Давным-давно (once upon a time), there lived a Russian learner.
This learner knew the value of using audiobooks to study the language.
They also knew that reading is a fantastic way to study Russian.
But they never thought to combine the two…
Written text is crucial for learning the Cyrillic writing system and focusing on grammar and spelling.
In this post, we bring you the best of both worlds, thanks to six amazing resources that present both audio and text—all entirely for free!
How to Learn Russian by Reading Along with Audiobooks
Reading along with Russian audiobooks allows you to really focus all your senses on the language. With this powerful combination, you can practice every aspect of Russian! Here’s how:
- Scan and learn. Before you press play, scan the text for unknown words. This will prevent you from stumbling once you begin.
- Bolster your reading skills. Hearing the text spoken out loud makes reading along easier, and is a great way to help you recognize Russian words by both sound and sight. Try to get your reading speed up until you can follow along with the audio.
- Shadow the audio. Much like the previous tip, the audio-text combination is perfect for some speaking practice. Use the shadowing technique: read out loud while you listen, trying to match the speed of the audio. Mimic the words, sounds and intonation.
- Hone your listening skills. Of course, audio is best for listening practice! Listen to and read a short segment. Then close your eyes and focus on listening. How much can you understand?
- Write what you hear. Repeat the previous practice tip, pausing after just one sentence. Then, write the sentence down as you hear it. Compare it to the actual text: how close is your version?
If you enjoy learning this way, take it a step further with FluentU.
FluentU takes Russian audio and video clips from real-world sources—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and uses them to generate personalized Russian lessons for each learner.
You’ll get interactive subtitles, vocabulary lists and tailor-made flashcard decks to help you learn actively while watching your favorite videos. While you watch and listen, you can tap the subtitles for a definition and native pronunciation of any word. The video will automatically pause, making it super simple to boost your listening and reading skills simultaneously in a focused way.
Plus, since this video content is stuff that native Russian speakers actually watch, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real Russian—the way it’s spoken in modern life.
As you continue advancing in your Russian studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience. Start exploring the FluentU video library for free with a 15-day trial.
Story Time! 6 Free Russian Audiobooks with Text for Reading Along
With the tips above, you’ve created a complete learning routine that covers every aspect of language learning: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Well done!
Armed with this self-guided lesson, it’s time to find some audiobooks to read and listen to.
What better way to start than with a mix of charming children’s books and literary stories? This website provides the text and audio for a number of authentic Russian short stories and books penned by the Russian writer Boris Karlov.
If you’re looking for something whimsical, the timeless stories of the fantastic adventures of Карлуша (Karlusha) will delight readers of any age. Written by Karlov, these stories follow Karlusha’s adventures to an island and the moon among other fun adventures.
If you’re in the mood for a more adult-themed tale, check out Karlov’s “Плагиат (Картинки из Ненастоящего),” or “Plagiarism (Stories from the Unreal).” You’ll recognize this one as less child-friendly by the surreal pig’s head cover.
To hear the audiobooks, click on the аудиокнига (audiobook) link. The audio is split into segments and everything can be played right in your browser.
For the accompanying text, click the PDF, TXT or FB2 links.
There are a few names you may know even if you’re new to Russian literature. А. С. Пушкин (A.S. Pushkin) is one of them. He was known for his epic narrative poetry and a distinct style, and his works left a lasting mark on Russian literature, influencing authors to this day.
This website hosts Pushkin’s book “Evgeny Onegin,” a beloved classic love story whose main character has been used as a model for many protagonists since.
Not into love stories? You can also find a number of other classic literary works, including stories by М. Ю. Лермонтов (M. Y. Lermontov), Н. В. Гоголь (N. V. Gogol) and even Ф. М. Достоевский (F. M. Dostoyevsky)—that’s right, of “Crime and Punishment.”
Text is provided in-browser (just click the links on the left to get started) while the audio is available within the browser or as a download.
The authors presented on this website are an integral part of Russian culture and its rich literary history. That said, the language is dated and can be difficult to follow. If you’d like to tackle one of these, we recommend you read an English version first to familiarize yourself with the text before taking on the audiobook/text combo.
This wonderful collection of short works is specifically intended for language learning and provides parallel text and audio for Russian learners.
The tales here are short and include stories you may know, including works from Greek myths, the Brothers Grimm, Rudyard Kipling and even classic children’s fairy tales.
For a more cultural experience, check out the stories by (of course) Pushkin and “Telephone” by К. И. Чуковский (K. I. Chukovsky), a wonderfully Seussian rhyming short story that’s recited by Russian children to this day.
(Check out an impressively old cartoon depicting this story and starring the author himself on YouTube—and just try not to smile!)
The audio for each tale can be downloaded, as can the accompanying text.
Learners, rejoice: texts on this site are presented in both English and Russian, with each Russian sentence followed by its translation. But be aware that the translations aren’t word-for-word and at times take serious liberties (in “Telephone,” for instance, an elephant is somehow transformed into a polar bear in the translation).
Use this resource to familiarize yourself with the basic idea of each story, then challenge yourself to translate the Russian sentences and see how different they are from the English versions presented by the site.
In the deep recesses of the internet, you occasionally come across a time machine. Travel into the past with this website, which contains works by В. Т. Шаламов (V. T. Shalamov), recorded by the author himself.
Shalamov was a Russian writer and journalist who’s perhaps better known for surviving an ordeal in one of the notorious gulags of Siberia. This collection of stories and poems are understandably dark and often depressing looks at human nature.
The recordings here are very old but Shalamov’s pronunciation is clear and deeply lyrical, so this is a good resource to use when you want to hear a more theatrical, exaggerated style of Russian.
Not every recording has a text to match it—one that does is “Squirrel,” which has both the audio and the text available on the site. Luckily, most of Shalomov’s written works are available for very low prices on Amazon’s Kindle store.
Or, if you’re interested in reading his first-person account of spending 17 years in a terrible gulag, you can find the Penguin-published “Kolyma Tales” on Amazon (in English).
Like Duotales, the collections on the Russian for Free website are meant to be used by learners. This resource is by far the most beginner-friendly—and learner-friendly—on this list.
These short stories and nonfiction segments are presented in both English and Russian, side-by-side for ease of use. The translations are literal, providing word-for-word language comparisons, while potentially difficult words are highlighted in both languages so you can see the word and its meaning at a glance.
The audio is played right in the browser and the readings for all the levels are incredibly slow and drawn out, focusing on clear enunciation, so any level of learner should be able to keep up without a problem. This is true even for the advanced-level readings, like the short piece about the Russian “Pancake Day” festival (and now we’re suddenly hungry).
If you like this content, the website offers actual books for sale that follow a similar format as the stories on the website, featuring short stories, dialogues and more with audio recordings.
Note: The text can be found here.
Whether you’re religious or not, the Bible is a text that many people are at least a little familiar with. Each part of this Russian audio version can be downloaded separately, and the accompanying text can be freely searched and scrolled through online.
Of course, not every part of this book uses modern or relevant language, but it’s mostly a surprisingly good source of everyday vocabulary. It’s also a good way to get the hang of complex sentence structure and grammar if you do a close reading.
We recommend giving this recording a shot regardless of your religious affiliation, as the audio is beautifully done, with professional-level recording quality, extremely clear pronunciation and even accompanying music and ambient sound effects.
Thus, the tale of our intrepid Russian learner comes to an end. Equipped with these resources for free audio and text works, the Russian learner went on to become fluent and rode off into the sunset.
Конец (The End).
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