This article is the ultimate guide to help you learn Russian quickly and effectively. It includes tricks and tips on the best ways to learn Russian online, hacks to learn Russian fast and a database of the best Russian courses on the market. If you want to learn to speak Russian in no time, this is the article for you.
I’ve always had a passion for learning languages. I’ve been studying as many as I could for the last ten years and I’m now mastering my eight language. Over the years I’ve developed a methodology to learn them as effectively as I could.
This article is written to show you the best way to learn Russian. I’ve lived in Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan where Russian is extensively spoken and this is where I’ve applied the methodology I’m about to share with you to learn the language in no time.
When I first visited these countries it seemed to me like everyone was talking so fast. I knew a few basic Russian expressions and some Russian verbs but learning this language seemed so daunting.
By speaking Russian, I was able to ask Georgians how to get around their country…
All the words would blur into one another and I couldn’t quite understand where one sentence would finish and where the next one would start.
My first visit to these countries eventually turned into a year of living and traveling there and I finally was able to learn the language.
By speaking Russian, I was able to connect with the locals of Kyrgyzstan and understand their culture a lot better…
Learning Russian was a super exciting challenge. I know I sound like a total language nerd but let me tell you that learning it was and still is one of the most exciting undertakings of my life.
I can now have long lengthy conversations in Russian on topics ranging from sports to politics. I wrote this guide with the intention of giving you the same set of techniques and methods I used to learn the language myself. Here I’ll help you avoid the pitfalls I went through and show you a few shortcuts to mastering Russian.
1. Is it hard to learn Russian?
A lot of people often ask me if Russian is the hardest language to learn in the world. I would say that it’s not harder to learn Russian than any other language.
The speed at which you can master this language however really depends on a few things.
If you have no knowledge of other Slavic languages such as Bulgarian or Czech for example, it could take a bit longer. Another thing that will influence how fast you learn Russian is if you already know how to read the Cyrillic alphabet or if you want to skip learning how to read altogether.
What makes Russian a bit different compared to other languages is its many cases and declensions. You could compare them with English personal pronouns that change depending on their grammatical role.
Russian is often considered a hard language to learn for native English speakers…
For example, “I” is always the subject (nominative), but when it acts like an object, it becomes “me” (accusative, dative), and when it expresses possession, it becomes “Mine” (genitive). You’ll find the same thing in Russian, except that almost every single word undergoes declension.
I’ll teach you a few useful expressions and vocabulary so you can get around without having to use too many declensions at first.
Planning a trip?
2. How long does it take to learn Russian?
When studying a new language (including Russian) people always tend to start by asking the million-dollar question: How long will it take to learn this new language?
If you make a quick research online with the terms ”How long does it take to learn Russian” you’ll end up with estimates that range from 6 months to 10 years. Most people want to learn Russian as quickly as possible and often look for short-cuts and secret formulas.
Although you may find websites claiming that you can become fluent in Russian within days or even just a few weeks, this is, in my opinion, not realistic at all.
If you have the right methods and the right attitude, you could learn Russian very quickly…
The logical way to measure how long it will take you to learn Russian is not in weeks or months but in learning hours. You could study for three hours a day and get much faster results than you would if you’d only study for 2 hours a day.
The Foreign Service Institute of the United States has determined that it takes about 1100 hours of study to reach fluency in Russian. If you’re willing to study 3 hours every day, it could take you a year to reach that level.
If you follow my method, I can guarantee it’s possible to speak Russian fluently within 3 to 4 months.
By spending time in Russian speaking countries such as Kyrgyzstan, you’ll learn the language a lot quicker…
Here are a few factors that will influence how long it takes you to learn Russian and that will be included in my methodology:
Your learning methods
We live in an era where learning a new language is not limited to a classroom setting. Although learning in a classroom environment had a lot of value 10 years ago, nowadays it’s far from being the most effective way to learn a new language.
Learning new Russian expressions on websites like LingQ, Russian vocabulary on apps like Drops or listening to the radio in Russian can really speed up your learning process. It’s also a good idea to watch Russian TV series on YouTube ( I’ll give you some awesome YouTube channels for this later in the article).
There, you’ll be completely immersed in an environment where everyone speaks Russian while self-studying online with my method (I’ll give you a detailed list of websites and apps you can use to do this).
It’s not necessary to study Russian in a classroom or a school anymore. There are a lot of websites that can help you learn Russian online…
The time you’ll dedicate to learning
You’ll obviously need to dedicate a lot of time to the Russian language if you want to master it but memory works in a very funny way.
Dedicating half an hour to an hour of studying every day for a week is much more effective than cramming 5-6 hours of intense studying on the weekend.
Regular repetition of words and sentences on a daily basis even if it’s only done during a short time span will be much more effective than trying to cram tons of new words at once in your brain.
