No Russian language student has ever complained that the language is too easy.
Like Dustin and Steve from “Stranger Things,” you were probably appalled when you realized you had to learn an entirely new alphabet.
But there’s no need to be afraid of learning Russian. Because you have a secret weapon in your back pocket.
Yep, you can fit all the information you might gain from a Russian textbook, college course or website in your phone. You can learn Russian with an app! (Or two or three.)
Best of all, there are lots of free options!
So reach into that back pocket of yours, navigate to the app store and get downloading.
What to Look for in a Free Russian-learning App
- Think about which skill(s) you want to develop. Some of the apps on this list help you build multiple Russian language skills, while others focus on just one or two.
- Choose an app that suits your learning style. Let’s face it, flashcards aren’t necessarily for everyone. Neither are audio clips without text. Everyone learns in different ways. Read about how the following apps teach you Russian, then choose a few that’ll work with your learning style.
For example, if you’re an auditory learner, you may not want to focus on an app that only displays written text.
- Make sure it’s suited for your learning level. Are you an advanced student? Then you wouldn’t want to download an app that meets your learning style and targets your desired skills… only to discover all the material is pretty basic. Read about what level of learner will benefit from each of the following apps.
- Check out in-app purchases. Yes, all the apps on this list are free! At the very least, they offer a lengthy free trial.
But many also have Premium options or in-app purchases. Take a look at what’s included in the free plan, then what’s included in the paid plan or in-app purchases. If you really want the features that paid subscriptions or purchases provide, think about whether you’re willing to pay.
Learn Russian with Apps: 12 Free Options to Study on the Go
FluentU is a great app for learners who want to fully immerse themselves in the Russian language and culture. FluentU takes real-world videos—like news broadcasts, movie trailers and music videos—and turns them into personalized Russian language lessons.
Each video features annotated subtitles: Hover over a word to see its English translation, part of speech and an associated image. When you click on the word, you can even see a list of other videos that include this vocabulary. Check out those videos if you want to keep studying the word in context.
After watching a video, hop on over to FluentU’s quizzes, which use interactive activities to ensure you understand the material from the video.
FluentU includes other learning material, too, including digital flashcards, audio dialogues and printable PDF transcripts.
You can easily build on all your Russian language skills with FluentU, but the app is especially useful for working on listening and reading skills—plus understanding the culture, of course!
FluentU provides material for every level of learner, from beginner to advanced, neatly organized so you can easily find level-appropriate material for you. You can access the full video library with a free trial.
Does playing games help you retain information? Then downloading Duolingo could be your perfect way to learn Russian with an app!
When you use Duolingo, you can count on two things: you’ll learn Russian by playing games and you’ll learn Russian in bite-sized chunks. Duolingo aims to teach you Russian in as little as five minutes per day.
Five minutes per day… playing games? That sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it?
On the contrary, according to Duolingo, studies show that you’ll learn as much in 34 hours with Duolingo as you would in one semester of taking Russian in college. The big difference? You don’t have to take out student loans to learn with Duolingo.
If you answer a question incorrectly in a game, the app shows you how to fix your mistake. In this way, Duolingo takes on the role of a teacher.
Duolingo is the perfect app for anyone without a lot of time to spare. You can pay $6.99 per month for Duolingo Plus, which gives you an ad-free experience, offline access and quizzes to track your progress.
Drops: Learn Russian
Drops is similar to Duolingo in that you play language games for as little as five minutes per day. However, the two apps’ primary focuses are a bit different.
Drops places an even heavier focus on vocabulary than Duolingo. Grammar isn’t part of the equation! For this reason, it’s probably best suited for beginners who want to learn the basics before jumping into declension or cases. The app also provides illustrations for each vocab word to help you remember the term.
The app focuses on vocab and topics you’re most likely to encounter if you travel to a Russian-speaking country. If you plan on traveling or just want to be sure you learn practical words, Drops could be for you.
Learn Russian with this app for free, unless you’re interested in Drops Premium. A Premium account gives you access to numerous bonus features. For example, you won’t see any ads, you’ll have access to more topics and you’ll have the option to restart a topic.
Busuu offers complete Russian language courses. It even provides a placement test when you sign up to determine which level you should start at.
When you sign up for the free version, you’ll access interactive activities and thorough quizzes.
But if you pay for Busuu Premium, you’ll be able to take advantage of a lot more features. I’m talking receiving offline capabilities, earning official certifications in Russian language studies, creating a personalized study plan, conversing with native Russian speakers and more.
Busuu is a nice app for anyone who likes the traditional classroom setting but doesn’t have the time or money to attend a course.
Take the free version for a spin and if you’re craving the Premium features, you can always sign up and get your money back within the first seven days.
Memrise also incorporates gamified teaching methods, but less so than Duolingo and Drops. It also includes more traditional teaching strategies, making it a great app for anyone who likes games but needs a bit more structure in their study routine.
The app’s biggest claim to fame is spaced repetition software, or SRS. This technology spaces out the Russian vocabulary words in your lessons and quizzes in a way that’s scientifically proven to help you remember them best.
Memrise helps you develop multiple skills with its games, videos and speech recognition software.
