The Russian language is a beautiful, mysterious stranger.
You make eye contact with her from across a crowded room.
You imagine she’s beckoning to you with her enchanting alphabet, her beguiling case system, her weird but elegantly loopy cursive.
She approaches you with casual charm and says…
Hey you, snap out of it.
You’ve been staring at me all night and, honestly, it’s getting a little creepy.
If you’re so interested in me, why don’t you, I dunno, actually try to get to know me or something.
Stunned, you ask how you might do that.
The Russian language sips her champagne, looking bored. She sighs and reflects on your question.
I mean, I hear there are some good Russian learning videos online.
Can’t you just look on YouTube?
Revving Up: How to Learn Russian from the Videos Below
The Russian language is right. There are online videos that will happily ruin your shrinkwrapped fantasies of Russian and get you on the path to something much better and more fulfilling: a long-term learning relationship.
But before we show you the videos themselves, let’s look at how you can best learn from them.
You don’t need a textbook, but a notebook is highly recommended.
Textbook learning can be great, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and the right videos can be just as helpful. However, you do need something to organize your learning and to make the language your own.
Instead of thinking of this as a chore, though, look at it as a source of enjoyment. If you take notes in handwritten form, this enables you to start practicing your cursive sooner, and it will give you a nice sense of accomplishment.
Alternatively, you may want to organize your learning in Google Docs. This will allow you to practice your typing and to always have an updated version of your notes, which could be useful if you’re a messy note-taker and often go back to change things.
Yet another option is to start a free blog via a service like WordPress.com. Stay with me here. I’m not suggesting you actually broadcast your Russian learning publicly (unless you want to). But if you leave your blog set to private, you’ll have a convenient personal platform for embedding YouTube videos and typing your notes right below them. This may be the best option when learning from videos, because it keeps all your learning in one easily accessible place.
You don’t need to go in order, but you do need to learn in an order that makes sense to you.
As much as some language books and teachers have strong ideas of what needs to be learned in what order, as independent learners, we need to develop our own sense of what works for us.
You may be more comfortable memorizing some useful phrases first and then delving into grammar. Or you may want to use a course that gives you grammar and vocabulary in bite-sized pieces. Either of these options would be okay, but you want to make sure your learning is following an order that makes sense to you.
So these aren’t rules, but here are a few things to keep in mind when ordering your Russian learning:
- Learning the alphabet before anything else is probably the best route. For some reason, we tend to think of spoken language as more important than written language. However, a scenario in which you learn to communicate in spoken Russian but never have to read the language for any reason is pretty unrealistic. The sooner you start associating the way a word looks with the way it sounds, the better.
- You probably don’t want to try to learn the case system all at once. I think of the Russian case system as like when you try to take a small piece from the fried calamari appetizer you’re sharing with your friends and realize that the piece you selected is attached to half of what’s on the plate. It’s everywhere, but you need to cut it up into small pieces to make it manageable.
- You should learn in a way that builds on previous knowledge. The best way to ensure this happens is by following some sort of course or playlist early on. You can even just look at how courses and books are ordered, even if you don’t end up using them.
For example, if a textbook teaches the nominative case followed by the accusative case, you can research to get a brief idea of what each of those things is and then seek out videos for learning them. By comparing different courses and series, you can get a better idea of what might make sense for you personally.
If you find a video series or resource you like, stick with it.
Again, this is probably the easiest way to ensure that you get enough knowledge under your belt initially. And so this is where I should note that some of the videos in the list below are the first in a series, or are connected to full learning resources. So if you like one of them, consider whether you may be able to benefit from associated material.
In any case, the videos below should give you a good combination of information to get started (or continue) with learning Russian.
Learn Russian from Videos: A Relaxing Ride Through the Basics
Just Starting Out? Russian Videos for Complete Beginners
Russian lessons – Lesson 1 from Real Russian Club
Reading. Writing. Speaking. How can you even begin to comprehend where these all intersect when it comes to the Russian language?
