20 Online Russian Courses to Effectively Break Through to Fluency
Taking an online Russian course can help you progress much more efficiently.
Our team of experienced Russian learners tried out 20 of them, and we’re happy to share our recommendations with you.
In this article, you’ll get a balanced summary of the strengths and weaknesses of these assorted courses.
- Best Multimedia Textbook-Style Course: Russian for Everyone
- Best Immersion Course: FluentU
- Best Visual Vocabulary Acquisition: Rosetta Stone
- Best Audio Course for Beginners: Pimsleur
- Best Course for Improving Listening: Texts in Slow Russian
- Best Course for Learning Support: LinguaLift
- Best Course for Learning Concepts Quickly: Russian for Free
- Best Gamified Course: Duolingo
- Best Course for Beginners: Russian-Plus.com
- Best All-Around Course: Learn Russian by RT
- Best Premium Course for Busy People: Babbel
- Best for Immediate Personalization: Wlingua
- Best Tutor-Based Course: Sistema Kalinka
- Best Russian Culture Course: Russificate
- Best Intensive Live Course: Liden & Denz
- Best for Feedback from Native Speakers: Busuu
- Best Specialized Course Selection: Udemy
- Best for Advanced Learners: Russian Mobile Academy
- Best Grammar Video Course: Russian Grammar Youtube Channel
- Best for Quick Grammar Explanations: RussianLessons.net
- Why Use Online Russian Courses to Learn Russian?
- Other Helpful Resources for Learning Russian Online
Best Multimedia Textbook-Style Course: Russian for Everyone
Summary: A basic course that will test your knowledge—and self-motivation.
- Covers grammar and vocabulary
- Has review quizzes throughout the course
- Provides structured learning
- Material can be a little dry
- Website is not the most mobile-friendly
Russian for Everyone will gently guide you through learning the Russian language, thanks to its straightforward structure. It’s a free course that’s designed for beginner and intermediate students.
If the Cyrillic alphabet intimidates you, this course is a good option: It gives you the opportunity to thoroughly master reading and writing in Cyrillic. There are even demonstrations of how to handwrite each letter, both on its own and as part of a wrord.
If you study all the materials, this course can take you from zero knowledge of the language to intermediate-level proficiency.
Best Immersion Course: FluentU
Summary: A video-based immersion platform that uses authentic Russian videos as lessons.
- Lets you learn what’s interesting to you
- Sorts authentic media by learner level
- Has learning tools that make immersion less overwhelming
- Limited speaking practice
Plus, the videos are all naturally entertaining since they come from the shows, movies and channels that native Russian-speakers enjoy on the regular. You can watch documentary footage, television show clips, funny commericals and more all while learning the Russian language!
Take a quick look at what FluentU has on offer for yourself:
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? FluentU makes native Russian videos approachable through interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
Don’t stop there, though! Use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that information to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
Best Visual Vocabulary Acquisition: Rosetta Stone
Summary: A visual-based language learning program that’s been around long enough to prove its worth.
- Teaches vocabulary through images
- Is an established, tried-and-tested learning tool
- Requires strong self-motivation
- Won’t get you to fluency
Rosetta Stone is one of the biggest names out there in the language course industry.
It’s designed to teach you vocabulary similarly to how you learned your first words as a baby. You’ll learn new words by looking at pictures of what they mean, not by translating them into your language.
One unique feature is TruAccent®, Rosetta Stone’s speech recognition software. It meticulously checks and reviews your accent so you can sound more like a native. This is a big advantage, especially with a language like Russian.
Rosetta Stone has a strong course structure, which is great for driven beginners who want to dive right into Russian. The usefulness of Rosetta Stone, however, does tend to plateau out around the intermediate level.
Here’s a full review of Rosetta Stone if you want to know more.
Best Audio Course for Beginners: Pimsleur
Summary: An intensive but effective audio course.
- Great for improving your accent
- Teaches basic phrases needed to get around a Russian-speaking country quickly
- Takes around 30 minutes per lesson
- Requires you to audibly speak out answers during lessons
Pimsleur is one of those language course giants that simply can’t be ignored.
It’s best suited for those who need a basic handle on Russian fast—especially for business or travel purposes. You’ll learn enough to meet and greet on a formal level, as well as to go shopping, order food and get around a city.
You’ll want to supplement it with something else if you want more extensive knowledge of Russian, but Pimsleur will give you a great foundation.
Its format is half-hour audio lessons designed to be completed daily. You are prompted to repeat (out loud) specific phrases at certain intervals in an SRS (spaced repetition system) method of learning.
Here’s an in-depth review of Pimsleur.
