @William If we are to understand that the OP is asking about a Russian course that sometimes introduces the feminine form first, I believe that basically every course would fit the bill. To check that, I just googled "Russian course" and looked at the first result. In the past tense lesson you have "пошла", "спросила", "ела", "жила", "позвонила", "окончила", "начала", "посетила", all introduced for the first time in their feminine form, and not the masculine.
    – michau
    Dec 4, 2016 at 18:18
  • I didn't ask what course creator's feelings around the order was. As such I don't understand what you mean with "If the order male and female forms is not big deal for Suzette Haden Elgin, I don't think it's a problem for creators of other language courses.". There is no "problem". It's just a question if such a course exists. I also don't really understand your answer. You mean that Russian courses don't consistently introduce male forms first? Maybe you can expand your answer to clarify this. Dec 4, 2016 at 19:53
  • @CharlotteSL I'm not sure if I understand what you're exactly trying to do, but I hope my updated answer is clearer.
    – michau
    Dec 4, 2016 at 21:00
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    @CharlotteSL By the way, that's not really a language course, but in any case, feminine declensions in this Polish declension dictionary come first, followed by masculine and neuter.
    – michau
    Dec 5, 2016 at 7:02

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