Easy. Just watch this casual and straightforward whiteboard video from Real Russian Club. It will get you set up with the alphabet and forming words in less than 45 minutes. This is part of a series for beginners, but this video on its own will be helpful for any total newbie.
Russian Alphabet from Easy Russian
If you watched the last video, you don’t really need to watch this one. But it will certainly break up the monotony of your day. In it, Easy Russian host Maria introduces the letters А, Б, В, Г and Д through a rap involving animal puppets. This is part of a very entertaining playlist for beginners.
Now that you’ve learned the alphabet and a few words, it’s time to dive into authentic videos!
Okay, I hear your skepticism. Don’t panic. I have a bunch more learning videos coming right up for you. But first, I just want to show you how you absolutely can learn with authentic videos this early in your Russian-learning journey… exclusively if you like.
So, please just bear with me here, and if you’ve somehow missed out on the Baby Shark song of viral popularity, check out the English version here. Then, try watching the Russian version below.
Russian video version of The Baby Shark Song
Even if you’re not sure what the individual words mean, I’m sure you can tell that this is a simple song that could easily supplement (and lock in) your studies of basic Russian family vocabulary. There are all kinds of videos like this out there, either of international popularity or intended for Russian-speaking children, that you can use to inform your Russian learning with just a little extra support.
That’s where FluentU comes in.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
You can find the Baby Shark song there with a translation, interactive captions, a complete transcript with audio, a vocab list, customized quizzes to teach you the vocab and more. And all these things are available for every video on FluentU, so if this sounds like an appealing way to learn Russian with videos, check it out!
Super Easy Russian 1 – Around the home from Easy Languages
To put it simply, Easy Languages rocks. They give you videos showing subtitled interviews with native speakers, so you can get used to hearing the language in a way that feels both comfortable and real.
As you can imagine, some of these videos are best for those who already have some footing in the language. But they also have some “Super Easy” videos for “absolute beginners” that you can start watching right away. This one takes you through some basic sentences describing actions in a home setting, e.g., “I am closing the book.” The sentences are all shown in Russian, English and Romanized Russian.
Basic Russian Grammar Videos for Newbies
Hey, have you seen Russian grammar lately? Where do you think it’s been hiding? Could it be… right behind you?!
Sorry, just trying to get the scary part out of the way. Now let’s look at some very non-scary videos.
Introduction to Russian Grammar from RussianPod101.com
If you’re brand-new to Russian grammar, this is a good intro video to watch to familiarize yourself with some of the basics. It hits on some key differences between Russian and English grammar, including word order, negatives and questions. And it touches on subjects that aren’t too intimidating, so it won’t put you off before you even get started.
This video is from Innovative Language. They offer more video and audio lessons for learners on their website, along with extras like PDF notes and a learner community.
Russian cases – #1 from Denis Fedorov
Onward to the exciting stuff! This video from Denis Fedorov aims to explain cases using examples in English and Russian. You may not be aware of this, but we do use cases in English, too, just not as extensively as in Russian.
This video is a good one to watch if you want to understand the concept of cases in Russian before actually tackling them. It’s part of a series that goes more extensively into cases, so if you enjoy the format, you may want to consider continuing on.
All Russian Cases in 2 Minutes from Cafe Russian
If the last video seemed too long for you, or you’re just a real “rip the Band Aid off” type, you can get a quick overview of the practical functions of cases here in about two minutes.
The video itself is more like five minutes long, but the crucial information is packed into a pretty tight presentation. You’ll see what each case is used for and what word endings you’ll need to memorize for each.
Nouns from Ru-Land Club
Nouns are just words, right? They’re, like, the most basic unit of language. What could you possibly need to know about nouns? Oh right, we’re learning Russian. This video from Ru-Land Club delivers some basics of how nouns work in Russian that you’ll have to learn early on.
5 verbs from learnrussian.org
You won’t get far without verbs! This video teaches you five of the most common Russian verbs, along with personal pronouns and some conjugation. This is the first in a series that teaches you a hundred verbs. So if you find it easy to follow the presentation of these five, you know how to lock down 95 more!
