When you’re lost in the woods, try not to get spotted by a wolf.
If you’ve built your house out of sticks, you’d better hope no one blows it down.
And if you encounter a witch, never, under any circumstances, look delicious.
These simple rules could help you survive if you were trapped in a fairy tale, and learning Russian is a lot like a fairy tale.
Okay, so maybe you don’t have to worry too much about the nefarious machinations of an over-the-top villain.
But you’ll definitely encounter a few roadblocks.
While learning Russian can be a magical experience that brings you joy and excitement, it can also be fraught with setbacks that could derail your progress and leave you lost in the learning woods.
But whether you teach yourself Russian or take an online Russian course, you’ll never be all alone in those woods. That’s because there are tons of easy tips and great resources that make it much easier to learn Russian.
So if you want a fairy-tale ending of Russian fluency, read on to find out what you need to know about learning the Russian language.
How to Learn Russian on Your Own
A lot of students want to learn Russian on their own, and that’s terrific! Learning independently provides more flexibility and can be a great way to challenge yourself.
However, since independent learners chart their own path, you’ll have to pay careful attention to how you’re learning so you can gain valuable skills.
Here are some tips to help you learn Russian independently.
Learn the alphabet first.
We won’t lie—you can find resources that’ll teach you Russian vocabulary without the use of the Russian alphabet. This might seem like a quick, easy way to skip a step in the Russian learning process, but it can ultimately cost you more time than it saves.
The Russian alphabet isn’t particularly difficult to learn. With focused study, you may even be able to master it in under an hour. Once you’ve learned the Russian alphabet, you’ll be better equipped for learning success.
One major benefit of learning the alphabet is improved pronunciation. It isn’t always clear how to properly pronounce romanized Russian, so knowing the alphabet can improve your pronunciation in the long run.
Plus, learning the Russian alphabet will open up a whole world of reading to you. Even if you’ve learned thousands of words using romanized Russian, you won’t even be able to read simple business sign or menu if you don’t know the Russian alphabet.
Finally, knowing the Russian alphabet makes it easier to use dictionaries or translators to find the meanings of any unfamiliar words you encounter.
We’ll share more about learning the Russian alphabet and some resources to help you along later in this article.
Use multiple resources.
Using multiple resources will ensure that you don’t pigeonhole your Russian skills.
Each resource offers a slightly different approach to learning the language. If you use just one resource, your view on the Russian language may be unnecessarily narrow, making your skills less adaptable for different situations and speakers.
Including a broader range of resources can better prepare you for the diverse contexts you may encounter in real life.
Focus on developing well-rounded skills.
One of the keys to becoming proficient in Russian is developing well-rounded skills. You’ll certainly need to know grammar rules like Russian cases and Russian word order as well as plenty of vocabulary, but you’ll also need to develop reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Most conventional Russian courses will purposely target all these skills. However, if you’re learning Russian on your own, it can be easy to inadvertently overlook things. For instance, if you love watching Russian movies, your listening skills may be very strong, but if you never get any reading practice, that’ll cause an imbalance.
To ensure you’re developing well-rounded Russian skills, you’ll need to pay attention to the skills you’re targeting and vary your study sessions so that you’re not always getting the exact same type of practice.
As long as you’re aware of the fact that you need to develop all the aspects of the Russian language, you can work to ensure you don’t let any skills fall by the wayside. If you notice one of your skills isn’t as strong as the others, simply target that skill until it’s on par with the rest.
Work practice into your everyday life.
If you’re learning Russian on your own, it can be tempting to take a few days off when you’re particularly busy or tired. However, taking breaks can be problematic.
Think of learning a language as climbing a ladder. Each time you study, you move another rung up. However, if you go longer periods between study sessions, you may move a rung or two down, instead. This backsliding can mean the loss of some of the valuable skills you worked so hard to gain.
That’s why it’s important to try to work practice into your everyday life. Not only can this help prevent backsliding, but it’ll also make it easier to study consistently. After all, if you study every day at noon, you’re more likely to remember to do it than if you just study for a few minutes whenever you think of it.
How to Learn Russian Fast
Maybe you have a trip planned. Maybe you have a friend with whom you want to communicate better. Maybe you just really like the feeling of rapid progress. Regardless of what’s motivating you, learning Russian fast can be super appealing.
No one likes wasting time! However, learning Russian fast requires a slightly different approach than some methods of learning. Here are some ways you can speed up your learning progress.
Studying regularly can help you learn Russian faster. As we discussed early, studying every day can help prevent backsliding and keep your Russian skills progressing nicely.
But we’re not just talking about daily study.
