Don’t you envy kids?
They get to sleep in the middle of the day, get their meals served to them and get to play all the time.
Who wouldn’t want those luxuries?
Plus, so many things come easily to young children—such as learning a language.
They’re so immersed in the culture that they simply pick up the language.
So if you’re trying to learn Russian (and why else would you be reading this blog), why not start small and do it like a small child would?
Temper tantrums are allowed—in fact, expected, as Russian isn’t so easy to learn!
However, if you follow the three-step plan below, it might be a lot easier than you expect, no matter how moody or unruly of a learner you may be.
Kids do what they want.
So if you want to learn Russian, here’s how to do it like a Russian child.
The 3-Step Beginner Plan to Learn Russian Like a 3-year-old
1. Start with the Alphabet
The first step in learning any language is familiarizing yourself with the alphabet, which is Cyrillic in the Russian language.
Some of the letters will look exactly the same as their English counterparts (A, O, H, T, etc.). However, some will sound the same, while others won’t. And other letters will look new and different (Ч, Г, Я and so on).
MasterRussian.com is one of the online sources that can help you learn the Russian alphabet, and it even gives you a cool history about how it came to be. The letters are written in both print and cursive, have accompanying sound guides and examples that help you with pronouncing them.
You can follow up with alphabet-related videos on FluentU for practice, like those in the “Letter By Letter” series. FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
2. Read Children’s Books
Learning the alphabet can take you anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on how quickly you can memorize and how much time you have to dedicate to this task.
After you feel confident in your knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet, you can move on to books. That’s books, not novels!
Utilizing children’s books to learn elementary grammar and vocabulary is perfect for beginners. They’ll be written in simple text easy enough for preschoolers to comprehend.
The following books can help you master the Russian language if you read them in the order below. The first book will help you put together the Russian alphabet you just learned in Step One to form easy syllables and elementary words. The second book helps you prepare to read in Russian. The third offers exercises to practice what you’ve learned and advance your reading abilities in Russian.
This is the first book young Russian students start with in school. The author, N.S. Zhukova, is a renowned expert in Russian education, and over three million copies of “Букварь” have been sold worldwide.
The book proceeds in order of difficulty, starting with letters and very simple syllables, followed by words. Each page has colorful visual examples to aid in comprehension.
The book offers plenty of lessons and examples of usage to help you teach yourself Russian.
This book is designed for students ages three and over, so don’t be afraid to try it even if you barely know any Russian! (By the way, “Azbuka,” written as “Aзбука” in Russian, and “Букварь,” are pretty interchangeable terms, both referring to primers.)
The author recommends a four-step approach for learning Russian with this book:
- Expand your vocabulary by describing the pictures in the book and answering questions about the pictures.
- Learn how to count in Russian.
- Learn colors in Russian.
- Review and repeat everything you’ve learned from page to page.
As this book is intended for parents to work on with their children, the four steps come in the form of instructions in both English and Russian. This will help learners better understand the suggestions from the author as they utilize the book.
Plus, both sections include suggested questions in Russian to ask children, which you can use to test yourself by saying the answers orally and also writing them down.
The book is filled with fun and easy exercises to reinforce your knowledge of Russian letters. It will help you move on to learning vocabulary, so you can begin reading in Russian.
“Читаем после азбуки с крупными буквами” (“Reading After Azbuka with Large Letters”)
N. Pavlova helps readers apply their knowledge of the Russian alphabet to reinforce reading skills. Her books have helped both parents and teachers in the classroom and at home. She offers games, exercises and texts that keep you engaged and moving along in the learning process.
The book offers plenty of exercises, each centered around one topic. The aim is to understand letters, the rules of punctuation and help students read faster with fun challenges.
As the author expects Russian children to do the work under the guidance of a parent or teacher, the instructions are written in Russian only. As such, beginner Russian students may have a difficult time understanding the directions. Don’t fret, using a dictionary or translation app can help if you get stuck, and the exercises themselves are very simple.
3. Watch Children’s Shows and Movies
Watching children’s shows and movies is a good way to hear easy-to-understand Russian as spoken by natives.
Starting with Russian shows and movies without any basic understanding of the language can be overwhelming. However, once you’ve gotten down the basics of the letters, elementary words and grammar, and are well on your way to reading, you can advance your Russian with children’s programming.
This will give you the opportunity to hear Russian pronounced by actual Russians, reinforcing what you’ve learned visually with sound. Try to find shows that have subtitles in either Russian or English to help you understand better.
Below are three great Russian children’s programming options to check out. Once you’re done with these, remember that you can always find plenty more content on FluentU to last you the rest of your way to fluency.
This short children’s cartoon is perfect for beginner Russian learners! The videos are short, around seven minutes, so you don’t have a chance to get bored. However, they’re so visually colorful, animated and funny that you’ll be entertained through and through.
The reason we recommend these cartoons is because the language is really easy to understand. Often set along to music, the sentences are short, and said fairly slowly and clearly.
There are dozens and dozens of episodes, which will introduce you to words to describe animals, food, holidays, games, sports and so on!
This YouTube channel has tons of educational cartoons for Russian children or Russian students! They’re short (around 1-5 minutes), colorful, engaging and helpful in your quest. The topics taught cover everything a beginning Russian student needs to learn, such as:
- Body parts
To test your reading skills, you can try reading the description below each episode for information.
This YouTube channel is part of a channel called Weekly Russian, designed to help foreigners familiarize themselves with the Russian language. It offers six cartoons that have been made into lessons.
Each video shows short clips in Russian with subtitles. Every few seconds, the clips are paused. The dialogue is repeated again slowly to aid in comprehension, and is written down in Russian, translated into English and transliterated. This resource is cool because it helps you learn more about Russian culture.
After you’re done with this three-step plan, you’ll likely be able to read and speak in Russian, albeit like a child.
Then, you’ll be able to grow your studies by moving on to grown-up sources, like textbooks and apps.
Remember to go at your own pace, review what you’ve learned and test yourself!
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.