The famous saying tells us that if there’s “no pain,” there’s “no gain.”
But sometimes it feels like there’s more pain than gain when it comes to learning Russian.
Do you want to learn Russian, but aren’t thrilled with having to spend your time memorizing grammar rules or studying complicated Russian textbooks?
Shhh, just listen.
That doesn’t have to be true when it comes to learning Russian!
It’s true! And we’ll show you how.
As second language learners, we know listening involves many skills. It’s the first step to becoming fluent in a language. Since this is the foundation on which we build all other language skills, let’s make sure it’s strong (and make sure the process is as fun as possible).
If you’re just starting out on your journey of learning Russian, we’ve got some entertaining ways to get some listening practice. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be well on your way to understanding others and picking up some words and phrases to start laying that foundation.
There won’t be any (physical) pain, but lots of gain!
Steps to Maximize Learning Russian Through Listening Practice
If you’re one of those people who can’t recite the lyrics of your supposed favorite song, you’ll need to put in a little more effort when learning Russian! Below are some steps to maximize your Russian listening experience:
- Practice active vs. passive listening. All listening isn’t created equal. Passive listening occurs when you’re multitasking, such as having music on in the background while talking on the phone. Becoming an active listener requires you to focus on the task at hand only. Be sure to free yourself from any other distractions while listening to ensure you take something away from the content.
- Listen and repeat. The best way to learn Russian is to pause whatever you’re listening to and repeat it. This will help you learn correct pronunciation.
- Pause to look up the meanings of (some) words. Since you’re only beginning to learn Russian, you’ll need to stop and look up the meanings of some of the words you don’t know. This may not happen as often as you think since some words mean the same in Russian and English (such as “computer” and “taxi”).
- Practice saying difficult words. Russian is infamous for long and difficult words that are full of consonants, accent marks and neuter signs. If you want to master the Russian language, practice saying difficult words when they’re spoken to improve your pronunciation.
Don’t Speak: Learn Russian Through Russian Listening Practice for Beginners
Movies with Subtitles
Reinforce what you see with what you hear by watching and reading subtitles from these sources:
Are you surprised that movies can actually be a tool for learning and not just a distraction? It’s true! This YouTube channel offers various Russian films with English subtitles, so you can learn about Russian culture while learning the language.
Since you’re only starting to learn Russian, you’ll have to read the subtitles to understand the content of the films. But as you improve, try to watch without subtitles to test your knowledge.
Some options on this YouTube channel include:
- “Сорок первый” (“The Forty First”) — This is a Russian classic from 1956 about life during the war in the 40s.
- “Служебный роман” (“Office Romance”) — A film with a lighter theme, this is about office romance in Russia.
- “Анна Каренина” (“Anna Karenina”) — This is a must-see film for those who have read the novel by famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.
FluentU is a website that helps individuals learn different languages through authentic material. They have compiled a collection of different videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turned them into personalized language learning lessons.
Videos are organized by difficulty (beginner to native), topic (arts and entertainment, health and lifestyle, etc.) and format (video blog, news, shows, etc.)—so you can easily browse and find something perfect for your level and interests.
All of the videos have interactive captions, subtitled in Russian with English translations. To make learning really easy and efficient, viewers can view in-context definitions and examples!
But that’s not all. FluentU also has a unique “learn mode,” where it takes videos and turns them into language learning lessons. “Learn mode” asks questions based on what you know, which sets you up for success. FluentU is an amazing way to learn English with entertaining, real-life videos.
Leonid Storch is a Russian writer currently living in Thailand. He put together a resource of the best Russian and Soviet-era movies with English subtitles. His goal was not only to preserve Russian movies but to acquaint non-Russian speakers with Russian cinema.
Each film entry provides information about the name, release date, production company and director of the film. Additionally, it lists the main actors, any awards the film may have won and a synopsis.
