Some experiences are simply life changing!
Have you ever watched an incredible film that left you questioning your worldview?
Or listened to a beautiful song that had you in tears?
How about a video that made you bilingual?
Art and media can certainly play a huge, transformative role in our lives. But can they really teach us another language?
Okay, it might not happen in just one video—but the right videos equipped with subtitles can absolutely build your vocabulary, improve your comprehension and get you on the road to Russian fluency.
You may not know where to start—don’t worry! We’ve got seven fantastic Russian video resources below for all types of learners and interests. There are options for videos with English and Russian subtitles, including many that offer both at once.
We won’t direct you to relax and grab the popcorn however, as you need to actively watch these videos, take notes and learn if you want to truly speak Russian. Here’s what we mean.
Are You up for the Russian Subtitle Challenge?
Turning on those subtitles can have instant benefits for your Russian comprehension skills. If you can’t recognize a word by its sound, you can learn it in-context by seeing it written down. This process then reinforces the word in your memory for the next time you read or hear it.
To really ramp things up a notch, however, we challenge you to take our Russian subtitle challenge! This involves two steps:
- Turn off or cover up the subtitles and try to understand the context of the videos without any help. Listen for words that sound familiar or perhaps resemble their English counterparts and see how far you can get!
- Then, rewatch with the subtitles on or uncovered to evaluate how accurate you were in your translation! Be sure to take notes of areas you missed or misunderstood that are now clearer with the subtitles on.
If you’re a beginner, you can watch with English subtitles to start learning translations for Russian vocabulary in-context. However, you should also try using Russian subtitles as soon as possible! This will help you flex your Russian comprehension muscles and get comfortable existing in a Russian-only environment.
Whichever subtitles you use, this challenge will put you in an active rather than passive listening mode, which means more focused learning and faster growth.
2-for-1: Learn More from Russian Videos with Subtitles
Lilu, a fun and enthusiastic Russian teacher, provides short videos to help you learn the language. Her videos are between two and 14 minutes long, making it convenient to learn even when you’re on a small break!
While many similar videos cover basic vocabulary, Lilu focuses on the more difficult parts of the Russian language. Her videos include topics such as:
Along with the YouTube subtitles in English and Russian for everything Lilu says, each video provides on-screen annotations in both languages for the word, phrase or concept that’s being presented.
If you want to be 100% sure that any video you choose to watch has subtitles, FluentU is for you. FluentU takes real-world Russian videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Oh, and these aren’t just any subtitles.
They’re interactive, so you can click any word for an instant definition, translation, visual learning aid and native pronunciation. Then, FluentU makes sure you actually remember the words after the video is over with tailor-made vocabulary lists, flashcards and exercises.
The videos are organized by genre and learning level so it’s easy to find something that works for you. Plus, FluentU suggests new videos based on what you’ve already watched, creating a truly personalized learning experience.
Natasha, a self-touted lover of languages, takes the fun and exciting (in her own words) route for teaching Russian to foreigners. Her videos are subtitled in English and Russian, plus she has a helpful blog with additional resources for learning Russian, also titled Natasha Speaks Russian.
Through her YouTube videos, Natasha introduces viewers to Russian movies, cartoons, songs and books, such as:
- “Трое из Простоквашино” (“Three from Prostokvashino”): A famous Russian children’s cartoon about a boy and animals living in a village.
- “Прекрасное далёко” (“Glorious Future”): A nostalgic children’s song about the future.
- “Три поросёнка” (“The Three Little Pigs”): A world-famous children’s story, but the Russian version!
In addition to these videos, Natasha presents Russian lessons with subtitles, focusing on topics such as Russian tenses, particles, verbs and vocabulary organized by topic.
This resource is great for beginners because much of the content is geared towards children, which means the words are easy to understand!
Put a smile on your face with this YouTube channel’s seven short Russian cartoons, all about five minutes long. They feature adorable bears that know how to speak Russian and live a life fairly common to humans.
By watching and listening to the content, you can hear real Russian as spoken by Russians. You can reinforce what you see with the subtitles. Plus, you can learn a bit about Russian culture.
For example, did you know that Russians refer to soccer as football, as much of the rest of the world does? If you didn’t, you can learn that from the cartoons!
You can also see for yourself what games Russians play, such as Крестики-нолики (Tic Tac Toe).
Find out that Russians love to drink tea with honey, and more!
It’s not uncommon for us to have a favorite song that we don’t really even know the lyrics too. However, music is a wonderful resource to learn about a country’s language and culture!
This YouTube channel contains about 60 different songs to introduce listeners to popular Russian artists.
Most of these videos actually have Russian subtitles available as well, either in the YouTube interface or displayed alongside English in the video itself.
Our top favorites include:
- “Farewell Moscow:” A video of the farewell ceremony from the Olympics held in Moscow in 1980. The video doesn’t just highlight how important this event was to Russians, but also helps you learn new vocabulary.
Focus on verbs mentioned in the song, such as Возвращайся (return), грусти (be saddened), улыбнись (smile), Вспоминай (remember) and more!
- “A Tree Was Born in the Forest:” Sung during every holiday season in Russia. Learn words to describe the forest, Santa Claus and animals.
Nothing can help you understand the Russian people and Russian culture more than movies that showcase its history. This resource presents 270 different options of various genres from the Soviet era. Every title has English subtitles to help you along the way!
Join the ranks of Russians everywhere after you watch and undoubtedly fall in love with classics, such as:
- “Москва слезам не верит” (“Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears”): A 1980s film that helps viewers understand the lives of hard-working Russian people during that time. The story describes the friendship of Russian women who work and raise families.
Learn words that describe familial relationships, romance and more! Plus, listen to the famous song about Moscow featured in this film, “Alexandra.”
- “Ирония судьбы, или С легким паром” (“The Irony of Fate, or with Light Steam”): The title may seem bizarre to you, but the Russian equivalent for the phrase “with light steam” is something that’s said to people going to take a shower or a bath, or those visiting saunas.
There are two takeaways from this film, other than the vocabulary, which is centered around the winter holidays and allows you to learn words to describe New Year festivities.
The first is that Russians love to go to the sauna, which started in the days when villagers had no running water, but still continues to this day. The second takeaway is that during the Soviet era, when the focus was on self-sufficiency over importing goods, most of the furniture and insides of Russian households looked the same.
This led to some strange accidents (such as walking into the wrong apartment and assuming it’s yours) represented in the movie that may seem unreal to Americans.
This YouTube source provides seven titles with Russian subtitles. Other than the one contemporary film, “Метро” (“Metro”) from 2013, the other six titles are Russian cartoons.
- In the cartoon “Rosa Goes to the City,” an elephant visits a city, thereby teaching you the names for different attractions and landmarks.
- “The Greatest Treasure,” made by the same team behind the above video, is a cartoon that focuses on a story about a treasure hunt, teaching words to describe actions such as walking, searching, finding and so on!
The best part about the options above is that they’re family friendly! Watch with your small children and help their young minds absorb a new language together with you!
Subtitles provide an opportunity to easily study the Russian language from home! You can choose titles for different levels of fluency, using subtitles as you go along. Once you feel you’ve mastered a certain show, movie or cartoon, remove the subtitles altogether to see what you understand!
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.