The app is suitable for Russian language learners of all levels. Memrise is free to download and use, but paying for Memrise Pro gives you bonuses like offline access, reviews of your learning history and a wider variety of activities.
Cyrillic (Russian Alphabet)
Trying to master Cyrillic? This app is the ultimate guide to the Russian alphabet, and any Russian language student with access to the Google Play store should give it a go.
Use the app to learn how to read and write Cyrillic, and to hear audio clips so you can match sounds with the letters and words. You can even learn how to write Russian in cursive! Next time a Baby Boomer complains that kids these days aren’t learning how to write in cursive, just respond, “Oh yeah? Well, I can write Russian in cursive. Boo-yah!” That’ll show ‘em.
This app even teaches users the history of the Cyrillic alphabet. Not only is this helpful in understanding how the system works, but it’s just fun information to have in your back pocket for cocktail parties.
Beginners are the target audience of this app, because you probably want to have a handle on the alphabet before anything else. You’ll learn Cyrillic through audio clips, text, flashcards and quizzes.
Cyrillic (Russian Alphabet) is free to download, with in-app purchases available for $1-$3.
Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours
Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours isn’t quite as expansive as the Cyrillic (Russian Alphabet) app. But it’s great for anyone who wants to get through the alphabet quickly before moving onto other aspects of the Russian language. Maybe you want to skip over perfecting cursive and learning about the history of the alphabet and just want to memorize the basics. This app will help you do that.
Users praise this app for its easy instruction. It does a good job of making the alphabet easy for English speakers to understand and explaining how certain Russian words are similar to English words.
Due to its limited scope, Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours is best suited for beginners, and it’s really meant as a supplemental resource. Use the app to learn the alphabet, then use another app on this list to build other skills.
Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours is completely free.
Write It! Russian
Want to beef up your Russian writing skills? Check out Write It! Russian.
Write It! Russian could be a good app to download after thoroughly exploring the previously mentioned Cyrillic (Russian Alphabet) or Russian Cyrillic in 3 Hours apps. Now that you have a firm understanding of the alphabet, it’s time to learn how to write words, sentences and even complex paragraphs.
This app’s guide breaks down writing Russian step-by-step and stroke-by-stroke. It also offers audio clips so you can match the words with pronunciation.
Write It! Russian offers rewards as you write more quickly. This is helpful if you’re, say, preparing for a timed exam like the National Examinations in World Languages (NEWL) or Testing Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) exams.
It’s also useful if you’re just trying to become more fluent. Learning to write at a natural pace can be just as useful as learning to speak at a natural pace.
Learn Russian by Mondly
Mondly focuses on conversational Russian. This means you’ll learn practical vocabulary and sentence structure, hear native accents and practice pronunciation.
The program even features a speech recognition tool. Just speak into your phone’s microphone, and the app will assess your Russian accent.
It’s difficult to find language learning apps that place a huge focus on speaking skills. Mondly is fantastic for learners wishing to amp up their speaking speed, pronunciation and conversational skills.
The app is free to download and includes a limited number of lessons, one new lesson per day, weekly quizzes and monthly assessments. If you want access to more lessons and certain features (including the speech recognition tool), you can sign up for Premium.
Russian Slang & Swear Words
This might be the most fun app for learning Russian on this list. Russian Slang & Swear Words is kind of like Urban Dictionary, but for the Russian language.
The Android app provides both text and audio so you can recognize and properly pronounce the controversial vocabulary.
It’s probably best suited for upper-intermediate or advanced students who can speak fairly well but want to know how to speak like a true native. Of course, you can still get something out of it if you’re a lower-level learner. Because who doesn’t like learning inappropriate words in a foreign language?
Best of all, Russian Slang & Swear Words is completely free!
You may already know the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as one of the most respected news sources out there. Thanks to the BBC Russian app, you can access the same high-quality news content in Russian.
With this app, you can read about Russian and international news in the Russian language. Explore topics ranging from economics and science to sports and fashion.
BBC Russian is ideal for advanced students who want to crank up their reading skills. If you’re growing bored of reading shallow Russian content, dive into reading about the latest political issues.
If you don’t have internet access, you can access the top three most current stories in each category without Wi-Fi.
Best of all, you can read in Russian and learn about the culture for free with this app.
Russia. Television and Radio
Calling all advanced students! This app is fantastic for boosting your listening skills and keeping you up-to-date on Russian news.
This is the official app of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, or VGTRK. You’ll be able to access several of the company’s TV and radio channels, including sports programs.
If you know of an upcoming broadcast you want to watch/listen to, use the app to set a calendar reminder for yourself. This way, you’ll never miss a news program!
If you’re an advanced student, BBC Russian and Russian. Television and Radio pair together very well. By downloading both, you can keep up with all the latest news and master both reading and listening skills.
Russia. Television and Radio is 100% free.
What do you think? Have you discovered the best option to learn Russian with an app?
Choose two or three apps on this list and give them a whirl. Remember, you can always try new ones later.
You have the ultimate Russian studying tool in your back pocket. Now use it!
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer based on Nashville. She’s written for outlets such as SoFi, The Penny Hoarder, Roads & Kingdoms and The Write Life. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.