Still reluctant to start learning to speak Russian?
Even though you really need to?
Or maybe you’re just planning to dress up as a Russian character or figure for Halloween.
No matter what your reason is, if you need to summon a bit of extra help for getting by in Russian conversation ASAP, you’ve come to the right place.
In popular media, Russians have long had a reputation for undercover spying tactics, and fitting in with Americans as one of their own. Just watch the show “The Americans.”
But don’t worry, there’s nothing shady going on here!
In this post, we’re going to find out how to infiltrate the Russian language by going over some quick, easy and totally legit ways you can start speaking Russian in very little time!
Just follow the six steps below to begin our covert operation.
Not Only Fool’s Russian: How to Start Speaking Russian Fast
While Russian is not the easiest language to learn, you don’t need to immediately focus on aspects such as reading and writing if what you need most urgently is to simply learn to speak it.
Whatever your goals are, you can utilize these steps in order to quickly gain traction in the language.
1. Imitate the Russian accent
Russian is a fairly recognizable language internationally, and even if you are not yet familiar with any of the vocabulary, the Russian accent is easy to pick up on. The very first 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, “How to Speak with a Russian Accent,” 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. See—now we have dispelled the false belief that Russians are simply angry and unhappy!
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”).
Even if you practice the Russian accent while only speaking English at first, you will be able to apply it to the Russian language you learn later on.
Even if your goal does not involve learning to read in Russian, you must master the Russian letters to understand how they sound. Russian is a phonetic language, and most sounds correspond to the 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 anywhere between a day and one week, depending on how committed you are.
Tip: Make flashcards, and 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, such as this one, that writes out and pronounces the letters and gives examples of words that contain the letters. Combining this video with flashcards will give you a chance to learn how to write, read and pronounce Russian letters.
There are lots of quality online resources that will help you with learning to speak in Russian while also learning about the language as a whole.
FluentU compiles a huge variety of Russian videos that span tons of topics and genres—from music videos to news, movie trailers and more! FluentU is more than a simple streaming service, it’s an important tool that provides help in really learning a language. Each Russian-language video has Russian subtitles and English translations, plus FluentU gives you the ability to click on a word to see its definition and examples.
The fact that the videos are current and authentic helps you learn about Russian-speaking cultures and ways of life, something you don’t often get to do with other Russian learning videos. It makes for a great complete learning program that you can start using from the very beginning, and it is an especially good program to consider if you want to learn to understand real Russian speech. Since you can choose your own material, it is also very easy to customize FluentU to the subject matter you need to learn.
Duolingo provides a fun, accessible way for beginners to start building up a base of knowledge in a foreign language, and is a great place to pick up some free Russian lessons if you are at the beginner level.
Many online programs, including those above, give you the option to set up daily goals. Take advantage of this feature to stay on top of your learning and stay consistent, as this will help you learn more Russian faster.
4. Learn the most basic words
No matter what learning materials you are using, you will 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.
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! If you have a FluentU Plus plan, you can simply make a customized flashcard set using the most common Russian words you don’t know yet, sit back and let the program teach you!
5. Learn these five conversational phrases, and then keep learning five every week
If you are 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); Привет (casual greeting) — Hello
Как Вас зовут? — What is your name?
Как дела? — How are you?
Спасибо — Thank you.
Где находится …? — Where is… located?
Keep learning more complex phrases as you move along in your studies.
6. Utilize conversation exchange sites
Once you have learned the alphabet, basic words and phrases and gotten started taking some online lessons, it is time to truly test your knowledge by interacting with native Russian speakers. But 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 gives you the opportunity to ask questions, concentrate on a certain area (for example, medical terms, if you want to sell medical supplies to a Russian business owner) 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 rush through them to have a basic understanding of speaking the Russian language, and then take your time truly mastering it!
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.