Best Course for Improving Listening: Texts in Slow Russian
Summary: Presents news articles with slow audio and Russian and English transcripts.
- Very helpful for improving listening skills
- Features relevant topics
- No vocabulary or grammar explanations
- You’ll need to have previous Russian experience
If you’ve been learning Russian for a while, you’d know that a common problem is struggling to understand native speakers because they speak fast.
This course is meant to help you develop listening skills. It has more than 500 news articles in Russian with accompanying audio, and you can slow it down or play it at normal speed. What’s helpful is that all of them also come with both Russian and English transcripts, placed next to each other line by line.
The articles are sorted into three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced, so you can progress through the levels as you get more used to listening.
Best Course for Learning Support: LinguaLift
Summary: A program to ease you into Russian comfortably and with plenty of support.
- Provides you with Russian-language tutors
- Teaches more incrementally
- Relies too much on English throughout the course
This course focuses on clear explanations and guided learning. As you move through each lesson, you’ll be given a thorough breakdown of any new grammar and vocab concepts.
You can work at your own pace, test your understanding with quizzes and make sure you’re up to speed before moving on to the next lesson.
LinguaLift will appeal to learners who like to be sure of themselves and see the big picture. It’s also a useful resource if you’d like to make a fresh start at understanding some of the complexities of the Russian language.
For a detailed take on LinguaLift, click here.
Best Course for Learning Concepts Quickly: Russian for Free
Summary: Series of engaging Russian courses that teach quickly and effectively.
- Very structured but also enjoyable to use
- Lessons incorporate text, pictures and audio
- The “Learn to speak” course teaches you to say “I speak Russian very well” in the second lesson—for what it’s worth
Russian for Free gives learners a choice of three online courses. Beginners can start with “Step 1: Learn to read,” and then move on to the intermediate phase via “Step 2: Learn to speak.” Intermediate to advanced learners are directed to “Step 3: Russian cases.”
Within each course, you’ll find a series of lessons, broken into specific categories.
Lessons generally contain at least one grammar rule, a vocabulary list and dialogues (both print and audio) to illustrate usage for you.
Russian for Free has some special features, like comics (including “Garfield” and “Dilbert”) with both Russian texts and English translations. There are also Russian cartoons with transcribed text and vocabulary lists.
Best Gamified Course: Duolingo
Summary: A cutified spaced repetition system (SRS)-based app.
- Bite-sized lessons
- Lots of repetition
- Doesn’t explain grammar
Duolingo’s free Russian course feels more like a game than actual studying.
Start from scratch with the first lesson, which introduces you to the Cyrillic alphabet—or take the placement test to assess your current level of Russian.
You can set your own goals for how much you’d like to study each day. The website will even email you a daily reminder, if you’d like.
To get access to some additional features, such as progress tracking and unlimited mistakes, you can try Super Duolingo for a monthly fee.
Read our full review here.
Best Course for Beginners: Russian-Plus.com
Summary: Basic material that works best if you’re just starting.
- Material is free
- Clearly categorized
- Website is hard to navigate—some internal links appear broken
- Lessons are not the most engaging
- Not great for advanced learners
Russian-Plus.com hosts free beginning classes and intermediate lessons.
Most lessons focus primarily on learning words and phrases, which are written out and then summarized through videos. If you don’t like reading about nitty-gritty grammar rules, this approach might appeal to you.
Russian-Plus.com also provides a list of grammar rules for different parts of speech.
Best All-Around Course: Learn Russian by RT
Summary: Offers 100 Russian lessons that cover pronunciation, grammar and common phrases.
- Structured lessons with dialogues and audio
- Frequent quizzes
- Explanations are a bit short
While RT is correctly labeled as one of the Kremlin’s chief propaganda instruments, their website also has some awesome Russian language learning resources.
They have a structured course that runs for 100 lessons, taking you from the basics such as greetings to grammar rules for verb conjugations and noun declensions. Towards the last lessons, you’ll be exploring more complex topics such as vocabulary for going to the doctor or getting your home repaired.
Most of the lessons include dialogues and audio clips, plus quizzes that test you on what you’ve just learned. Aside from these, you can find detailed guides to the Russian alphabet and phonetics.
Best Premium Course for Busy People: Babbel
Summary: Short and sweet way to practice for busy beginners.
- Lessons are short but powerful
- Different types of exercises are used
- Not the best choice for advanced learners
Babbel presents four levels of beginning Russian courses and several other specialized courses. You have to register to access the courses, but you can try out a lesson for free.
Babbel’s speech recognition feature gives you feedback on your Russian pronunciation.
