The Motherland Is Calling! The Complete Guide to Learning Russian in Russia
Do you hear that?
It’s the motherland calling.
Calling all Russian learners to visit Russia!
Perhaps you’re just starting out on your Russian learning adventure. Or maybe you can already pass as a Russian-speaking toddler, but want to sound like a Russian-speaking adult. Or maybe you’re even an advanced Russian speaker, and you’re just looking for a new adventure that gives you a way to practice your language skills.
Whatever your motivation may be, one thing is true: Learning a language in its native country is the best way to improve your comprehension, speech, accent and overall understanding of the language and the culture.
Russia has a lot to offer visitors, especially open-minded and adventurous ones. You can try the unofficial national drink (vodka), the unofficial national food (vodka) and the unofficial national activity (drinking vodka). Just kidding!
The best part is that you can teach yourself Russian while meeting some pretty cool people!
The Motherland Is Calling! The Complete Guide to Learning Russian in Russia
We’ll start our Russian journey by considering some reasons for learning Russian in Russia (if you’re not already convinced!), and look at a few resources to help you prepare through self-study before you even leave your own home.
We’ll then see a few tips to help you maximize your Russian learning while in Russia, and finish up with some recommendations for Russian learning institutions in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia’s two most popular and populous cities.
Reasons for Learning Russian in Russia
Why take a 10-hour (or longer!) plane ride to visit Russia when you can learn Russian from the comfort of your own home?
We love online learning, of course, but there are several distinct reasons why you should consider going to Russia to immerse yourself in the language and culture.
- You’ll hear correct pronunciation and accents. When you read Russian from a textbook or online program, you can’t hear the actual pronunciation of the words. And believe it when we tell you, you want to hear Russian words spoken before trying to pronounce them on your own. Cерьезно (seriously)—just try to pronounce that!
- You’ll learn modern Russian as it is spoken today. Language evolves with time, and just like your grandparents likely don’t know what “LOL” means or how to express themselves through the graceful use of emoji, you won’t be able to learn modern Russian terms and expressions without being exposed to Russian culture in Russia.
- You’ll immerse yourself in the culture. If you truly want to master Russian, you must learn the intricacies of the language. It’s a lot easier to understand popular sayings, idioms and references when you’re able to experience the culture for yourself.
- You’ll force yourself to speak Russian—there’s no other alternative! The best way to learn any language is to hear it and speak it as much as possible. At home, you can spend a few hours learning Russian, but then you go about speaking English the rest of the time. In Russia, you’ll have to speak Russian, thereby speeding up your learning and straightening the learning curve.
- You’ll travel, have fun and see the world. The best and most convincing reason to learn Russian in Russia is that it’ll give you a chance to have some fun while you see a fascinating new part of the world!
Self-Study to Prepare for Your Trip to Russia
Before you set out to visit Russia, it’s helpful to add some common words and phrases into your virtual Russian language toolbox. Use the self-study resources below to prepare for your trip to Russia.
Russian For Everyone
This free online source is perfect for beginners who to want to learn Russian basics online. Starting with the Cyrillic alphabet, the first introductory portion teaches users to read syllables and learn verb conjugations. It then moves on to correct pronunciation, including hushing and velar sounds, stress and vowel reduction, and hard and soft consonants.
The introduction is followed by eight separate grammar and spelling units that focus on numbers, nouns and pronouns, verb tenses and basic phrases. Check your knowledge with frequent quizzes and Russian learning games, such as audio and picture games.
This website is intended for intermediate to advanced Russian learners, but offers audio recordings in three speed varieties (slow, adapted and normal) that students of any level can benefit from. This resource focuses on a Russian word of the week, explaining its derivatives, synonyms, etymology and examples of proper usage.
In addition to the word of the week, Everyday Russian offers over 400 Russian lessons recorded by native Russian speakers that focus on vocabulary and grammar. This allows you to not only learn how a word is spelled but also hear its proper pronunciation.
Ruspeach is a learning resource for foreigners learning the Russian language. The site is available in over a dozen languages, making it accessible to students around the world.
It offers a variety of ways to learn Russian, such as posts with photos, sounds and text, podcasts that allow users to hear the works of classic and modern Russian authors read aloud, common idioms and phrases as well as a social network to connect with other Russian learners.
FluentU offers a learning experience that can really help to further your immersion in not just the Russian language, but also Russian culture.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each video comes with interactive captions that help you learn words in context. You’ll be hearing and learning from real native speakers, so the knowledge you gain may be quite useful in real-life as you go out and about in Russia.
How to Get the Most Out Of Your Learning Experience in Russia
If you don’t want to waste your time and money by visiting Russia without really gaining any Russian speaking skills, then follow these tips to get the most out of your trip:
- Get out and talk to Russian people. There’s no use traveling all the way to Russia if you just stay in your hotel room or only converse with other English speakers. To get the most out of your learning experience, immerse yourself in Russian culture and talk to Russian people to practice what you’ve learned. Try ordering at a Russian restaurant before stopping people on the street, as waiters have likely had more experience conversing with tourists.