Ramp up your daily study to include short spurts throughout the day. This can help keep new vocabulary fresh in your mind and help you build on new skills before they fade in your memory.
Plus, even if you study just a couple of minutes multiple times a day, it’ll add up and you’ll end up racking up more study time than you might think. It’s easy to study in line at the grocery store, via audio lessons during your daily commute or even on your bathroom break.
And if you infuse these spare minutes with Russian learning, the effects can really add up.
Use the Russian language whenever possible.
Using your skills is one of the best ways to reinforce them, so if you want to learn Russian quickly, try to use your skills as much as possible.
If it’s hard to find opportunities to use your Russian skills, you can always make your own! Try translating what you hear into Russian in your head. When you’re doing mundane tasks, like cooking, cleaning or shopping, narrate what you’re doing in Russian. You can even keep a diary in Russian to reinforce your writing skills.
All these activities can help you use your Russian skills daily even without a naturally occurring opportunity to do so.
Immersion is one of the best and quickest ways to learn a language. Obviously, creating full immersion by traveling to Russia would be amazing, but that’s not possible for everyone.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean you can’t still immerse yourself in the language from the comfort of your home. Surround yourself with the Russian language at every possible opportunity. Change your cell phone language to Russian. Watch Russian TV and movies.
The more you can infuse your day-t0-day life with the Russian language, the more likely you are to enjoy fast learning results.
Don’t expect too much too soon.
There’s nothing quite as demotivating as not progressing as quickly as you feel like you should. That’s why it’s important to set realistic expectations.
While you can aim for rapid progress, don’t expect too much too soon. You can’t become fluent overnight. However, you can build up skills every day that’ll lead to fluency in the future.
Learning any language takes time. Celebrate your accomplishments, but don’t be disappointed if you’re not seeing the immediate progress you’d hoped for.
Use the right resources.
Throughout this post, we list many resources that’ll help you learn Russian. But if you really want to learn Russian fast, here are two to get you started:
Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps available, and it’s no wonder why. This free app packs a powerful learning punch that you can enjoy in just five minutes a day.
The program uses a variety of interactive activities to introduce and reinforce words through use. These exercises will help you see how words might be used in different contexts, as well as help you practice reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Since you can use the Duolingo app for just five minutes at a time, it’s also a great tool for spacing out your Russian study throughout the day for quick, convenient progress.
Babbel aims to help you become conversational quickly, so it’s a good choice for students seeking rapid progress.
To help you improve your conversational skills, Babbel focuses on lessons that feature realistic real-world conversations voiced by native speakers.
The app also offers curated review sessions to go over what you’ve already learned, thereby reinforcing it.
Babbel’s lessons are 10-15 minutes long, so you’ll still be able to fit in a couple of lessons a day for faster progress.
Learn Russian: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners
Now that you know both how to guide your own self-learning and how to speed things along when necessary, let’s dive into the meat of things: How to Learn Russian.
We’ve organized the steps below in a logical manner so you can simply follow the list down from start to finish, but you can also pick and choose steps based on your own current skill level and needs.
Let’s get started!
How to Learn the Russian Alphabet
As discussed above, learning the Russian alphabet is very important. Every Russian student should seek to learn the alphabet early in their education. This’ll make future Russian study much easier.
If you’re considering learning Russian, go ahead and start studying the Russian alphabet today!
Feeling intimidated? One of the easiest ways to approach the Russian alphabet is to start by studying letters that are similar to English letters. These are easy to learn and can build up your confidence before you move on to more challenging letters.
Once you start studying less familiar letters, try to associate each letter with an image to make it easier to remember. For instance, the letter ю (pronounced “yoo”) kind of looks like a little fish. Just imagine a fish calling out to his friend, “Hey you!” Using mnemonic devices in this way will help you memorize both the look and sound of the letters.
Using a quality resource like the options below can also make learning the Russian alphabet easier.
Russian For Everyone offers a delightfully comprehensive guide to the Russian alphabet.
You’ll have easy access to each letter, its name, an audio pronunciation, a comparison to an English sound, a word that uses the letter, an image that represents that word and pronunciation of the word. Wow!
While beginning students don’t need to learn cursive right off the bat, knowing Russian cursive is a valuable skill to have, and Russian For Everyone has your back there, too. That’s because it shows you each letter and a word that uses that letter written in cursive, and you can even play a video to see how these letters were formed.
Education.com offers more valuable learning materials for studying the Russian alphabet.
This website has 33 worksheets to teach you Russian letters. Each sheet focuses on one letter. It shows the Russian letter, its English equivalent, several words that use the letter, illustrations that indicate word meanings and the English translations of those words.