Additionally, Babbel uses a simple format that’s easy on the eyes (and mind). You’ll be presented with a series of brief, easy interactive activities, and you’ll be quizzed regularly on what you’ve learned. This format is very easy to follow and less overwhelming than conventional study techniques.
See our full review here.
Best for Immediate Personalization: Wlingua
Summary: Lots of lessons for those willing to put in the work.
- Attractive interface
- Clear progression of lessons
- Lets you choose proficiency level immediately
- Overwhelming amount of lessons
- Material can be a little dull
Over 500 lessons on Wlingua can take you from complete beginner to upper-intermediate Russian. These lessons deal with grammar, vocabulary, listening and reading.
Absolute beginners who don’t know Cyrillic will welcome the opportunity to work slowly and carefully through the Russian alphabet. You’ll learn not only the basic sounds of each letter, but how every one of them behaves in the context of different words.
Besides the regular Russian Course, there’s a Russian Cases Course that focuses on inflecting nouns properly in Russian, starting with noun gender at a beginner level.
Moreover, Wlingua has good, clear audio to help you learn the sounds of Russian consonants and vowels. In addition, the appearance and sounds of the lessons are customizable.
You can complete some of the lessons and exercises with a free account. Additional material and exercises, including dictations and writing exercises, are available with a Premium subscription.
Best Tutor-Based Course: Sistema Kalinka
Summary: Great way to find a tutor.
- Teachers are native speakers
- Great for fans of hard study
- Format can feel a bit too rigid
Also called “Red Kalinka,” Sistema Kalinka is an online course that centers around video-based lessons. If you prefer, private Skype lessons and tutoring via email are also available.
Since the program boasts thousands of online exercises, plus four textbooks and graded readers with audio, you’ll always have plenty of practice opportunities.
Sistema Kalinka gives learners the opportunity to assemble a program that meets their budget and needs, with many types of resources available for purchase separately.
Try the free samples to get an idea of the resources that will suit you best!
Best Russian Culture Course: Russificate
Summary: Offers one-on-one and group lessons on different topics.
- Diverse classes for all levels
- Includes culture courses taught in Russian
- Pricier than other options
Russificate is an online Russian school where you can book both one-on-one and group lessons. They have a wide range of courses, including Russian for beginners, conversation and slang, literature and Russian for tourists.
The classes are held over video call, and there’s plenty of emphasis on conversation, with activities like roleplays and games.
Russificate lets you take the TORFL online, and they even have an exam preparation course.
If you’re already pretty advanced, another cool feature they have would be cultural courses about Russian history, literature, music and more—all taught in Russian.
Best Intensive Live Course: Liden & Denz
Summary: Language school with live online classes for students around the world.
- Very flexible in terms of schedule and class levels
- Includes plenty of self-study material
- Requires a minimum of 15 lessons per week
- Pricier and not for casual learning
Liden & Denz is one of the oldest private language learning schools in Russia. It’s based in St. Petersburg and Moscow, but they have plenty of live online courses that cover all levels, whether you’re a total beginner or close to fluent.
There are plenty of schedules and intensity levels to choose from. For example, you can choose to study Russian full-time online or just take a couple of classes every week. They offer both group classes with people around the world and one-on-one tutoring.
On top of the live classes, you have access to hundreds of online exercises and activities like lectures on survival Russian and a regular speaking club.
Best for Feedback from Native Speakers: Busuu
Summary: Well-designed way to practice several different skills.
- Nice combo of structure and style
- Uses a variety of learning exercises
- Must pay to receive native feedback
Busuu provides a structured set of online Russian courses with plenty of varied exercises.
The exercises include both vocabulary and grammar practice. Each time you complete a writing or speaking exercise, it’s sent to be corrected by fluent and native speakers.
Busuu’s “Complete Russian” course works for beginner through upper-intermediate learners. At the earliest levels, the Russian is written in both Cyrillic and a Latin transliteration; later, the Russian words and phrases are presented only in Cyrillic.
With only nine lessons, “Russian for Travel” concentrates on the words and phrases that visitors to Russia need the most. Interestingly, the Russian in that course is written only in Cyrillic from the get-go.
Busuu relies heavily on its community of fluent and native speakers to interact with learners and help show them the way to mastering the language. In return, you can take the opportunity to correct other learners’ exercises that are written or spoken in your native language.
For more information, read our complete Busuu review.
Best Specialized Course Selection: Udemy
Summary: Huge selection of courses.
- More traditionally-designed courses
- Gives you options in choosing which one to use
- Not free
- Isn’t as interactive as an app
Udemy hosts courses for all levels, on a wide variety of topics. Its online Russian courses cover conversational Russian and business Russian, among several other choices.
