It’s all downhill after January 2nd.
If you’re like most people, you’ve made plenty of New Year’s Resolutions that fell apart after the glow of the holidays wore off.
In fact, it doesn’t just happen on New Year’s.
Many of us make goals and resolutions throughout the year that never come to fruition.
We can all promise ourselves to lose weight, make more money or learn a new language, but it’s hard to actually follow through.
Why is that?
Most often, it’s because there’s no set plan to accomplish your goals.
Trying to reach a goal without a plan is like traveling to a new destination without a map. You’ll be lucky if you ever arrive.
Unfortunately, we can’t help you with losing weight or making more money, but we can help with a study plan for learning Russian once and for all.
Our seven-step plan below utilizes short stories to help you advance in fluency. We’ll start with stories that target beginner learners, then get progressively harder and more complex to develop your skills.
Plus, a short story study plan is fun and engaging—you get to read crime, fairy tails, thrillers and science fiction, all in bite-sized narratives. That means you’ll want to actually stick with it, unlike that diet you committed to last January!
How Stories Can Help You Learn Russian
There are four main reasons that stories can play an important part in the language learning process:
- Stories allow you to see correct Russian grammar, syntax, spelling and punctuation in context, rather than simply memorizing the rules of the language.
- With stories you can study at your own pace, creating your own schedule and stopping to look up words you don’t know.
- Stories familiarize you with Russian history and culture. For example, Russian fairy tales can demonstrate the values Russians want to pass down to children through the art of storytelling. Stories that involve a historical angle can teach you about specific periods in Russian history, such as World War II and the Czarist regime.
- Stories are fun and hold your attention! That means they’ll keep you engaged and motivated to keep learning Russian.
If this type of learning works for you, you can get many of the same benefits from Russian videos with FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Like the short stories below, FluentU’s videos are organized from beginner to advanced as well as by genre, so it’s easy to find something that works for you. There are interactive captions, flashcards and exercises to help you actively learn new vocabulary while you watch. Just click any word for an instant definition and native pronunciation. You can also toggle English captions on and off.
It’s an entertaining way to build your language skills while learning about the culture and hearing Russian the way native speakers really use it. You have the freedom to study whatever you want, whenever you want, thanks to the FluentU mobile app on the iTunes or Google Play store. Check out the free trial on your next reading break!
The Short Story Study Plan: 7 Books to Learn the Russian Language from Beginner to Advanced
Follow this seven-step short story reading plan as you move from the beginner to intermediate and advanced stages of Russian fluency.
“Cказки на ночь” (“Bedtime Fairy Tales”)
In addition to foreign language learners, who else is learning to speak, read and understand Russian? Russian children! By incorporating children’s stories into your studies, you’ll get to explore beginner-friendly, easy-to-follow written Russian resources.
This book includes a collection of fairy tales that are written in Russian and translated into English. This allows beginner Russian students to better understand the context of the stories, and compare how words and phrases are used in both languages.
While there are authentic Russian stories in this collection, you might also appreciate a few familiar ones written by European authors such as Hans Christian Andersen, the brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.
“Easy Reading in Russian: Short Stories for Children”
This is another title that’s meant for children learning the Russian language, but can be just as useful to adults. While the previous book offered bilingual content, this one is a notch more challenging as the text is only presented in Russian.
As such, it targets both beginner and intermediate students. However, don’t fear, the text is clear and easy to follow because it’s designed for non-Russian speakers.
Inside, you’ll find the book divided into seven chapters and 25 subchapters that tell the story of a young boy’s week. Along with his sister and brother, he attends school, visits his grandparents, describes his pets and more.
This is a perfect book to learn vocabulary describing objects related to home and school life, while also learning grammatical rules and seeing how words are put together properly in the Russian language.
“Russian Short Stories for Beginners”
Just as children grow and mature, so will your knowledge of the Russian language (as long as you nourish your mind with proper resources). Moving on from children’s books, this text will keep you entertained and motivated to learn with eight short stories from different genres.
