The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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Knowledge of the Russian language opens up a vast, diverse world, stretching from the Carpathian Mountains to the expanses of Siberia.  As well as providing the traveller with the lingua franca of over 15 countries and unrecognised territories, the Russian language is intrinsically connected with a rich culture of world-class literature, art, music, cinema, and architecture.  Russian is an excellent choice for a new language to learn, and here we outline exactly how you should go about achieving this goal.



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Knowledge of the Russian language opens up a vast, diverse world, stretching from the Carpathian Mountains to the expanses of Siberia.  As well as providing the traveller with the lingua franca of over 15 countries and unrecognised territories, the Russian language is intrinsically connected with a rich culture of world-class literature, art, music, cinema, and architecture.  Russian is an excellent choice for a new language to learn, and here we outline exactly how you should go about achieving this goal.

How to Use This Guide

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For anyone learning a foreign language, nothing is more important than choosing the right learning resources.  However, as with most languages, the amount of available material for learning Russian is overwhelming, and the quality varies enormously.

So what should you buy?

Most resource guides on the internet simply throw together a vast list of virtually everything related to the language in question, leaving you just as bewildered as you were before.

But you don't need a list - you need a guide!
But you don't need a list - you need a guide!

We know from years of experience that the Pareto principle strongly applies to language learning: you really do get 80% of the results from 20% of the materials you buy.  If we had only known at the time how to separate the textbook-wheat from the chaff, we would have saved a considerable amount of money!

And so we have come up with the solution: an all encompassing, fully-updated handbook, advising you on the best books, videos, websites, podcasts and courses to help you on your path to native-level fluency.

Concept Online Learning

We appreciate that you may not have time to read through the whole of the guide, or may just be looking to improve a particular skills.  So, in order to help you find exactly what you need with ease, we’ve grouped our recommended material into the following colour-coordinated categories:

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Grammar & Vocabulary

Reading

Writing

Speaking

Listening

Bonus

Of course, the material that you use will vastly depend on your current Russian level.  (After all, there's nothing more dispiriting than working through a course that's too easy or too difficult for you!)  That’s why we have divided the guide into three sections: beginners, intermediate, and advanced – showing you exactly what you need for the stage you’re currently at.


Beginners - Grammar & Vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are the skeleton around which your language skills develop - you can't do anything until you've got to grips with the basics.  Obviously it's vital to choose the right material for the job.  So let's dive straight in and look at the best textbook on the market for beginners

The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners

All-in-all the best course available for beginners. It explains all essential grammar points clearly and thoroughly. Its end-of-chapter exercises and the glossary at the back of the book are useful for building up a good stockpile of basic vocabulary. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to intermediate level.

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The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners

All-in-all the best course available for beginners. It explains all essential grammar points clearly and thoroughly. Its end-of-chapter exercises and the glossary at the back of the book are useful for building up a good stockpile of basic vocabulary. Should be all you need for grammar to take you up to intermediate level.

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Pay no attention to its dreary cover - the Penguin Course is far and away the best Russian textbook on the market for beginners. Every fresh-faced language newcomer has to wade through a sea of trumped-up phrasebooks, masquerading as 'complete courses'. This, however, is the real deal and will get you to a solid B1 level.

Don't expect any cheer or colour though: the style is no-nonsense and could put some people off who need to be eased into a new language. Try to look past this: all of the grammatical points are explained extremely well, with plenty of examples and supplementary exercises. The glossary and grammar tables at the back of the book come in useful if you ever forget any material that you've already covered.

Warning
Unfortunately, many universities still insist on forcing new students to learn Russian with the Rus' series. Don't be fooled by this mammoth textbook: it is poorly organised and very difficult to follow.

Once you have worked your way through all 26 chapters (starting with the Cyrillic alphabet, and culminating in a short story by Chekhov), you should be able to hold your own in simple conversations and read newspapers (with the help of a dictionary).

The only thing that stops this being the ultimate Russian beginner's resource is the lack of accompanying listening exercises. But as we have that covered below, it really isn't too much of a problem at all.

The New Penguin Russian Course - Our Rating
96%

Of course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t supplement The Penguin Course with other grammar guides. There are plenty of excellent free websites on the internet that go over all the grammar that a beginner needs to learn.

  • Our favourite ones are Russian Lessons and Russian Learn. They are organised in a neat and user-friendly way and are regularly updated.  Although they differ slightly in style and approach, both cover almost exactly the same content as each other, so just choose the one that appeals to you most.
  • Another option is Alpha Dictionary.  If you let your eyes adjust to the garish magenta colour-scheme and the hideous 90s interface, you’ll realise that this is a real gem of a website.  What we particularly like about it is that it actually goes slightly beyond the scope of the Penguin Course and provides explanations for some particularly tricky grammatical topics, such as correctly translating ‘for’ and setting up T-K clause constructions.

