A skill you learned in kindergarten can help you get fluent in Russian.
You used it when you let your little sister play with your toys.
Or when you handed your favorite pencils over to your best friend.
That’s right, sharing!
Sharing is caring, as they say, and it’s just as true for you now as it was back then.
With Russian language exchanges, you can share your native language and get essential, authentic Russian lessons in return.
Whether you want to build your vocabulary or just take your communication skills out for a spin, language exchanges are an effective and fun option. You can work on everything from listening and speaking to reading and writing—in this post, we’ll show you online chat and video tools as well as pen pal platforms for snail mail exchanges.
Plus, there’s always the satisfaction of helping a fellow language learner meet their own goals!
With language exchanges, everybody wins!
The Benefits of a Language Exchange
- Learn correct pronunciations from a native speaker: By listening to a real Russian native, you can hear how authentic Russian expressions are pronounced correctly and learn Russian slang and modern expressions not found in your textbook.
- Force yourself to communicate in Russian: When taking Russian courses with an American teacher, you always have the option to say something in English if you’re having a hard time thinking of the Russian equivalent.
During a language exchange, you have to speak Russian all the time as your chat partners typically don’t know much or any English (until you teach them, that is!).
This will force you to improve your Russian skills as you’ll need to prepare in advance and utilize the dictionary and other tools to get your message across.
- Ask questions from a live person: Learning Russian from a textbook is great, but you can’t ask a textbook a question. Well, technically, you can ask a textbook a question, it just won’t answer. But a real, live person who’s teaching you Russian will!
That means you’ll get a more personalized learning experience that’s relevant to your specific needs as a Russian student.
- It’s free: Russian courses, textbooks and programs can be pricey, but most language exchange programs are free!
- Make a friend for life: We always hear that we’ll know who our true friends are when we go through tough times. Well, learning to read, write and pronounce Russian words is tough!
Once a person goes through this experience with you, you’ll probably make a friend for life and may even reserve a spot on their couch when you decide to go visit Russia and practice your Russian skills!
If you’re a fan of learning Russian authentically (and who isn’t?) FluentU is another tool to add to your belt. This innovative platform has many of the same benefits as language exchanges, like answers to all your personal vocabulary questions and access to Russian the way natives really speak it.
Each video has interactive captions you can click to get a definition and native pronunciation for any words you don’t recognize.
Then you get tailor-made vocabulary lists, flashcards and exercises to make sure you remember what you’ve just learned. It’s a great way to keep your skills sharp when your language exchange partners are asleep on the other side of the world.
10 Easy Ways to Find a Russian Language Exchange Partner Online or Offline
Online Russian Language Exchange Programs
Utilize the following free online Russian language exchange programs to hone your Russian skills:
Scrabbin is an online community for tandem language exchanges. Their database allows users to easily search for native speakers of Russian (among many other languages), and connect with them.
You’ll be able to browse through other users’ profiles to see their name, photo, information about the languages they speak and what city they reside in. Once you find a person who speaks Russian and wants to learn English, you can send them a message to introduce yourself.
Communicating and learning is completely free on Scrabbin. The site also offers a forum where members can ask and answer one another’s questions.
This language exchange platform has some heavyweight experience behind it. It comes from the original founder of SharedTalk, a now-closed platform by Rosetta Stone. It’s also based on LiveMocha, another closed platform that had more than 10 million members.
This experience makes Hellolingo a user-friendly website with a large database of users, including more than 152,000 Russian speakers looking to learn English.
There’s not a ton of user information for you to browse right off the bat, but it’s super simple to strike up a conversation with anyone—just hit the “Send Email” button to the right of their username, and you’re off!
You’re probably already aware that there are many cool apps available to Russian learners. LingQ is one such app that also has the benefit of a robust learning community with language exchange opportunities.
You’ll be able to have live conversations with native speakers and participate in discussion forums. Meanwhile, you’ll be actively expanding your communication skills with LingQ’s built-in tools, like audiobooks, podcasts and thousands of hours of lessons.
LingQ tracks your progress as you study, which is great for keeping your motivation up. And if you get tripped up on a reading or just can’t understand a new word, your learning buddies are just a swipe away!
Papora is a straightforward exchange site where you can search for chat pals by language or country. You can also narrow your search based on your preferred gender and age range.
This site also has themed groups (similar to forums) and the ability to “friend” other users, giving it more of a community feel.
In addition to language exchanges, Papora provides bite-sized Russian courses that focus on real-word situations, such as shopping in a store, visiting a restaurant or traveling on a plane.
This site was founded by a teacher and a student of a language exchange workshop who realized language classes and immersion alone aren’t enough to truly master a language. For this reason, they created a community where language learners can connect and share their skills with one another.
There are over 140,000 Russian speakers on MyLanguageExchange who are looking to learn English. The site is very popular and has been recognized by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and PC World, among others.
Once you become a member, you can access other users’ profiles, which feature the person’s name, photo, language they speak, the city they’re from and a description about themselves and what they hope to achieve through the language exchange program.
italki has expanded their database to over one million students around the world. Their goal is to replace the need to study abroad—which they believe was once the only real way to become fluent in another language—with the much more affordable and easier method of learning online.
italki has a more advanced search filter than other language exchange sites. You can specify gender, country of origin and country of residence while you browse.
Like Papora, the platform itself feels more like a social network, with “Add Friend” and messaging options.
Looking for versatility in your language exchange experience? WeSpeke allows users to communicate with video, audio and text chat through their easy-to-use platform. There’s even a scheduling feature built in that takes time zone separations into account.
You’ll also get a virtual notebook where you can save your chats, notes and info from other digital sources. This could be especially useful for beginner and early-intermediate Russian learners who are encountering lots of new words, expressions and grammar concepts through their language exchanges.
Pen Pal Programs for Written Language Exchange
While learning Russian by chatting with real Russians is great, you may feel that reading and writing skills are left out. That’s where old fashioned pen pal exchanges come in!
Check out the programs below to find your new Russian pen pals.
MasterRussian Pen Pal Bulletin
MasterRussian has a dedicated forum where members can post queries for pen pals. Each post details what the person is looking for and what language they’re offering in exchange. You can read through the posts, or post yourself dictating what you need from a pen pal and what you can teach them.
Just be aware that many of the language exchange requests are posted in Russian, so learners with some foundation in the language will have an easier time browsing.
Language for Exchange
This online tool allows people to find pen pals in the Russian Federation. You can search for people in specific cities, such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Perm, etc. to get a firsthand account of what living in different parts of Russia is like.
Language for Exchange allows users to view other people’s profiles and contact them to ask questions and get to know each other before committing to becoming pen pals. You can consider this a modern update to old-school pen pal exchanges, with the ability to text chat and message your language partners. There’s even a video chat option too, so it’s really the best of both worlds.
InterPals was first developed in 1998 under the name “International Penpal Page.” Like Language for Exchange, it offers options for both online chats and written pen pal exchanges.
You’ll find that this is one of the less intuitive sites to navigate, but the large user database (4,000,000 accounts across the world) means you’ve got lots of options.
Did you know that in addition to learning Russian with the language exchange program you can get another benefit?
Improving your English!
When you teach language skills to another person, their questions will encourage you to research and learn more about your own native language and its grammar rules, spelling and pronunciation.
Language exchange and pen pal programs prove to be extremely advantageous for both you and your partner!
Renata Ilitsky is a professional content writer with over 10 years of experience. She specializes in creating unique and engaging content for any industry. To read some of Renata’s other work, please view her writing portfolio.
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.
The FluentU app is now available for iOS and Android, and it's also available as a website that you can access on your computer or tablet. Sign up for a free trial today!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.