Since these worksheets are printable, they could be a great option for anyone who prefers studying from a hard copy.
How to Learn Russian Words
To become proficient in Russian, you’ll need to learn plenty of words. However, it’s just as important to know the right words.
Just as in English, some words in Russian are more common than others. Learning these valuable words can make your skills more usable. Additionally, knowing in what contexts you can use these vocabulary words will make your skills more adaptable.
The following two resources can help you build your vocabulary with valuable, usable Russian words.
Studying words is great. Learning how to use them in context is even better.
With FluentU, new vocabulary words always come with context. That’s because FluentU uses real-world videos, like news, commercials, movie trailers, music videos and more.
However, you won’t be thrown in and expected to understand Russian right away. FluentU offers lots of tools to help you improve your skills gradually.
Each video is captioned, and the captions are annotated. Whenever you don’t know a word, FluentU can quickly give you its definition, example sentences and an associated image—just by hovering over or tapping on the word in the subtitles. If you want to see it in another context, FluentU can even supply you with other videos on the site that use that same word.
Want to save a word for later study? Just add it to your vocabulary list and it’ll be converted into a useful video-enhanced flashcard. Then, use FluentU’s quizzes with your personal vocab list or following a video for a fun, engaging way to reinforce vocabulary. Quizzes fuse videos, images and example sentences into interactive activities and flashcards for a unique learning experience.
Regardless of your current Russian skills, FluentU can help you meet your learning goals. You select what you watch and how quickly. Meanwhile, FluentU’s algorithm tracks your learning to present you with level-appropriate questions that build on what you already know.
It’s an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Russian the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary!
Want to learn the most common Russian words, first? With this website, you can!
MasterRussian.com provides a convenient list of the 1,000 most common words in Russian, making it easy to study the words you’re most likely to encounter in everyday conversation.
Each word is presented in order of frequency. You’ll have easy access to the Russian word, an audio pronunciation of the word, its English translation and its part of speech.
You can also click words to learn more about them and see example sentences.
How to Learn Russian Phrases
Learning Russian phrases is another valuable way to make your Russian skills more usable. You might choose to learn phrases after you’ve learned words.
However, if you’re looking to learn Russian fast, you might also choose to memorize entire phrases right off the bat. Doing so can provide you with vocabulary and grammar models you can use down the road and will allow you to immediately use what you’ve just learned.
This app is designed to help travelers and beginning students pick up some of the basics of the Russian language. It features a blend of common phrases and vocabulary.
Phrases are grouped thematically, making it easy to prepare for potential scenarios you might encounter. For instance, there are categories for greetings, emergencies, romance and more.
Since the app doesn’t require an internet connection, it can also be super convenient to have along on your travels.
Rocket Languages aims to get you conversing quickly, so it’s a good option for learning key phrases.
Rocket Languages offers interactive audio lessons and voice recognition to help you learn and perfect your pronunciation of lots of useful words and phrases.
You can also use Rocket Languages’ flashcards to further reinforce what you’ve learned.
Where to Take Russian Lessons Online
Russian lessons provide structured instruction. Rather than needing to decide what to work on next, you’ll have someone who will lead you along. Plus, with one-on-one lessons, your education can directly target your goals.
Luckily, you don’t need to go anywhere to take Russian lessons. These two resources make it easy to find the perfect tutor for you (and your schedule) right from home.
italki is a language learning app that helps you connect with native Russian speakers for one-on-one help. You can book lessons ranging from 30 to 90 minutes depending on your needs and goals.
Additionally, lessons can cover specific skills, like reading, writing, speaking and listening, giving you an opportunity to target your weak points.
If you’re looking to learn Russian for work, you might also consider asking your tutor to provide a customized lesson with specific terminology of that industry.
Preply is another app option that can connect you with a native speaker who can give you Russian lessons.
With Preply, you can even filter potential tutors by specialty, allowing you to find tutors who specialize in business Russian, Russian for beginners, Russian for children, Russian literature and more.
Rates start at just $6 per hour, so it can even be a good option for students on a budget.
How to Learn with Russian Books
Books are a standard go-to option for learning a language, and Russian is no exception. Russian learning books can be a terrific way to pack a lot of learning into a well-structured, easy-to-follow format.
To use a book to learn Russian, just find an option at an appropriate level, then follow along with the content. Eventually, you’ll be able to move on to actual novels or non-educational books and even read a Russian classic or two.
Here are some useful book options beginners can start with.
This volume is a good introductory option to teach you basic vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and conversation skills.
The book covers common themes like food, family and more. However, it also delves into some tricky grammar concepts, like the conditional mood, so it provides a good balance for beginning Russian students.