The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 555 common Russian verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 4,000 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs

Solid reference book, detailing the full conjugations of 555 common Russian verbs. Numerous example sentences demonstrate how each verb is used in various contexts (including idoms). There is also a sizeable dictionary of 4,000 additional verbs, showing which conjugation pattern each one follows so you know how to form them correctly. A worthwhile purchase for beginners.

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The Russian verb is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of the language – crack it and everything else will soon fall into place.

This is easier said than done.  With a confusing array of conjugation patterns, verbs of motion, and countless irregulars, Russian verbs present a serious challenge to new learners. 

Thankfully, you have at your disposal the Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs. It explains how each verb’s conjugation follows one of six approximate paradigms, and shows that once you have memorised these patterns, the process of learning how to use individual verbs becomes infinitely easier.

It then delivers on its promise and sets out the full conjugations of 555 common verbs, as well as listing the infinitives to 4,000 other ones in the back of the back (with their pattern number next to them).

A warning though: the six-paradigm system is not universal – other books may state that there are really only three conjugation groups, with a few minor subgroups that only differ superficially. Be careful not to get mixed up!

The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs - Our Rating
86%

There is a very useful online alternative to the Big Silver Book: Cooljugator allows you to simply type an English verb into its search bar, and you get the Russian translation in all of its conjugated forms.

It’s not as comprehensive as a dictionary or the Big Silver Book, so you shouldn’t completely rely on it. But it does have some nice features that make up for this downside: stress indicators, pronunciation hints, related verb lists, etc.

The site’s owner claims that he frequently adds new words to the database so this should become an even more powerful tool in time.


The Russian Grammar Channel

Concise videos on essential topics in Russian grammar from a doctor of Slavic linguistics. Presented in a clear, friendly manner, these are the best videos on YouTube to help beginners get to grips with the nuts and bolts of the language. An excellent supplement to the Penguin Course.

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The Russian Grammar Channel

Concise videos on essential topics in Russian grammar from a doctor of Slavic linguistics. Presented in a clear, friendly manner, these are the best videos on YouTube to help beginners get to grips with the nuts and bolts of the language. An excellent supplement to the Penguin Course.

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There are dozens of Russian language channels on YouTube, but none of them are as focused or as useful as Dr Curtis Ford’s Russian Grammar Channel. 

Dr Ford knows the Russian language inside-out.  But what differentiates his channel from the many other excellent alternatives is his ability to break down complex grammatical concepts into manageable chunks. 

The videos are all professionally produced and use plenty of fresh examples to solidify your knowledge.

The Russian Grammar Channel - Our Rating
83%

The Oxford Russian Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Russian Dictionary contains half a million words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best Russian dictionary out there.

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The Oxford Russian Dictionary

The undisputed king of dictionary series, the Oxford Russian Dictionary contains half a million words, phrases, and translations. Recent stylistic and layout improvements have made it much easier to find the word you need in its correct context. Fully updated to include contemporary business, technical and computing terminology. The best Russian dictionary out there.

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Dictionaries are expensive, so you don’t want to keep buying new ones on a regular basis. For this reason, it makes sense to get the best one available straight away.

With half a million words and phrases, you’ll almost certainly find a translation for whatever it is you need.  One of the best features of the Oxford series (that is often lacking in rival dictionaries) is the care they take to provide translations for words in all of their contexts, including idioms, sayings, and figurative usage. Look up a simple word, like ‘hand’, for instance, and you’ll see what we mean: it can be used in dozens of different ways, and doesn’t just refer to the human appendage.

Warning
Don't be tempted to scrimp and buy the 'Compact' version - it's surprisingly patchy. 

Dictionaries are often criticised for not keeping up to date with modern technology and innovation. The Oxford series, however, are frequently updated, meaning that if you get the most recent edition you can be sure that it will stay relevant for a good few years.

The Oxford Russian Dictionary - Our Rating
89%

Russian Learners' Dictionary: 10,000 Words in Frequency Order

Lists the 10,000 most frequently used Russian words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. The first 1,500 also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.

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Russian Learners' Dictionary: 10,000 Words in Frequency Order

Lists the 10,000 most frequently used Russian words (with English translations), starting from most commonly used downwards. The first 1,500 also come with example sentences. Excellent resource for filling in any important gaps in your vocabulary. Can also be used to provide a rough estimate of your vocabulary size.