I found from personal experience that studying Russian during two blocks of 45 minutes every day is what worked best.
Even if you studied just a bit every day, you would learn significantly faster than if you attended a single long weekly class.
I like to travel with Russian grammar books so I can study on the spot wherever I want and whenever I have a bit of time…
Your attitude and motivation
I get it, it can sometimes be hard to keep your focus and motivation when starting a new project. I get my hands on fun learning material that will keep me motivated and entertained while I study the language. If the material I use wouldn’t be fun, I would quickly lose motivation and focus.
I’ll usually download short video lessons from YouTube or buy a Pimsleur language course and put these audio/video lessons on my phone. I’ll spend a bit of time studying the first thing in the morning every morning to keep my motivation high.
Just like building any new habit, it’s important to make learning your new language as easy and straightforward as possible. Get some Russian learning manuals and keep them in the rooms of your house where you spend the biggest amount of time so you’ll see them often.
Those will act as visual cues and remind you of your goal.
Another great way I found to rekindle my focus is to watch a movie in Russian every now and then and discover that I can understand the language better and better.
There are more and more ways to learn Russian online either with your phone or with your laptop…
Wondering why you should learn a new language?
3. How to learn and memorize Russian words quickly
Over the last 11 years, I have learned how to speak 7 different languages while traveling around the world. While learning these different languages, I tried and tested various learning methods.
I discovered that the speed at which I could learn a new language was determined by only one thing. Memory. But more specifically, how long does it take for a word to be transferred from my short term memory to my long term memory.
Here is the set of techniques that I used with Russian words to learn and remember them very easily.
1. Find good audio material
I would advise typing Russian movies with English subtitles on YouTube and start looking for good movies there. The key is to find a movie that has good audio quality and English subtitles. You could also use some video lessons on Russian Pod 101 or listen to some new Russian words on an app called Drops.
2. Write down the new words and sentences as you hear them
I would advise pausing the video or audio lesson that you’re listening to and writing down the new sentence or word the way you hear it. For example, I might be watching a Russian movie and while looking at the subtitles I see that the hero of the story just asked ”where is the toilet?”.
What I will do at that moment is listen to what he is saying exactly in Russian which sounds like ”Geed-deeyay Tualet? And I will write down this expression together with the English translation.
3. Record yourself reading your notes
After I’ve written down the new words or expressions that I heard in the movie or audio lesson, I will record myself reading them. I usually record myself with my phone or on my laptop.
4. Listen to your own voice speaking the new words
This is probably the most important part of my memorization technique. I suggest building a library of recorded content that you can then listen to for half an hour every day.
5. Restart the process
I dedicate about half an hour every day to listen to audio material or watch videos while writing down the words and building a library of recorded content. I will then spend another 30 minutes later in the day to listen to myself reading all those new Russian expressions.
I do this every day and eventually, I don’t have to write down the words or expressions I hear anymore because I understand them perfectly.
Russian tv shows will help you learn Russian vocabulary but they’ll also teach you a lot about Russian culture…
Want to learn more languages?
4. List of useful Russian words and short Russian expressions
Before going to any country, it’s always important to know some basic words and expressions that will help you get by and ask people for help and assistance if needed. I included a few Russian expressions in this guide that will help you get around in Russian speaking countries.
Pajhalsta: This is the Russian word to say please. One way you can use it is by saying – Dai meenee-yay eta pajhalsta (дай мне это пожалуйста) which means give me this, please.
Geed-ee-yay: This is the Russian word to say where. You could use it to ask where the toilets are by saying “Geed-ee-yay tualet?”
Tee atkuda?: This is the Russian way to say “where are you from?”
Spasseeba: This is the word to say thank you. You can use it after the waiter brings your food or after someone points you in the direction of the toilets or the market.
Skolka – Skolka eta sto-et?: “Skolka” means how much or how many. “Skolka eta sto-et” means how much does this cost? You can point at anything in the market while using this expression to ask how much something costs.
Kak teebeeya zavut?: This is the expression used to ask someone’s name. Kak teebeeya zavut?- What’s your name?
Meeneeya zavut…: “Meenya Zavut” means my name is. You could say for example, “Meenya zavut Niko, Kak teebeeya zavut?”
Dobra Ootra: This means good morning.
Kak deela, Tee kak?: This is used to ask how people are doing.
Do sveedaneeya: Goodbye
Vooee gavareetee-yay Pangleskee?: Do you speak English?
By learning these easy Russian expressions, you’ll be able to make friends faster…
5. List of useful Russian sentences
Russian sentences for finding accommodation
Geed-ee-yay gasteeneetza?: Where’s a hotel?
Ya eeshoo otel pableezastee: I’m looking for a hotel nearby.
