Learning Russian is like a gymnastics routine.
Do everything right, and you make it look easy.
But if even one component is out of place, all your hard work and practice could devolve into an embarrassing mess.
The good news is that you don’t have to let it! With the right kind of resources, you can nail a crucial part of your learning routine: listening.
Yes, listening is an important component for any language learner to take into account.
And unless you’re somewhere with a large Russian population, chances are that listening is one of your weaker skills. After all, if you don’t know any native Russian speakers, how can you get the listening practice you so desperately need?
Luckily, there are lots of great ways to get this practice. You can learn Russian with music. You can take Russian films for a spin. Watching Russian TV will strengthen your comprehension. Even Russian learning videos will help you earn high scores in listening.
But if you really want to learn Russian like a champ, podcasts should also be an important part of your learning routine.
Why Listen to Russian Podcasts?
- They offer practical listening skills. If you don’t listen to spoken Russian often, you’ll struggle to understand spoken words; this is true even if you can read and write Russian flawlessly. Listening is an entirely different skill. And listening to podcasts will help you hone that skill. This is especially true since podcasts often simulate actual conversations.
- Russian podcasts are often conducted by native speakers. Listening to native speakers will help you improve your own pronunciation and your ability to understand real Russian. You’ve heard how non-native English speakers often have accents, right? Well, you also have an accent when speaking Russian. Listening to native speakers will help reduce it.
- Podcasts are episodic and usually short. This means you can focus in on specific themes without worrying about having to put forth too much of a time commitment. This makes it easy to pick and choose what you want to learn about and fit it into whatever time you have available.
How to Get the Most out of Russian Podcasts
- Study accompanying guides. Many podcasts have accompanying printed guides you can use to aid your learning. Studying them will improve your reading skills and make listening easier at the same time.
- Listen often. Whether listening to new podcasts or the same podcast time and again, the more you listen, the more you’ll learn. Remember: Repetition is the key to learning any language.
- If a passage is confusing, play it back until you figure it out. Context clues are often key. Considering the focus of the podcast, what might a particular word mean? Forcing yourself to learn from context will help you develop problem-solving skills that can be applied later on to actual conversations.
- Use FluentU, too. Audio is great, but sometimes it’s not enough. FluentU can help you develop your real-life listening and conversational skills with its Russian program by allowing you to not just hear, but see real Russian speech as it’s happening. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Its interactive captions, downloadable transcripts and customized quizzes will guide you through any parts of the videos you don’t understand.
9 Russian Podcasts to Earn You Gold in Listening Skills
A Taste of Russian is geared towards intermediate-level Russian learners.
This podcast focuses on sharing conversations you might find in daily life, with a lot of colloquial phrases. Since many textbooks focus on more formal words and phrases, this is a helpful way to build your vocabulary with terms you might not otherwise encounter while learning Russian.
For each lesson, you can download a PDF of the full text (in Russian). You can download the podcast as an MP3 directly through the website.
A Taste of Russian offers a lot of free content, but you can also subscribe to get additional premium content.
Очень по-русски (Very in Russian) is for upper-intermediate and advanced Russian learners.
This podcast offers thematic episodes on a wide variety of topics. Each episode shares slang, idioms and colloquialisms that are common in Russian but not as common in textbooks.
You can listen to the podcasts on the site or download the MP3s. Each podcast has a corresponding transcript complete with English translations. There’s also an accompanying vocabulary list with each podcast; this is a great way to study notable words and phrases more.
All the podcasts are available for free through the site, but you can also buy additional, affordably-priced, downloadable audio materials. You can subscribe via RSS, iTunes or email.
With over 200 podcasts, Russian Podcast offers great lessons for beginning through advanced learners.
Beginning learners can learn helpful information like common questions, while advanced learners will benefit from very specific vocabulary and lessons, such as psychotherapy-related podcasts. While most of the material is conversational, there are also a number of songs included, so the podcasts are varied and entertaining.
Each podcast comes with a helpful PDF that contains the recorded conversation. For beginning- and intermediate-level podcasts, the PDF also contains word lists with English translations to help you study. In the more advanced podcasts, the words are defined in Russian. You can download the lessons or listen on the site.
The podcasts are free, but you can also sign up for Skype-based Russian lessons here at a charge.
RussianLingQ has podcasts ranging from beginning- to advanced-level Russian.
It focuses primarily on general interest conversation, so this is a great way to learn general terms.
You can listen online and/or download the MP3s. You can also download the full transcripts.
Limited materials from Russian LingQ are free of charge. There are also additional learning materials on the site for a charge.
RusPod offers beginner-level dialogues and audio lessons.
RusPod is structured a little differently than other podcasts. Each podcast is a dialogue with an accompanying lesson. The dialogues focus on general, everyday conversations to help you learn basic vocabulary. The lessons then discuss the language in more depth.
RusPod’s “shorts,” which are podcasts with vocabulary lists, are available for free. However, there’s a charge for full access to RusPod’s podcasts, vocabulary lists, tests and additional lesson materials and exercises.
Russian Made Easy focuses on—you guessed it—making it easy to learn Russian. These beginner-level podcasts will help you get the basics down.
The podcasts focus on basic phrases and simple conversations about things like meeting people.
Each podcast is available for download or to listen to online. You can also read the transcripts online or download them as PDFs.
Though technically a blog, Russificate is actually a multi-faceted Russian learning destination. It offers podcasts for advanced learners.
The content is quite varied: You’ll find jokes, colloquialisms and poetry (among other things). You’ll learn about both language and culture.
You can listen online or download the MP3s. Each podcast has an accompanying Russian-language transcript with thought-provoking questions to help you process the podcast.
The podcasts, transcripts and questions are free, but you can also sign up for Skype-based Russian lessons here for a charge.
If you think you might want to do business abroad, Business Russian Podcasts will provide you with some helpful lessons.
This series of podcasts focuses on business vocabulary, like words related to taxes, personnel and company structure.
These podcasts are entirely free. You can listen online or download them, and you can download accompanying PDF transcripts. You can also subscribe via iTunes or RSS.
SurvivalPhrases.com is geared towards travelers.
It offers podcasts that teach you simple phrases like “please” and “thank you.” So if you’re looking to learn a little Russian very quickly, this is a good option.
You can listen to or download the first 10 podcasts for free. You can also download the free accompanying PDF guides. There’s a charge for additional podcasts. You can subscribe through iTunes or RSS.
So, if you want to earn a perfect 10 in Russian listening, give Russian podcasts a try!
And One More Thing…
Since you’ve read this far, you’re obviously serious about learning Russian. And that means there’s a good chance you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU takes all kinds of real-world videos and turns them into language learning experiences, as you can see here:
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 vocab to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.