Russian adjectives and their endings from Antonia Romaker
Adjectives, of course, are a whole other thing. And before you ask, yes, they’re affected by cases. Agh! But this video uses color coding and clear, simple explanations to teach what you need to know about Russian adjective endings. Take good notes and have fun!
Basic Russian Vocabulary Videos Bursting with Useful Words and Phrases
Whew! Let’s take a break from all that grammar now and just concentrate on vocabulary. These videos will give you words, phrases and sentences that you can just memorize without thinking too much.
50 Common Phrases in Russian from linguamarina
This video takes you through 50 common and useful phrases in Russian, including some related to introductions, navigating around your lack of language skills and general communication. Everything is shown in Russian and English. The list of phrases is presented in something of a travel context, but these are also just good phrases for beginners to learn.
10 Must Know Verbs from Cafe Russian
If the previous verb series wasn’t quite to your liking, or you just want to see a snappier presentation, this video will take you through 10 basic Russian verbs in just under 10 minutes.
Some present tense conjugations and example sentences are shown for each, but there isn’t as much detail as in the learnrussian.org video. This is best for just introducing yourself to some crucial verbs you can learn better later, and also for picking up some basic phrases.
100 Russian Verbs in Present Tense from LearnRussia
Speaking of present tense conjugations, that’s exactly what you get with this series. I’ve linked to the entire series here, because it’s formatted as a whole more than some playlists connected to other videos in this list.
It shows the conjugations on screen, but Ksenia also puts them into complete sentences for you. There’s nothing fancy about these videos, but they’re great for speaking along with, and you could probably use the audio by itself pretty effectively.
26 most used Russian Prepositions from Russian with Nastya
Prepositions are always an important part of language learning, because they can be one of the hardest parts of a language to translate and remember. This video will teach you Russian prepositions and give you some example sentences to use for practice.
Learn Russian for Kids – Numbers, Colors & More from Rock ‘N Learn
Learning basic vocabulary can be pretty boring, right? But this animated video for kids, with colorful visuals and sound effects, will allow you to cram a bunch of it relatively painlessly in less than an hour… or however long it takes you to write down all the words.
If you don’t write them down, you probably won’t remember them, but this is so much better than learning with lifeless premade flashcards.
Learn Russian: Food from redkalinka.com
This short offering from redkalinka.com covers basic food vocabulary, like meals and types of food.
What do Russians eat? from Russian Language Vocabulary
Now that you know some general food vocab, enjoy a look at some Russian-specific dishes.
Actually Useful Russian Phrases from Be Fluent in Russian
This video covers vocabulary that’s common in Russian conversations. This isn’t the type of language that you’ll be taught in most beginner Russian courses, but rather that you’re likely to hear from actual native speakers, like fillers and transitions.
Helpful Videos for Beginning to Speak in Russian
All right, now let’s put all that vocab and grammar to good use! Whether you’re traveling to a Russian-speaking country or just eager to jump into conversations with native speakers, these videos will give you a lift into basic interaction so you can learn to speak Russian.
Essential Russian for Tourists from World With Natalie
This video starts very basic but then gets into language that’s specific to travel situations, like asking for directions, ordering in restaurants and inquiring about prices.
How to introduce yourself in Russian from Daria Mikhay
Here’s an organized look at introductions in Russian. Daria takes you through the act of greeting someone and actually introducing yourself, then giving more information about yourself and making small talk.
Russian Conversations from Russian with Anastasia
This is another instance where I’ve linked to the whole series, but you can start with the first video and see if it looks like something you’d like to continue.
In this series, Anastasia takes you through conversations with a variety of people. This playlist is similar to Easy Languages, but more geared to beginners, as at least some of the conversations are obviously staged and meant to cover specific language matter. You still get the feeling of being out in the world with real people, though.
And the real world is where you should be.
Don’t be weird about Russian. Just because you love it doesn’t mean you have to go write Tolstoy fan fiction or something. I mean, do that if you want, no judgment.
But you can also start to learn Russian from videos, and actually bring the language into your life!
Elisabeth Cook is a language geek who blogs about books, including some Russian ones, at LitAllOver.com.