Kakoy adress?: What’s the address?
Pajhalsta zapeesheetee-yay adress: Please write down the address.
Pajhalsta atvezee meeneeya v’otel: Please take me to a hotel.
Russian sentences for checking in a hotel
Yest lee v’naleechee komnata?: Is there a room available?
Skolka stoet komnata?: How much is the room?
Ya hachoo atdelnoyoo komnatoo: I want a single room.
Ya hachoo komnatoo na dva-eeH: I want a room for two.
Magoo ya ouveedeet komnatoo?: Can I see the room?
Meeneeyay neeyay ndraveetza eta komnata: I don’t like this room.
Meeneeyay ndraveetza eta komnata: I like this room.
Eta komnata haroshaya: This room is good.
Useful Russian sentences for eating out at a restaurant
Ya nee-yay yem may-assa: I don’t eat meat
Oo-vas yest chto-nee-yay-voot bez may-assa?: Do you have anything without meat?
Pajhalsta, pree-nee-see-teeyay meenee-yay menyoo: Please bring me the menu.
Oo-vas yest…: Do you have…
Eta veekoosna: This is delicious.
It will be easier to talk to locals and make friends if you speak a bit of Russian…
6. Russian verbs and their conjugation for daily use
Here are a few Russian verbs and their conjugations for daily use.
|To Go – Eetee||Can – Mog||To Speak – Gavaryt||To Know – Znat||To Want – Hatit|
|Ya eedoo |
On, Ana eedeeot
On, Ana mojhet
On, Ana gavareet
On, Ana Hatyt
He, She wants
7. Best books to learn Russian
The first book I would recommend to learn Russian is the Lonely Planet Russian Phrasebook.
It is packed with all the essential words and phrases you will need on your trip to Russian speaking countries and will help you in every situation — from finding a hotel room in Moscow to ordering Borsh at a traditional restaurant or joining the local festivities, this book will cover almost every situation you could imagine.
What is so great about this pocket-size book is that it covers very practical-every day situations. It’s a book that will help you get around the country and that will give you practical sentences.
Here are a few more of the books I would recommend you get your hands on to learn Russian:
This book is as its name says designed to learn the Russian that is actually spoken on the streets of Russia. It Combines a user-friendly approach with a thorough treatment of the language.
It’s designed to equip learners with the essential skills needed to communicate confidently and effectively in Russian in a broad range of situations.
What is so great about this book is that the material is neatly divided up into weekly lessons, each with a grammar topic, vocabulary list, and translation exercises. The book also comes with great audio material.
This book follows Colloquial Russian – The Complete Course for Beginners and will bring you from an intermediate to a much more advanced level.
The fact that the lessons are divided into weekly gradual content is fantastic and it will help you reach a level that borders on fluency very quickly.
This is one of the first books I used to learn Russian and it’s absolutely brilliant! It explains the vocabulary and gives great verb tables as you go on.
It’s fairly approachable even for people who never studied Russian previously. One of the major selling points of this book is that the teaching method revolves around everyday conversations giving you very practical vocabulary.
The book also comes with high-quality audio recordings of these conversations.
This set of 3 books will bring you from beginner’s to advanced level. It includes 9 audio CDs and free online lessons.
The course is divided into different topics and introduces new words associated with these. The new words are used in numerous well-chosen phrases. The last section related to the topic contains some very interesting dialogues in which the new words and sentences are used.
This is a great learning book that is used in universities all over the world. It comes with a textbook, a workbook, a CD, and a DVD. This book has a lot of great exercises, its only drawback is that a lot of these exercises are designed to be done with a partner.
That being said, at the end of each chapter there is a Grammatical Index that details the language covered in each unit. This section is much more forgiving for an independent scholar, but it’s roughly 5 to 10 pages compared to 20-40 pages of classroom exercises.
This book is very easy to understand with clear basic instructions. Although it won’t bring you to a more advanced level, it will help you understand the basics of the language very quickly. Another upside to this book is the fact that the Cyrillic language is very clearly explained.
An effort is made to simplify and also to give phonetic pronunciations of the language. Frequent words and phrases like days of the week, numbers and real-time situations such as restaurants and banks are also covered. If you are just beginning to struggle with the Russian language you need this introduction.
As its name suggests, this book makes usage of short stories that cover daily situations to introduce new vocabulary.
The vocabulary lists are conveniently placed at the end of their corresponding stories, and the words are listed in the order they were used. The vocabulary does get more advanced throughout the book. I also appreciate the questions about each story so you can see how much you understood.
8. Best free websites and apps to learn Russian
During the last three years, I’ve been improving my Russian level and adding new words to my vocabulary on a daily basis. I did so by regularly studying online with various free websites and phone apps. Here is a list of the ones I find the most useful for beginners and intermediate learners:
Duolingo is a super fun and easy way to incorporate short sentences and vocabulary into your daily Russian practice.
