There’s a sea of online courses available for students who want to learn Russian.
At times, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose which program is best.
There are just so many!
Sure, you can learn Russian without an official organized learning program. But having one can offer a lot in the way of structuring your studies.
One of the most popular methods of learning Russian is RussianPod101 by Innovative Language. This program’s been around for a while and tends to stick out in that sea of online Russian programs.
For this RussianPod101 review, we tested it out for you!
In this post, you’ll find our honest appraisal of the RussianPod101 learning program, everything it has to offer and its pros and cons.
This post includes affiliate links that will earn us a commission if you click on them and make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). All products and services are thoroughly tested. We provide an honest review based on our experience and not influenced by commissions.
Before we dive into our review, let’s quickly look over exactly what RussianPod101 is.
What Is RussianPod101?
RussianPod101 is an online platform designed to teach the Russian language to beginning through advanced learners. It offers a unique learning experience that involves in-depth video lessons, a flashcard system, a word bank and dictionary directory, downloadable lesson plans and homework, access to a “live” tutor and much more.
RussianPod101’s mission is similar to FluentU’s own mission: to expose learners to native speakers through authentic video and audio of Russian speakers with different voices and speaking styles.
You can make an account with RussianPod101 for free and get some lessons and downloadable materials without a subscription. However, to access more of the program, you’ll need to pick either a Basic, Premium or Premium Plus membership:
- Basic Membership: $5/mo. Includes complete audio archive access, mobile access, lesson notes and one-click lesson downloads.
- Premium Membership: $10/mo. Includes Basic Membership, audio transcripts, iTunes feed, bonus lessons, interactive quizzes, personal word bank, 2000+ words and audio clips and spaced repetition flashcards.
- Premium PLUS Membership: $23/mo. Includes Premium Membership, professional assessment, personalized learning program and one-on-one instruction.
Now that you know what the program is all about and its pricing structure, let’s dive into our review of its features!
An Honest RussianPod101 Review for Learners
Starting the Journey: First Impressions
The onboarding and signup process are fairly quick and simple, though they certainly throw their premium memberships in your face frequently.
Once signed up and on the homepage for the program, it’s clear how simple, user-friendly, well-designed and organized the program actually is. You can choose to explore different aspects of the site, such as flashcards, dictionaries and the lesson archive.
Otherwise, you can dive into the path determined by your learning level under “My Pathways” and begin your first lessons. You can choose from a variety of pathways, depending on what interests you and what your leaning goals are.
Going through the lessons is simple to do, but it becomes increasingly obvious that this program is definitely designed for beginners. There’s some advanced content available, but it doesn’t push the envelope as other advanced Russian programs do.
But how do the individual components of the program stand up to scrutiny? Let’s take a look.
RussianPod101 Features Review: Everything RussianPod101 Has to Offer
Epic Speaking and Listening Skills Take Epic Lessons
RussianPod101’s eponymous podcasts are very well done and can be useful for additional study. The program’s main mode of teaching Russian, however, is through video lessons.
These videos lessons are fantastic. They’re descriptive, feature native Russian teachers and break down everything about the Russian language step-by-step.
Under each video, learners can access downloadable lessons notes and a list of each and every word that was covered in the lesson, which can be added to a custom flashcard deck.
However, the lessons aren’t really designed to help with speaking skills as they don’t feature any voice-recording technology. The videos also don’t usually feature more than one speaker, which can make it difficult to get a feel for how Russian is spoken conversationally.
The RussianPod101 Premium Plus plan also boasts access to a “live” tutor who can critique your spoken Russian, but according to some reports, this can take several days and is a text chat-only feature, which seems a bit deceptive.
Since the program lacks a speaking component and has basically no authentic material to learn real-world Russian, a supplemental speaking resource would be beneficial. Just pair up RussianPod101 with FluentU Russian and you’ll have a pretty powerful pair.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
When watching a video, if you see a word in the captions you don’t understand, you can simply scroll over it and automatically pause the video to see its definition. This makes authentic Russian approachable for learners at any level. Even beginners can watch native Russians speaking at an authentic speed without being overwhelmed!
This real-world aspect of FluentU makes it the perfect companion for RussianPod101, since the latter mostly focuses on instructional videos.
It’s great to have a textbook knowledge of a language, but one day you just have to go out into the world and use it in a natural environment—and FluentU makes it possible to do that from the comfort of your home (or on the go with the app).
Bare Basics of Cyrillic and Understanding the Russian Alphabet
RussianPod101 effectively teaches learners the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet, including stroke order and word order in sentences. RussianPod101 also has a very handy (and free) YouTube channel with tons of content on Cyrillic writing.
However, there’s no function in this program that allows users to write in Cyrillic or have their handwriting critiqued by tutors. There are also no written assignments or exercises.
This means that your writing studies will have to be self-guided or require a supplemental Russian writing program.
Video Lessons Are Perfect for Learning to Read Russian
As we mentioned previously, RussianPod101’s video lessons are quite entertaining and well-crafted. They focus primarily on reading and comprehension in Russian.
Users can also add words to a word bank or flashcard deck after each lesson for future study, making RussianPod101 a great well-rounded resource for both lessons and post-lesson study. A downloadable PDF transcript of each lesson is also available for further study and reading practice.
However, we found it quite constricting that you can’t simply find and add a word to your flashcard deck—instead, you’re limited to saving only the words learned from specific lessons.
Like RussianPod101, FluentU also boasts an extensive vocabulary library. However, FluentU’s word bank is more interactive and easier to personalize because you can pick and choose what words you want to save with ease.
Both programs test your understanding of the vocab through quizzes, and FluentU even adapts as you learn, providing you with personalized questions. Another excellent reason to pair the two programs so you can get the most out of both!
Can RussianPod101 Tackle the Complex Craziness That Is Russian Grammar?
Sometimes, the video lessons in this program focus on grammar, but it’s very elementary. Overall, the whole program is designed with beginners in mind and may not be ideal for intermediate and advanced learners, as it doesn’t teach complex grammar concepts.
RussianPod101 can still be useful for advanced learners who want to review basic concepts.
Once you get beyond the basics, though, it’ll be time to graduate to a more expansive program like FluentU, which features everything from beginner to advanced Russian videos for study.
Conclusion: Should You Try RussianPod101?
If you’re a beginner, the answer is definitely yes!
RussianPod101 has fantastic video lessons that can help Russian learners understand the fundamentals of the Russian language and the Cyrillic alphabet. The teachers in the videos go very in-depth on topics and are easy to understand.
The flashcard and word bank system are also similarly useful, as well as the program’s downloadable lesson plans.
However, it may be best to supplement this program with another program or resource that focuses more on conversational, real-world Russian.
FluentU is a great choice for this, as it features video clips that have authentic content of native Russian speakers. This can help learners improve their listening and pronunciation skills in a very natural way.
RussianPod101 is very much about “active” learning (through teacher-led instruction), while FluentU is a mix of “passive” and active learning (through authentic content and quizzes/flashcards). This balance will make it less overwhelming to learn Russian while using the two resources together.
Unfortunately, intermediate and advanced users may not benefit from RussianPod101. However, the program’s YouTube channel does feature some useful advanced videos that you could check out.
All and all, RussianPod101 could be a great beginner learning resource to use in conjunction with other supplementary resources.
We hope our RussianPod101 review has helped you decide if the program is right for you!
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.