- Stay in a hostel with other Russians or find Russian roommates. Depending on how long you’re able to stay in Russia, surround yourself with Russians 24 hours a day by staying in a hostel or finding Russian roommates.
- Watch Russian TV and read Russian media. Turn on the television, watch videos, listen to the radio and peruse Russian magazines to experience how Russian is spoken and used in print. You can do a lot of these things at home, but they’re also great to do in Russia!
- Join a Meetup Group. There’s a variety of different groups on Meetup.com that can help you meet people from other cultures and practice your Russian. For example, you can join the Moscow Good Food Club Meetup, which is organized by Moscow Expat Life Magazine. You can also meet other travelers on the Couchsurfing in Moscow Meetup. Another option is to join one of the English-focused meetup groups and try to find a language exchange partner with whom you can later practice Russian.
How and Where to Learn Russian in Two of Russia’s Most Popular Cities
Although Russia is enormous (it’s 1.8 times the size of the United States), much of the country consists of small towns and villages. The two most popular and modern cities are Moscow, the capital, and St. Petersburg, the former capital. Most Russian tourists include either one or both cities in their itinerary, which makes them perfect places to learn Russian while traveling to the motherland.
Learn Russian in Moscow
Language Link offers students the option to learn Russian in Moscow for business, professional, teaching or recreational purposes. Programs are offered throughout the year, with different lengths, intensities and focuses.
Students can brush up on their Russian skills over a holiday, such as Russian Easter or Christmas, or spend a semester or a full year in the capital.
Liden and Denz Intercultural Institute of Languages
If you want to hobnob with foreign diplomats and accredited correspondents of the international press in a location in central Moscow, then choose Liden and Denz as your Russian learning school. This location offers 11 classrooms with the latest technology, such as WiFi, DVDs and iPads (yes, DVDs are still considered to be the latest technological advances in Russian classrooms).
This school offers online courses and a 20-week full-time course, as well as a special class for expats living in Russia.
This school was founded in 1991 with the co-operation of the Moscow State University of Lomonosov (MSU). With the mission to promote Russian culture and language worldwide, RusLanguage has successfully taught the language to thousands of students.
Individual classes cost 20 euros per hour, and group classes are 60-220 euros per week.
Learn Russian in St. Petersburg
Established in 2003 with the partnership of the National Pushkin Museum, this Russian language institute is one of the most well-known schools in St. Petersburg. Accredited by EAQUALS (Evaluation & Accreditation of Quality in Language Services), it functions as an official TORFL testing center.
The Derzhavin Insitute makes it easy to visit Russia to learn the language by helping students apply for a Russian visa and providing help with finding accommodations, setting up a bank account and other necessities.
The classes are small, with an average of five students each, and focus on learning modern, colloquial Russian through a variety of methods. The programs last from 80 to 240 hours, after which students should be able to speak, understand, read and write in Russian.
Established in 1989, the EducaCentre teaches Russian to those who want to learn it for pleasure or need it for business purposes. They focus on providing high-quality education at an affordable price. A variety of courses are taught year-round, and students can start on any Monday of the year.
The institution offers online courses, as well as group and individual classes and intensive courses. To make living in Russia easier while studying, EducaCentre offers help with accommodations, connecting individuals with host families, hotels, bed & breakfasts and apartments.
Zlatoust Language School
This Russian language school was designated The School of the Year of 2016/2017 by the iStudy Global Awards. For over 20 years, the founders have published Russian textbooks used by students all over the world, and they promise to use that expertise to help you not only learn the Russian language, but also the culture.
This school offers you the chance to experience contemporary teaching methodologies from experienced teachers with university degrees, as well as individually-tailored courses, such as Russian for business, Russian for touristic service, Russian literature and Russian for historians and researchers.
You can enjoy indoor and outdoor classes in small groups, from two to six people, while enjoying free city tours and other special programs.
Study Abroad in Russia
For college and university students, one of the most memorable experiences can be studying abroad in a foreign country. Depending on your home university, you may have different options of places to go, but there are two options that stand out, regardless of your home institution:
Educa Russian Learning School
This St. Petersburg study abroad program offers students the chance to learn culture, history, traditions and language.
While enrolled, Educa offers students boat trips, visits to palaces and museums and opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Career-minded professionals will also benefit from internship opportunities arranged by the school.
Truman State University
This study abroad program offers students a year-long program during which they undergo an intensive Russian language course that takes up about 18 hours per week. Students earn up to 15 undergraduate credits through lecture courses taught in English. Individuals have an opportunity to complete an internship and/or study for and take the TORFL Exam, the state examination on Russian language for foreigners.
Social activities include trips to other parts of Russia such as St. Petersburg or Kazan.
Traveling to Russia is sure to be a unique and memorable experience. You’ll not only learn to use and understand Russian much better and faster than if you were to learn it in your hometown, but you’ll also meet great new people and immerse yourself in a completely different culture.
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