Learning Russian can be as easy as humming your favorite tune.
You know how it is when you’re just hanging out, trying to act normal, and suddenly find yourself with a familiar song stuck in your head?
Before you know it, you’re singing out loud, everyone’s staring at you and you’re thinking, “Man, that got out of control quickly!”
Wouldn’t it be nice if rather than just annoying your friends, coworkers and the general public, you could actually learn Russian simply by repeating a catchy melody?
The good news is, you totally can.
Even if you’re not the type to break into song on the subway, getting some Russian lyrics stuck in your head can be incredibly beneficial to your progress.
In fact, if you’re trying to learn any language to fluency, one of the main things you’ll want to work on is improving your listening skills.
Whether you’re listening to the radio or putting together a strategic playlist of foreign language songs, music is one of the best resources for learning a language quickly.
So if you want to master Russian in a way that’s as effective as it is habit-forming, it’s time to start singing a new tune!
Why Learn Russian with Songs?
- It’s fun. Think about it. There are lots of great songs in Russian that you probably don’t know yet. If you pick songs that you genuinely enjoy, it makes learning much more fun than just sitting down and studying flashcards.
- It helps you remember key vocabulary and grammar. When you learn the lyrics of a song, they’re easy to remember, and this makes it easy to remember the vocabulary and conjugations in that song. When you want to remember a vocab word or language point from the song, all you have to do is replay it in your head.
- It increases your cultural awareness. Music plays a major role in culture all over the world. While learning a Russian song will definitely help you learn the language, it will also automatically connect you to Russian culture and history.
How to Learn Russian with Songs
- First, just sit back, relax and enjoy. Don’t try to learn from a song the first time—just get a feel for it. Once you’re familiar with the pitches and rhythms, it will be a lot easier to pay attention to the lyrics.
- Use subtitles to your advantage. Read along with subtitles if they’re available, or find a copy of the Russian lyrics and English translation. FluentU offers videos in Russian with interactive captions, multimedia flashcards and downloadable transcripts.
- Jot down words you don’t know. Look them up. If, after having read through the lyrics, there are any words still vexing you, this is an important step in the process. It will help ensure you have the precise definition for each word, which will be important when you want to use them down the road.
- Once you’re more familiar with the song, don’t look at the subtitles, but try to catch everything. This is good listening practice. The more words you can pick out in a song, the more you’ll be able to pick out in a conversation.
- Try to sing along. Once you know the song pretty well, go ahead and sing along. Even if you mess up some of the words, this is still a great way to grasp some of the less familiar consonant combinations, for example, and to perfect your pronunciation.
- Try to translate as you watch without looking at the subtitles. Listen to a little, then pause and translate. This will help you connect the Russian words to their English meanings.
- Once you’ve listened often enough, try to sing without the music playing. This is ideal for really learning the vocabulary and, of course, upgrading your standard shower repertoire!
Learn Russian with Music: 10 Incredible Russian Songs You’ll Never Forget
Before we get started, it’s important to note that the translations linked to vary—some are literal while others take a more artful approach. Additionally, since some of these songs have multiple versions, the lyrics may not be identical between the videos and lyric pages.
This folk song rose to fame during World War II. It tells the sad story of a young woman waiting for her love who is away at war. The first couple verses are in the past tense, so it’s a great way to practice your conjugations.
You may also want to review the lyrics on their own.
This is the theme song from the popular Soviet-era cartoon “Cheburashka.” If you’re not yet familiar with “Cheburashka,” prepare to say “aw…” That’s right: “Cheburashka” is downright adorable. So adorable that this peculiar little animal “unknown to science,” who ends up as a toy in a store, has even become popular outside of Russia (particularly in Japan).
The lyrics rhyme, and are quite easy and enjoyable to learn. Plus, you’ll never forget how to say “Now I’m Cheburashka.” I’m sure this must be a valuable conversational tool in some situation.
3. “Gena’s Birthday Song”
This is another classic song from the “Cheburashka” series. People still frequently sing it on birthdays. While it will help you learn the phrase “Happy birthday,” learning the lyrics will also help prepare you in case you ever find yourself at a Russian birthday party.
4. “Black Raven”
This Cossack folk song is about a black raven circling overhead as a soldier is dying. You’ll never forget the word for “black” again. Also, the song is primarily in the past tense, so it’s a helpful way to practice your conjugations.
The Russian lyrics vary a little between versions: You can look at some alternate lyrics here.
5. “Higher” by Nyusha
Nyusha is a popular Russian singer-songwriter. This is a great song to learn Russian with because it’s energetic without being as fast as a lot of pop music. Much of the lyrics are in the future tense; this will help with your conjugations. The phrase “I want” is also frequently repeated, so you’ll have no trouble remembering it. Here’s an additional video of the lyrics with English translations.
6. “All the Things She Said” by t.A.T.u.
t.A.T.u. is one of the few Russian groups to experience a good deal of success in the US. This song was one of their big hits—granted, its popularity overseas was partially due to the video’s controversial kiss between the two girls in the group. It’s an entertaining song, and its extremely repetitive lyrics are easy to learn.
You can even listen to the English version to compare the lyrics (which, be warned, are very different).
7. “Do You Want?” by Zemfira
Zemfira is a popular rock musician, so you can study these lyrics alongside some cool guitar riffs. This song will certainly help you learn the phrase “Do you want…?” and the lyrics are repetitive, so you’ll have lots of opportunities to reinforce what you just learned without having to pause the song.
8. “Darling” by Nepara
Pop duo Nepara delivers this strong romantic song. “Darling” is pretty slow moving, which will make it easy to catch the lyrics, included in the link above. Plus, if you’re looking for a good Russian term of endearment, this song hands it to you on a silver platter.
This upbeat old folk tune will have you tapping your feet. While the lyrics may not teach a ton of valuable vocabulary for everyday use (unless you really need to know the Russian word for a type of berry), you’ll certainly learn the verb for “to sleep.” It’s also a fun way to practice the different sounds of the language.
10. “My Heart” by Kit-i
Russian group “Kit-i” is a pop/rock group. The lyrics to this song go by slowly, so you’ll be able to pick up every “my heart” and “I know you love me.” Bonus social tip: While this last phrase is a great thing to know how to say in Russian, you might not want to go around just telling people that.
Bonus for Advanced Learners
More advanced learners may also want to listen to these current hits in Russian, which include rap and hip hop. While they’re very enjoyable to listen to, they’re also quite challenging, and many of these songs feature rapid lyrics. Hold on to your seats!
So, the next time you find yourself humming a jingle, singing a ditty or belting tunes in the shower, why not switch it up and fine-tune your Russian?
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!
FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:
FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.
The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.
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