How to Speak Russian: 6 Steps for Getting Started

If you’re wondering how to speak Russian in no time, this post is for you!

While Russian is not the easiest language to learn, you don’t need to immediately focus on reading and writing if what you need most urgently is to simply learn to speak it.

Read on to find out how to learn Russian by going over some quick, easy and totally legit ways you can start speaking Russian in very little time!

Whatever your goals are, you can utilize these steps in order to quickly gain traction in the language.

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1. Learn the Russian Alphabet

Even if your goal does not involve learning to read in Russian, you must master the Cyrillic script to understand how the language sounds. Russian is a phonetic language, and most sounds correspond to letters.

Learning the letters will go a long way in helping you pronounce Russian words.

Concentrate most heavily on the letters that not only look foreign but sound foreign. Some of the hardest letters for Russian students to master are Ё , Ж , Й and Щ .

With 33 letters to learn, you should be able to complete this task in a day or a week, depending on how committed you are.

Tip: Make flashcards to quiz yourself at home and on the go to learn faster and more efficiently. Write the Russian letter on one side and a Romanized pronunciation for the letter on the other.

Another tip is to watch a helpful video that writes out and pronounces the letters and also gives examples of words that contain the letters, like this one:

Combining this video with flashcards will give you a chance to learn how to write, read and (most importantly for those looking to speak) pronounce Russian letters!

2. Learn the Most Basic Russian Words

No matter what learning materials you’re using, you’ll want to make sure you learn the words you really need first. These are the words that will be most helpful for traveling or simply faking it until making it—being able to speak in Russian, that is.

Here are some basic words you can start off with:

Да — Yes

Нет — No

Я — I

Привет — Hi (casual)

Пока — Bye (informal)

Спасибо — Thank you 

Пожалуйста — Please 

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A helpful resource is provided by LearningRussian.net, which shows 100 of the most basic Russian words. The words are written in Russian, have an English translation and a pronunciation guide, and are used in example sentences.

You will need to plan to learn these words in a timeframe that works for you, and master as many as you can. The sooner you learn more of them, the faster you will be able to start speaking fluently! 

 

3. Learn Russian Conversational Phrases Weekly

If you’re in a jam and need to fake speaking in Russian in a flash, start by learning the five conversational phrases below. If you have time, commit to learning five phrases per week to continue your journey to fluency.

Here are five of the most helpful phrases you can learn right away:

Здравствуйте (formal greeting) — Hello

Как Вас зовут? — What is your name?

Как дела? — How are you? 

Где находится …? — Where is … located?

Я не говорю по-русски — I don’t speak Russian

Keep learning more complex phrases as you move along in your studies, and your Russian speaking skills will get the necessary boost to continue leveling up.

4. Use Online Russian Language Learning Resourceshow-to-speak-russian

There are lots of quality online resources that will help you with learning to speak Russian while also learning about the language as a whole.

Duolingo provides a fun, accessible way for beginners to start building up a base of knowledge in a foreign language, and it’s a great place to pick up some free Russian lessons if you’re at the beginner level.

Check out our full Duolingo review here. 

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Another option is the virtual immersion program FluentU, which uses culturally relevant Russian videos as language lessons. Each video clip comes from authentic Russian media and is accompanied by interactive subtitles so you can learn new vocabulary as you watch. 

5. Imitate the Russian Accent

Russian is a fairly recognizable language internationally, and even if you’re not yet familiar with any of the vocabulary, the Russian accent is easy to pick up on.

An important step in learning to speak Russian like a native Russian speaker is concentrating on imitating the Russian accent.

To do this, first listen to native Russians speaking by watching Russian films, television shows and YouTube videos. Concentrate not only on what people say but how they say it. Watch their facial movements and try to imitate them.

Check out this video for actionable tips to get you started:

You will likely notice that Russians don’t smile as much as Westerners do—and the reason for that is that they need to keep their tongue on the bottom of their mouth to pronounce most words, versus on top for English, thus making it harder for them to smile while talking.

See? Now we’ve dispelled the false belief that Russians are simply angry and unhappy!

Other ways to perfect your Russian accent include rolling your R’s (similar to Spanish), making long vowel sounds short (instead of saying “mooove” for the word “move,” you would pronounce it more like “muv”), switching your W’s to V’s (“ve” versus “we”) and switching your TH’s to Z’s (“ze car” versus “the car”).

Another skill that will help you sound more native is vowel reduction. Some Russian vowels sound different depending on if they’re stressed or unstressed. The vowels O , E and Я are reduced when they’re unstressed.

For example, the first two O’s sound like “a” in молоко (milk) because the stress is on the third syllable. 

Also, when the letters E and Я appear in the syllable before the stress, they’re pronounced like И , like in the word мечта (dream). 

Even if you practice the Russian accent while only speaking English at first, you will be able to apply it to the Russian language itself later on!

 

6. Participate in Language Exchanges

Once you’ve learned the alphabet, basic words and phrases and started taking some online lessons, it’s time to truly test your knowledge by interacting with native Russian speakers.

how-to-speak-russianBut where do you find them? If you don’t have a Russian restaurant or store nearby, you can still connect with Russians through online conversation exchange sites.

Websites such as ConversationExchange.com allow you to find Russian speakers who are willing to help you learn their native tongue; in exchange, you can help them learn yours.

This is a great way to work on your accent and learn modern Russian sayings, idioms and phrases that you may not find in textbooks or online lessons.

Interacting with a real live person allows you to ask questions, concentrate on a certain area (for example, medical terms) and learn at your own pace.

Plus, you can feel good about doing something good for someone else, and possibly learn more about your own native language(s) as you try to teach the intricacies to someone else!

 

Whether you need to sound like a true Russian speaker within a few days or have months at your disposal, these six steps can be utilized in any timeframe that works for you.

You can even rush through them to have a basic understanding of speaking the Russian language, and then take your time truly mastering it!

And One More Thing...

If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!

FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:

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FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

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Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.

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All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.

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The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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