There’s even a course to prepare for the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL). If you’re planning to earn that particular certification, possibly for a job opportunity, that course might be especially useful.
Most Udemy lessons are taught through instructional videos with worksheets and exercises. Some courses even let you interact with your instructor and fellow students in a chat room.
The price of each course gives you lifetime access, which includes any updates the instructor later makes to the course.
With a 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as deep discounts through frequent sales, Udemy is a convenient and fairly risk-free way to take an online Russian course.
Best for Advanced Learners: Russian Mobile Academy
Summary: Provides support at a learning level that many don’t produce material for.
- Offers learning material for higher-level learners
- Created by an experienced teacher of Russian
- Requires having a strong foundation in Russian beforehand
Many online courses work for beginners and lower-intermediate students. The Russian Mobile Academy delivers lessons for learners at higher levels.
This highly structured set of online Russian courses is targeted at intermediate and advanced learners. The Russian Mobile Academy is designed to help learners smash through the intermediate plateau and reach advanced Russian.
Lessons are broken into small, manageable steps. You can access the courses via web or mobile app, so studying can be done anytime and anywhere.
An exclusive Facebook group provides support from your fellow learners. The courses also can prepare you for standardized tests of Russian fluency.
Best Grammar Video Course: Russian Grammar Youtube Channel
Summary: Free explanations of grammar structures, with paid courses that go more in-depth.
- Free for everyone to watch
- Makes complex grammar easier to understand
- Not suited for beginners
If you’re looking for Russian lessons that you can study at your own pace, then consider watching the videos on the Russian grammar Youtube channel. They’re created by a Slavic linguistics specialist and partly funded by the University of South Carolina.
Most of the videos run for less than five minutes, and they cover important Russian grammar topics, like motion verbs, imperatives and vowel reduction. They’re also pretty organized, since you can browse through playlists that cover a topic in-depth over several short videos.
The Youtube channel is free, but there are more formal paid courses that you can access via membership. These include courses on Russian participles, pronunciation, spelling and verbs of motion.
Best for Quick Grammar Explanations: RussianLessons.net
Summary: A well-organized website with high-quality material articles.
- Breaks complex grammar into digestible lessons
- Includes useful vocabulary lists
- Website interface is useable but dated
- No interactive element
This free online course offers simple, easy-to-follow lessons on several aspects of the Russian language.
While it’s best for beginners and intermediate learners, it also has some features that will benefit those at an advanced level. For instance, there’s a helpful section with parallel texts in Russian and English, accompanied by audio from native speakers.
Why Use Online Russian Courses to Learn Russian?
- Online Russian courses are diverse, so you can select the course that best caters to your needs. What’s more, if you don’t like something about one course, there are lots of others to choose from.
- Online courses tend to be affordable. Indeed, many online courses are even free. If you’re willing to put some money in, though, there are even modestly priced options that could give you college credit.
- Online courses let you test the waters. If you’re considering learning Russian but haven’t yet made a firm commitment, you can dip your toes in the proverbial Volga with an online course. If you don’t like it, you won’t have invested a lot of time or money—but, if you love it, you’ll have basic skills that you can build on.
- Online courses tend to be more flexible. Traditional classroom courses entail a fixed schedule and a commute to the classroom. Some online courses might have a few deadlines, but you can usually tailor your learning schedule with respect to your personal obligations. And you can visit your online classroom from anywhere, at any time.
- Online Russian courses provide a strong foundation in the language. Whether you start with a course just to see if you like it or you’re already serious about learning the language, the structure of online courses will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to become fluent in Russian.
Other Helpful Resources for Learning Russian Online
While you’re taking an online Russian course, you can also supplement with these handy language learning resources:
- iTalki — This site lets you find Russian native speakers and either have structured lessons with them or get some conversation practice in. It’s a great way to practice your speaking alongside online courses!
- Lingvo Live — This powerful dictionary provides translations from Russian to 18 other languages, all with the same features. If you look up a Russian word, it gives the Russian pronunciation read by a native speaker, the gender, the definition and some sample phrases using the word.
- “Aнглийская лексика по разным темам” — This literally means “English vocabulary on various themes.” It’s a website that gives you a list of Russian words related to a certain theme and their English definitions. It’s really created for Russians learning English, but if you know enough Russian, you can identify categories such as the above and select the set of vocabulary that you want.
- The Polyglot Club — Here you can type in words, sentences, questions or longer entries, and other users will weigh in to offer suggestions or to make corrections. If you’re interested in working on your written discourse, this is an excellent site to try.
With so many courses and resources for learning Russian online, why not go for it?
Tear down the wall to Russian fluency once and for all!