13 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 13 of them and are 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.
- 15 Top Online Russian Courses to Tear Down the Wall Between Fluency and You
- Best Audio Course: Pimsleur
- Best Immersion Course: FluentU
- Best Multimedia Textbook-Style Course: Russian for Everyone
- Best Visual Vocabulary Acquisition: Rosetta Stone
- 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 Premium Course for Busy People: Babbel
- Best for Immediate Personalization: Wlingua
- Best Tutor-Based Course: Sistema Kalinka
- Best for Feedback from Native Speakers: Busuu
- Best Specialized Course Selection: Udemy
- Best for Advanced Learners: Russian Mobile Academy
- Best Grammatical Explanations: RussianLessons.net
- Why Use Online Russian Courses to Learn Russian?
15 Top Online Russian Courses to Tear Down the Wall Between Fluency and You
Best Audio Course: Pimsleur
Summary: An intensive but effective audio course.
- Great for improving your accent
- Teaches basic phrases needed to get around a Russian-speaking country quicky
- Requires half-hour time commitment per lesson
- Requires you to audibly speak out answers during lessons
Pimsleur is another one of those language course giants that simply can’t be ignored. Not that it should be.
It is a great course 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 your purposes require 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, starting off syllable by syllable, in an SRS (spaced repetition system) method of learning.
This is a double-edged sword. The technique can do wonders for your accent, but might also get you some dirty looks from strangers.
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 mass media by learner level
- Has learning tools that make immersion less overwhelming
FluentU is an online immersion course that turns native-level short videos into Russian lessons. The material can be anything from a music video to a news clip, so you have options in choosing your lessons. You’ll be learning from the same material that native speakers watch themselves—and the same types of content that you consume in your own language. This is an important step to take for boosting your Russian speaking and comprehension skills, but can be an overwhelming task on your own.
FluentU’s learning tools can alleviate this problem. Each video has interactive subtitles that provide instant definitions and context, and a review quiz to test your knowledge of the content. The quizzes include several different kinds of prompts, including ones that allow you to speak in the answers. You can also add words from a video to a multimedia flashcard deck for another way to practice.
The video dictionary is another tool that can be quite useful, even when used in concert with another course. After typing a word into the search bar, you can see its definition, how it’s used in written/video context, and a memorable picture to go along with it.
The program is available as a website, or as an app on iOS or Android.
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
The straightforward structure of Russian for Everyone will gently guide you through learning the Russian language. It’s a free course that’s designed for beginning 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—including demonstrations of how the handwritten letters are formed, in isolation and in words.
If you study all the materials, this course could help guide you from zero knowledge of the language through to intermediate-level proficiency.
Best Visual Vocabulary Acquisition: Rosetta Stone
Summary: A program that’s been around long enough to prove its worth—if a picture is worth a thousand words, this program is the Library of Alexandria.
- 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. This means that you’ll learn new words by looking at pictures of what they mean, not so much seeing what they translate to in 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 will be advantageous 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. Be sure and bookmark this page so you have ideas for where to go next!
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 is an online course that 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 for learners who would like to make a fresh start at understanding some of the complexities of the Russian language.
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 of their Russian learning 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 to help improve your Russian, 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 Duolingo Plus for a monthly fee.
Read our full review here.
Best Course for Beginners: Russian-Plus.com
Summary: Basic material 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.
If you happen to love grammar, Russian-Plus.com also provides a list of grammar rules for different parts of speech.
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. While you must register to access the courses, you have the option of trying out a lesson for free. Additional access is offered for a fee.
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 skills and Russian 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 for Feedback from Native Speakers: Busuu
Summary: Well-designed way to practice several different skills.
- Nice combo of structure and style
- Uses 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. Writing and speaking exercises are frequently interspersed with the lessons. Each time you complete a writing or speaking exercise in Busuu, 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. These courses are generally designed and presented by experts in their respective fields.
Udemy’s 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 give you the chance to 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 experienced teacher of Russian
- Requires having 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 achieve an advanced level of Russian fluency.
To make the harder material easier to digest, lessons are broken into small, manageable steps. You can access the courses via browser 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 Grammatical 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—so you can find something that suits you better.
- 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.
With so many outstanding online Russian courses available, why not go for it?
Tear down the wall to Russian fluency once and for all!