We all have moments where we rethink our entire existence.
For me, that moment came when I realized that I wanted to explore a different career path.
I had always focused on writing, and I did it well.
But now, I also wanted to focus on speaking, and while I did that really well, too (if I do say so myself!), I did not do it as well in Russian.
The fact is that I am bilingual—I speak both English and Russian. However, I left Ukraine (a Russian-speaking country which was formerly part of the USSR) when I was nine, and I still spoke Russian like a child does.
So what does improving my Russian and rethinking my existence have in common? You likely guessed it, I wanted to become a translator!
With that goal in mind, I set out to improve my Russian skills and to truly become advanced in that language.
In this post, I want to share with you the online resources I utilized, which—if you are looking for advanced lessons to make you fluent in Russian—can help you, too!
Although I was a native Russian speaker, I did not have enough vocabulary, did not know modern Russian slang and was not aware of all of the grammar and usage rules—in other words, I was very much like a native English speaker with an upper intermediate to advanced level of Russian.
Therefore, the resources I utilized to help myself should be just as useful for non-native Russian speakers (and in fact are mostly intended for them).
Before we continue, you must promise that after you become fluent in Russian you won’t compete with me for work.
No Russian translators welcome (just kidding!).
7 Advanced Online Lesson Tools I Used to Advance My Russian
While you can improve your Russian with Russian textbooks, simple books, flashcards and many other resources, I only used resources that I could find online. These are usually free or affordable, and can be used anywhere at any time. I was able to grab my laptop and study on the treadmill, outside in a park and even during breaks from work!
So below I present seven unique resources I used successfully (and that you can, too!): Three learning websites, two YouTube channels, a site for idioms and slang terms and a resource you can use to work with an online Russian teacher.
One of my biggest challenges in understanding Russian when watching television shows or listening to music was comprehending modern Russian words. Remember, I left in the early ’90s and language has evolved since then. If you don’t believe that languages changes, just try reading Shakespeare and tell me what you understand (seriously, tell me so I don’t feel that bad about myself!).
To become a translator, I would need to brush up on current Russian. Rus4me was perfect for that very reason, as it focuses on explaining the details of colloquial (modern and ordinary, rather than literary or formal) Russian.
This site is intended for intermediate to advanced students, which was perfect for me as I spoke Russian but needed to improve in it.
The site contains videos with scripts and blogs that focus on different real subjects and situations, such as shopping, criminal investigations, going to school and more. The authors explain phrases with their commentary, breaking down terms and using relevant examples.
FluentU was recommended to me because it is a platform that allows users to learn Russian while watching actual videos. This is a really cool feature as most other programs create videos where a narrator helps you learn Russian. While that was useful to learn vocabulary, FluentU helped me learn about what is happening in Russia now.
With their library of Russian commercials, movie trailers, news and music videos, I was able to bring my Russian knowledge from the ’90s to modern day. FluentU takes real-world videos like these (that are manageable at only a few minutes long) and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
The videos are sorted into categories for six different levels of learner (two of them advanced), making it easy to find videos that are challenging enough. Learners who are more advanced when it comes to grammar and written Russian but less familiar with slang, idioms and authentic Russian speech may find new things to learn from other videos as well.
You can filter videos by topic (Arts and Entertainment, Business, Culture, etc.) and format (commercials, news, clips, etc.). You can learn about everything from online dating in Russian to the health benefits of coffee to art galleries in Moscow, all while acquiring useful Russian vocabulary in context.
I really enjoyed the interactive captions, which allowed me to click on a word I didn’t understand to look it up. I noticed how much my Russian improved as I started utilizing this feature less and less after just a few weeks of studying.
FluentU’s Plus plan lets you go even deeper into the videos with customized quizzes, and the program keeps track of all the vocabulary you learn. There is a free 15-day trial, so you can start using it on the website right now, or better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
Rocket Languages’ Russian Travelogue Series
I chose Rocket Languages after the very first paragraph I read on their site, which said it would help intermediate (and advanced) students push their Russian to the next level, which was exactly what I needed.