This book is designed to support students in developing basic Russian skills. It offers 30 lessons on topics like verbs, adjectives, requests, negation and so much more.
In addition, the book has some great reference material, including grammar tables, a vocabulary reference section and a glossary of grammatical terms. All this combines into a powerful tool for beginning Russian students.
Which Learn Russian Apps to Get
Russian learning apps can be convenient for on-the-go learning. They pack a lot of information and you can use them whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you.
Because they’re so convenient, you might even be able to squeeze in multiple study sessions a day like we suggested earlier, which can help you make great strides in your Russian skills.
Memrise is a language-learning app that can help you learn Russian with some engaging features and a spaced repetition style of learning.
One of the main things that sets Memrise apart from other apps is its use of videos featuring native speakers. This gives you an opportunity to hear more authentic speech as you study.
There’s more to Memrise than that, though. Memrise also offers interactive games to help reinforce your Russian skills in a fun and entertaining way.
Looking to improve your accent? You can also record yourself and compare your recording directly to that of a native speaker to fine-tune your pronunciation.
If you need more personal feedback on your Russian but don’t want to take lessons, Busuu is a good option.
That’s because Busuu offers a community feature that can help you get feedback from native speakers.
Not only that, but the app also offers vocabulary and grammar training to help you improve your skills, while a personalized study plan can help keep you on track toward your goals.
Where to Learn Russian Online
Learning Russian online can be a super convenient way to build your skills. There are tons of great resources on the internet, so you can find nearly any information you need to help you learn Russian.
If you’re just starting out, these websites are great places to start your online studies.
We mentioned Russian For Everyone back in the alphabet section, but the main site has so much great content that we just had to point it out to you as a whole.
Russian For Everyone offers dozens of free lessons to help beginners hone their reading, grammar and vocabulary skills. Lessons usually feature explanations, examples and audio pronunciation to help students along.
Plus, Russian For Everyone also offers quizzes/tests, grammar tables and Russian language games, which will be useful in reinforcing your learning.
RussianLessons.Net offers pretty much everything a beginning Russian student could hope for.
Structured lessons teach useful vocabulary, basic grammar rules, audio and practice exercises. Russian grammar articles provide straightforward explanations of tricky concepts while vocabulary lists make it easy to study thematic sets of words.
Whether you use it on its own or to supplement other learning material, you may want to bookmark RussianLessons.Net right away.
How to Learn Russian on YouTube
YouTube is good for so much more than cute cat videos. It also offers plenty of Russian learning YouTube channels for most skill levels.
You can use YouTube when you’re struggling with a particular topic or you can just watch Russian learning videos to build your vocabulary and gain helpful learning tips.
Be Fluent in Russian has hundreds of terrific learning videos that provide listening practice, share useful vocabulary, offer learning tips and much more. Videos range from the beginner through advanced level, so there’s pretty much something for everyone.
For instance, for a dose of everyday phrases and vocab mixed with some Russian culture, check out the host’s typical day, which he narrates in bilingual alternating Russian and English. Key Russian words are displayed on the screen for some extra reading practice!
If you enjoy the feel and structure of conventional courses but want the convenience of learning with YouTube, Learn Russian Language is a good option.
Learn Russian Language is intended for beginners through intermediate students. The channel offers useful grammar and vocabulary lessons, listening activities and more.
For instance, if you want to pick up some food-related words, you might like “Russian Food 1.”
How to Learn Russian with Podcasts
Podcasts are one more convenient tool to improve your Russian skills.
Since you can enjoy podcasts hands-free, you might listen to them on your commute, while you cook or while you clean. Getting in this extra study time can really maximize the time you have available and help you learn Russian even faster.
Below are two excellent options to get you started.
RussianPod101 offers thousands of audio and video lessons for beginning through advanced Russian students. In fact, the lesson library offers over 220 hours of content covering pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and so much more.
On top of the existing material, new free lessons are released weekly, so you’re unlikely to run out of content.
Although you have to register to get all the learning goodies and full access requires a subscription, you can get a taste of what RussianPod101 offers through its YouTube channel, which features great videos like “500 Words Every Russian Beginner Must Know.”
A Taste of Russian is a podcast for intermediate Russian students looking to hone their listening skills.
Rather than being formatted like conventional lessons, these podcasts feature real chats like you’d hear in daily life, which is a great way to improve listening skills while learning new vocabulary.
The first 36 episodes of the podcast are available for free. With a membership, you can have access to over 350 podcasts.
Learning Russian doesn’t need to feel like being lost in a dark and scary woods. With the right tips and resources, your Russian education can feel truly magical.
Learn Russian, achieve fluency and live happily ever after!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.