Duolingo’s Russian program is divided into “skill trees.” Each “tree” covers a very specific aspect of the language.
The lessons are very simple and fun. They’re designed as small quizzes that you need to answer before moving on to the next questions. The lessons are brief, so you can easily fit in some studying during commuting time on the bus, during your lunch break or anytime you have five minutes.
I love this language learning app because it uses a very aesthetic and pleasing interface. It’s quick and easy to use and it’s entirely focused around vocabulary.
You’ll be able to learn around 2000 new Russian words at your own pace with this app. Although you won’t be able to learn complete sentences, you’ll learn tons of practical words that you can incorporate in your conversations.
The free version of this app can only be used for 5 minutes a day but you can learn a lot of new words in that amount of time.
This website is pretty useful for visual learners. It contains audio footage that accompanies images of the Russian words and expressions. The vocabulary is separated by themes such as family, numbers, and colors.
This is a great website filled with free Russian lessons. It has audio and video lessons recorded by native Russian speakers. There are constantly new lessons added to the website so you can keep learning without ever going through all the material that’s available.
This website also has grammar guides, vocabulary lists and access to additional tools, and quizzes that are ideal for students of all levels.
Russian for Everyone is a great tool to effortlessly learn grammar. It offers a dozen of grammar lessons that are divided for students of all levels.
If you speak Russian it will be easier to order traditional Russian dishes in restaurants…
9. My ultimate tool to learn Russian – Pimsleur
This guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a fantastic system I use for all the new languages I learn including Russian: The Pimsleur language course.
These half-hour daily audio lessons will teach perfect Russian pronunciation like no other system will. In each lesson, you’ll hear an English-speaking narrator and one or more native Russian speakers.
The Russian speakers will engage in short simple conversations in which you’ll take part under the English narrator’s instructions.
What makes this method so successful is the interval system it uses. In between hearing a word for the first time and having to recall it and say it again, you learn other words and phrases.
You’ll constantly be recalling words and phrases that you learned earlier in the current lesson, as well as in past lessons.
As you progress, the narrator will ask questions like “How do you say, ‘where do you work?'” and you have to pull the answer from your memory, even though you haven’t been prompted in a while.
If you combine the Russian Pimsleur method with the learning strategies I shared above, you’ll become fluent in Russian in no time.
10. Best websites to practice Russian with native speakers
Another trick that greatly helped and sped up my Russian learning process was to practice online with native speakers on language learning websites. These websites work by connecting you with someone over a text, audio, and/or video service to facilitate communication.
Usually, you’ll simply contact someone over a text chat or email first, and then you can both decide the best way to continue talking.
11. My favorite YouTube channels to learn Russian
I’m a huge fan of YouTube! Not only because we have our own YouTube channel where we feature our adventures around the world but also because it’s such a useful tool to learn languages. I love to watch Russian TV series on YouTube to hear all kinds of new expressions.
YouTube has also been super useful when I first started learning Russian because this video platform has a huge amount of free video lessons.
I would say that watching Russian YouTube channels is by far the most enjoyable way to learn the language. The series I watch are really enjoyable, so I never procrastinate while watching them.
Some of the channels I recommend are really informative, so you’ll get some knowledge about the language and the culture at the same time.
Watching videos on YouTube also takes less effort than studying with books. I usually take notes of the new words and expressions I hear while watching them.
Here are a few of the channels I recommend:
I started to learn Russian by watching the videos on this YouTube channel. This channel alone has so much Russian learning content that you would need at least a whole year to go through all of it.
The creator of this channel, Daria, is a certified Russian teacher from Moscow. She uploads two videos a week that cover daily situations, Russian grammar, practical vocabulary and so much more!
What I love about this channel is the fact that Daria uses daily situations to present very practical and useful vocabulary. Even today I continue watching her videos as soon as she uploads them.
Have a look at a few of her videos here.
This YouTube channel is the creation of Fedor, a native Russian speaker who covers Russian grammar in a very fun way. Since he’s a passionate language learner himself, he gives a lot of interesting tips on how to learn Russian quickly and effectively.
He started his channel 4 years ago and has been putting great content on a regular basis since. Check out a few of his videos here.
Kristina, the creator of this channel translates news reports from Russian to English to teach you new vocabulary, sentences, and expressions on a weekly basis.
She also uses clips in Russian from popular movies such as Joker and Jurassic Park.
The fact that this channel uses scenes from popular movies makes it really easy to acquire new words and concepts.
I hope this article helps your language learning journey. Learning Russian has been such a fun challenge and I’m sure you will enjoy it too. Have you learned this language or are you studying it at the moment? Let us know in the comments below!
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