While they offer a regular Rocket Russian course that takes you from beginner to advanced as well, the Russian Travelogue series utilizes your existing Russian knowledge and fuses it with more advanced skills using conversations. This played a major role in perfecting my Russian as I would need to not only talk or listen, but converse with others when translating.
The Russian Travelogue series offers 32 audio tracks that feature Ivan and Natalya, native Russians, as they travel around Russia.
Some cool features of these audio tracks include:
- The ability to listen in English and Russian
- A vocabulary tool to store words you want to focus on
- A notes section
- Progress tracking
- Testing to reinforce what you have learned
Although this resource is not free, they do offer a 60-day money back guarantee, which made me feel more comfortable spending my hard-earned money. But I never regretted that decision.
This YouTube channel offers over 100 videos intended for mastering advanced Russian. The reason I chose this channel was the availability of bite-size (under 10 minutes) videos, although some are around 30 minutes. I find it easier to pay attention and stay energized with shorter videos than longer ones.
The host, Elen Sheff, a native Russian, was instrumental in helping me improve my Russian. She doesn’t only focus on Russian vocabulary and rules, but really helps you understand Russian culture by explaining holidays, traditions, superstitions, interests and more.
There are also videos that focus on specific terms, verbs and rules of grammar.
The videos are easy to follow along with because Elen speaks slowly and everything she says or shows has English translations.
For me it was always easier to speak rather than to understand others speak Russian. This is because Russian is a rich language that makes it easy to express yourself even if you can’t find just the right word. Listening is not as easy as you can’t control what others say.
I chose this resource specifically because it focused on listening comprehension. It contains 13 videos that focus on a specific task, which is perfect to prepare for a given situation when you know it is coming up.
The topics cover:
- Business presentations
- Getting a gym membership
- Setting up a meeting room
- Setting up office space
- Reserving tickets
As you can imagine, I have gone back to this resource multiple times when I have had to prepare and set up offices for meetings to brush up on my vocabulary. I am sure this resource will be just as helpful to you!
This channel is courtesy of RussianPod101, and they also have a site where you can subscribe for more audio and video lessons, plus additional perks like access to a learner community and PDF lesson notes.
I actually found this site when I started translating and realized that I needed major help in brushing up on the fun side of Russian. No, I don’t mean the endless consonant clusters (which are maybe not as fun as they sound), but idioms and slang terms that are part of everyday conversations. Believe it or not, they often find their way into serious business meetings!
This site offers dozens of such terms and expressions to help you not sound stiff when you are speaking in Russian.
You can learn fun sayings, such as:
- Больной вопрос (sick question), meaning a sensitive or touchy question.
- Взять себя в руки (take yourself in hands), meaning to get control of yourself.
- Душа не на месте (soul is not in place), meaning you are worried about something.
Each example features an English exact translation and modern definition, an audio pronunciation guide and examples of usage. Plus, each phrase comes with a one-question mini quiz!
There comes a time when you will have questions that you won’t be able to find answers to online. Or, you will want to practice for an upcoming meeting, presentation, exam or simply to test what you have learned. I had my parents, cousins and friends to practice with, but if you don’t, you should take advantage of private online tutors.
When everyone I knew was busy, or when I needed to find a true expert in a given subject, I utilized Wyzant to find private tutors.
This online source gives you the power to take charge of your learning process. You choose who to work with and when, and what you want to study. As opposed to many similar sites, with Wyzant you have the option to meet with a tutor in person, as well as online.
Each tutor’s profile features their name and photo, hourly rate and profile. Find their professional and educational background as well as what subjects they specialize in, and read reviews.
Remember that as you move into and through advanced Russian fluency, you really need to give yourself the time and commitment that this process requires.
It took me an initial three months to be comfortable enough to apply for a translator position, but my journey to perfecting my Russian never ended.
I often revisit these resources and look for new ones as I keep on learning!
Renata Ilitsky is a professional content writer with over 10 years of experience. She specializes in creating unique and engaging content for any industry. To read some of Renata’s other work, please view her writing portfolio.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.