The writers explain that after careful research about language learning, they compiled this book to avoid typical frustrations readers face, such as complicated words, long chapters and difficult-to-understand context.
The book is written for beginner and intermediate Russian learners, and the stories are carefully chosen to introduce new words gradually, while framing the context so that the words are fairly easy to comprehend without the use of a dictionary. You’ll pick up new vocabulary spanning a range of categories, with stories about history, crime, science fiction and more!
To reinforce what you’re learning, the authors include summaries and word reference lists so you can test yourself on the words after reading them in the story.
This book was co-written by polyglot Olly Richards, whose popular, story-based learning program I Will Teach You a Language might also interest you if you enjoy his book. His focus is on making language learning fun and accessible even to people with the busiest schedules. He provides firsthand guidance for effectively memorizing and understanding a foreign language, as well as some specific blogs and podcasts for Russian learning topics.
“Russian Reading: 20 Easy Stories for Beginners”
This book presents 20 easy stories for beginner Russian students. Every story focuses on a certain topic, such as names, family members and friends, pets, school, food and the weather.
This is a great resource for learning verbs, as they’re all written in the present tense. Beginners won’t get overwhelmed with the Russian language’s many (often confusing) tenses.
Although this book is designated for beginners, it’s actually a great tool for transitioning to the intermediate level. That’s because you’ll not only find new words and improve your grammar, but you’ll also focus on your reading comprehension and start honing your writing skills with content-related questions.
There are specific questions after every single story in the book that not only focus on the theme, but are also designed to improve the reader’s conversational skills. The questions focus on family, friends and other personal interests common to regular, everyday conversations. This helps you to formulate the Russian you’ve learned into phrases and sentences that you can say out loud and also write down.
“Russian Reading: 20 Easy Stories for Intermediate Students”
This is the second book in the series to the title mentioned above. It presents 20 stories focused on everyday life in Russia, but these are more difficult and designed for intermediate Russian learners.
The authors’ aim is to help readers learn words for everyday life—as such, the content surrounds a family that lives in Moscow, the capital of Russia. Learn about their activities and experiences as you improve your knowledge not only of the language, but also of the Russian culture and way of life.
Topics center on having guests over, shopping, cooking (with an actual recipe), family outings and trips. While the first level of this series only had verbs in the present tense, the second series has verbs in the present, past and future tenses with a special emphasis on verbs of motion. There are exercises to practice verb tenses.
As in the above title, the topics are followed by 10 questions to aid in reading comprehension and practicing conversational Russian.
“Learn Russian with Short Stories”
This bilingual collection of short stories takes a unique approach—instead of seeing a Russian text followed by an English text, you’ll find the translation immediately after every line in the book. Plus, in addition to literal translations, the authors include idiomatic translations to help with comprehension.
While the title states that the book is intended for students of all levels, we believe it’s best for intermediate to advanced students, as there are many difficult, multi-syllable words.
The stories are derived from famous Russian authors, such as Chekhov, and the best utilization of the book is to read the stories over and over until you can understand the words without having to read the accompanying translations.
“Russian Stories: A Dual-language Book”
This collection features annotated works from Russia’s classic authors and poets—Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy and so on. Obviously, you would need to be advanced in Russian to understand the mind behind “War and Peace” in Russian!
The author made sure to design this as a tool to educate readers about Russian literature. The foreword includes a brief yet comprehensive history of the introduction of the novel in Russia. Every story has an introduction about the author and their life.
The book helps readers tackle difficult Russian words with stress marks, plus linguistic and cultural notes, a vocabulary guide and study questions!
After you finish all seven books, you can feel accomplished in your Russian language progress! These resources will help you to read, comprehend and eventually learn to speak and write in Russian. They provide a wealth of vocabulary and background into the Russian world, as well as helpful tips and tools for speaking Russian like a native.
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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.