I’ll probably never forget “The Alphabet Song” for as long as I live.
Or “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” or “The Hokey Pokey.”
You too, right?
Or if you didn’t grow up with those same songs, there were probably others that stick in your brain to this day.
Songs have always been instrumental in teaching us language, whether it’s the alphabet, numbers, body parts or other key vocabulary in our native tongues.
As we get older, we may still appreciate music, but we sometimes forget how useful it can be to helping us learn.
But it’s something language students in particular should never forget! In this post, we’re going to explore some easy Russian songs that’ll boost your listening comprehension skills and vocabulary, sometimes without you even realizing it.
So put on your dancing shoes, turn up the volume and start learning today!
How Songs Can Help You Learn a Foreign Language
As a language student, you might already be familiar with the concept that music reinforces memory. Maybe you’ve set vocabulary or grammar concepts to a melody that helps them stick in your mind. And research has indicated that it’s not just about simple mnemonics; music actively supports other cognitive abilities, including language learning and memory.
But the benefits of music for language students don’t stop there. Here are some other advantages to keep in mind as you’re listening:
- They expose you to Russian culture. If you really want to communicate effectively with native Russian speakers, it’s important to have some understanding of Russian ideas and perspectives. Songs are the perfect tools to help you with that! For example, folk songs provide us with a glimpse of Russian history and traditions, while pop songs show us what issues are relevant to younger Russian generations.
Consider the fact that although today’s Russian music resembles American music in many ways, that wasn’t always the case. During the Communist era, musicians were censored by the Stalin government, which outlawed all Western music. In fact, songs had to be approved by the government and feature Socialist Realism.
Russian history is tainted by war, oppression and struggles, and music can help you observe and understand this in ways that a textbook might not.
- They help you learn slang. If you want to speak like a native, especially if traveling to a Russian-speaking country, you’ll want to brush up on Russian slang. This won’t just help you understand Russians in everyday conversation, but will also make you look more credible in their eyes and be accepted as one of their own.
While Russian textbooks, flashcard apps and Russian courses will focus on more traditional Russian vocabulary, songs are an excellent resource to hear Russian slang.
- You can use them to learn on the go. What do running to a meeting, grocery shopping and sunbathing have in common? They’re all excellent activities to do while listening to music! Pop in a pair of headphones and multitask learning Russian while listening to great music!
Where to Find Easy Russian Songs
To get you started building your Russian song library, we’ve shared our favorite song collections below. Specific easy Russian song recommendations follow later in this post.
Mama Lisa’s World
This is a great online resource for children’s songs from around the globe, with a large collection of Russian songs and rhymes. The lyrics are written in Russian and then translated into English. (Be aware that the translations concentrate more on the spirit of the rhyme, versus the lyrical translation, which doesn’t always do full justice to the songs.)
Some of the songs feature comments from users; many of them are from native Russians who comment on the history or significance of each song. Other songs feature notes that help with pronunciation, as well as music videos or personal videos uploaded by users singing the songs.
This is a database of dozens of Russian songs that helps you learn vocabulary and pronunciation. The songs are categorized by the artist’s name, title and genre. The songs are posted with Russian lyrics and a music video; many also have English translations and transliterations. Users are invited to rate the songs, which the site owner, a fellow Russian learner from Croatia, handpicks.
This website features many other handy Russian learning resources, such as a dictionary, lessons, a travel phrasebook, language games and tests.
This resource does more than just offer authentic Russian content.
With FluentU’s interactive captions, you can choose unfamiliar words in any Russian music video you’re watching and get in-context definitions, a great feature for vocabulary retention. There are also quizzes to make sure you’re remembering what you’ve learned. It’s an immersive learning experience that’ll expose you to Russian music and culture while ensuring that your language skills get a serious boost.
“Teach Me Everyday Russian: Volume 1”
Join Marie and her family on a musical journey with the help of this 32-page book and companion audio CD, which allow kids and adults to listen and sing along to songs that teach Russian vocabulary, numbers, colors, letters and common Russian expressions.
The book features a dual-language format with colorful and engaging illustrations. It’s a good resource for learning Russian, especially for young students.
6 Easy Russian Songs to Help You Learn Russian
“Что Такое Осень” (“What Is Autumn”)
The lyrics of this song, by Yuri Shevchuk, the lead singer and original member of the popular Russian rock band ДДТ (DDT), bring to life the epitome of a real Russian autumn.
The song provides an opportunity to learn vocabulary to describe seasons and weather, as the singer describes a cloudy fall sky, rain water, puddles, wind and falling leaves.
“Ой, да не Bечер” (“Oh, It’s Not Evening Yet”)
Pelageya, a Russian folk singer, shares a bit of Russian history when she sings about Stepan (Stenka) Razin, a Cossack leader who was responsible for an uprising against the royalty and nobility in Southern Russia in the late 1600s.
The song describes a dream that Razin had in which he envisioned his own death. The lyrics offer a great opportunity to observe word tenses in Russian. After listening to the words sung in Russian, read the lyrics here.
“В Лесу Pодилась Елочка” (“A Pine Tree Was Born in the Woods”)
This song is a favorite among Russian children to sing during the Russian New Year! A big part of learning about a country’s culture is being familiar with the holidays, and there’s no bigger holiday in Russian than this one!
You might be surprised that the New Year is celebrated in a very similar way to American Christmas. Families decorate pine trees and a Santa Claus-type figure (called Grandpa Frost) leaves presents under the tree at midnight. The interesting distinction is that Russian New Year is a secular holiday, and an Orthodox Russian Christmas is celebrated on another day.
“В Лесу Pодилась Елочка” is an easy song to understand and sing along to because it’s slow and the words are sung very clearly. The YouTube video above also features lyrics in Russian and an English translation to help you understand what’s being sung.
This is a famous Russian folk song, probably the best known Russian song around the world, which was written by composer and folklorist Ivan Larionov in 1860.
You can learn a lot of terminology from this fun and light-hearted song that is centered on kalinka (diminutive of kalina, a type of tree with bright red berries) and malinka, a sweet berry. These serve as symbols for a woman and for love. You’ll pick up lots of nature vocabulary from this song, such as саду (in the garden), ягода (berry), etc. Find out more by reading the English translation of the lyrics in the video above.
“Mама Первое Cлово” (“Mama is the First Word”)
When learning Russian, it’s fitting to hear a song about most children’s first word in many languages—mama. This song is performed by the children’s music group Непоседы (Neposedi), which refers to fidgety children not able to sit still.
The song is very easy to follow, as the lyrics are sung slowly and clearly. Read the accompanying English translation to learn the Russian words, while listening to their pronunciation.
“Куда Yходит Детство” (“Where Does Childhood Go?”)
It’s not possible to discuss Russian songs without an honorable mention of the most famous Russian singer of all time, Alla Pugacheva.
In this hit from 1977, Pugacheva reminisces about the joys of childhood and the sentimental feelings of remembering your younger years as you grow older.
As it talks about trying to find your childhood, this song actually provides helpful vocabulary to use in conversation should you need help in finding a location in a Russian-speaking country. Great examples are найти (find), попасть (get there) and здесь (here).
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