Check out movies, such as:
- “Берегись автомобиля” (“Watch out for the Automobile”) — A comedy about a more modern Robin Hood; this film speaks out against corruption in Moscow when a mere insurance salesman steals cars from the rich to give them to foster homes.
- “Служили два товарища” (“Two Comrades Were Serving”) — You’ll notice that a lot of Russian movies have a common theme—war. This is because the country and its citizens were deeply affected by numerous wars. This black and white film tells the story of the Civil War between the White and Red Army in the 1920s.
- “Чайковский” (“Tchaikovsky”) — A film about the life of the famous Russian composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Books serve many purposes—they educate, entertain and expose us to times, places and situations different from our own. Check out these resources for audiobooks in Russian:
The best part of Loyal Books is that all of the audiobooks are absolutely free! They make searching for books easy with pictures of the book’s cover. Plus, all of their content is screen reader friendly to help those with visual disabilities.
Here are our top picks from their library:
- “Поэмы” (“Poems”) — Listen to 35 poems from the famous Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin.
- “Записки из подполья” (“Notes from the Underground”) — This is an existentialist novel from 19th-century writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky.
- “Предложение” (“A Marriage Proposal”) — Listen to this amazing play by famed Russian author, Anton Chekhov, about a marriage proposal.
- “Aesop’s Fables” — This audiobook features a collection of fables collected in Greece between 620 and 564 BC, translated by Russian author, Leo Tolstoy.
While these texts might seem difficult for a beginner, it’s important to remember your purpose isn’t to understand every word (you won’t), but rather to get a feel for the language.
If you’re going to learn Russian, you must understand that Russians are extremely proud of their authors and poets. Getting acquainted with the works of Pushkin, Chekhov, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky can help you immerse yourself in the Russian culture and learn more about Russian history—both important parts of learning a foreign language.
Amazon has a wealth of Russian audiobooks available for purchase. They offer a handy way to sort the books by topic, such as politics, fiction, children’s books, travel, romance, etc.
Amazon users who have a Prime membership can listen to some of the titles for free with an Audible trial or subscription.
Some titles worthy of checking out:
- “Твои первые сказки” (“Your First Fairy Tales”) — This CD with audio fairy tales is perfect for those just beginning to learn Russian. Since they’re designed for children, they feature easy-to-understand language.
- “Гарри Поттер и философский камень” (“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”) — Not only will this audiobook be entertaining, it’s perfect for beginners who have read it in English. You can hear its Russian translation with the content in mind, giving you a heads up on what’s being said.
Russian Musicbox is an online website that serves as an interactive music channel featuring live programming. It has popular clips of the best Russian music from the last few decades, as well as current hits.
Just like MTV, Russian Musicbox features music and entertainment, such as interviews, film industry events and reality shows.
This resource is perfect for beginners because the site can be viewed in either English or Russian, helping to make navigation of the site a little easier for new Russian speakers.
Be sure to tune in for favorites like “Раскрутка” (“Raskrutka”), a reality show where young Russian musicians showcase their talent and the “Top 10” show to get familiarized with Russian top hits.
This is Moscow’s Dance Radio station featuring music videos, clips and other programs. It’s extremely convenient because the music can be heard online or through an Apple, Windows or Android phone or tablet.
Radio DFM allows users to pick between different streaming radio stations. The stations list many of the artists’ names in English to help Russian newbies understand who they’re listening to and add their favorite artists to their lists to hear more of their music.
Check out the channel, DFM Спокойной ночи, голыши! (“DFM Good Night, Nudes!”—a play on a popular Russian children’s nighttime show, “Спокойной ночи, малыши!” ["Good Night, Little Ones”]). This station offers relaxing music to help you fall asleep. And since the music is slower, it’s much easier to understand the lyrics than on fast tracks.
As the title of this post suggests, learning Russian through listening requires practice. When you first start, the words will be very unfamiliar and you may not understand much of what’s going on.
However, with commitment and consistency, you should be mastering the Russian language in no time!
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