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When you consider that the average native speaker knows about 20-35,000 words, it’s clear that this book will do wonders for your Russian if you have the stamina to get to the end.

The dictionary allows you to follow a systematic programme of vocabulary learning – master the most common words and then move on to the rarer ones.

Minimum Vocabulary Required for Each CEFR Level

A1 Level:
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A2 Level:
0
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B1 Level:
0
Words
B2 Level:
0
Words
C1 Level:
0
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C2 Level:
0
Words

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One negative, however, is that it only gives limited definitions. You will probably want to cross-check with another dictionary to make sure you know what each word means across different contexts.

Russian Learners' Dictionary - Our Rating
82%
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Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Anki

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard programme. It uses an algorithm that learns which words you find easy to remember and which ones don’t, and adjusts how frequently it tests you on these particular words accordingly. It is completely free and easy to install.

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Everyone learns vocabulary in their own way – some people simply suck words in like a sponge and don’t need to make any active effort; for others, nothing seems to stick unless they learn it off by heart.

If you’re the former – great! If not, Anki will prove invaluable.

Essentially, Anki is a flashcard app. But what differentiates it from the hundreds of competitors is the spaced repetition algorithm that it uses. This means that it is able to remember which words you find more difficult to recall than others and to test you on them more frequently.   

While some of the settings can be a little fiddly, and synchronisation between phones and computers can play up, it is generally an extremely reliable app and one that we wished we had used from day one of our language learning.

Even if you only use Anki for half an hour each day, you’ll see marked improvements in your vocabulary. 

Anki - Our Rating
92%

The good thing about Anki is that sometimes you don’t even have to compile vocabulary decks yourself. If you search around on the internet, you can sometimes find pre-made decks that you can import into your folders.

One such deck, created by Neri, displays 5,000 Russian sentences sorted from easiest to hardest. It’s a great way to gradually build up set-phrases and connecting words. You can download the deck from here.


Beginners - Reading

Choosing reading material is not easy when you’ve just started learning a foreign language. The vast majority of books and newspapers available to you will be too challenging at this point, and yet, equally, you can’t stay tethered to the artificially simplistic exercises in your textbooks for too long.

So where is the best place to start once you’re ready to venture out into the world of literature?

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Many language guides come out with the same suggestion: start with children’s books. This is TERRIBLE advice. There is nothing easy about children’s literature – especially for learners of Russian! Although the concepts and storylines are simplistic enough to be enjoyed by toddlers, you face a number of surprisingly tricky linguistic challenges, such as a confusing array of diminutives, strange vocabulary, and irregular sentence structure.

A far better option would be to start off with something aimed at older children/teenagers. The vocabulary in these books is still pretty simple, but the grammar is often more regular than those aimed at younger readers.

The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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The Adventures of Tintin

Classic comic book series by Belgian artist, Hergé. Fun and interesting stories with non-complex language and sentence structure. Excellent for beginner readers to build their colloquial comprehension. Entire series can be found here.

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If you’ve worked through about half of the Penguin Course, you should find it relatively easy to read one of the Tintin books.

As well as being great stories in themselves, the comic book format means that you’re reading succinct speech bubbles, rather than long sentences. This makes for good, easy practice texts while you’re still mastering trickier grammatical elements, like participles and relative clauses.

New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Russian

Classic short stories with the Russian original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on Russian literature.


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New Penguin Parallel Text: Short Stories in Russian

Classic short stories with the Russian original on the left hand page and the English translation on the opposite page. All stories are from the twentieth century and feature writers that readers may not be familiar with, giving a fresh perspective on Russian literature.

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When you’ve finished the textbook the best thing to do is to read some Russian texts with parallel translations. Having to go back and forth between the book you’re reading and a dictionary can be incredibly frustrating, and often saps a lot of the fun out of reading.

This is the solution: collections of classic short stories from the Soviet and post-Soviet eras with English translations on the opposite page.

There are lots of these ‘parallel texts’ floating around the internet. Most of them are poor-quality and should be avoided. However, if you have finished Penguin’s collection and feel you need more practice before moving on to our intermediate section, Dover also publishes a very good volume with 12 parallel short stories from the Golden Age of Russian literature.


Beginners - Writing

At this stage, most of your writing needs will be taken care of by the Penguin Course, which contains plenty of sentence-formation exercises.  But if you want a little extra practice, you should investigate the Ruslan workbooks

Ruslan Student Workbook

A decent workbook with over 200 written exercises to supplement a beginner’s Russian course. The content is colourful and attractive, and features some interesting cultural insights. It is designed to be used alongside the Ruslan communicative course, but can also be used as a standalone product.

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Ruslan Student Workbook

A decent workbook with over 200 written exercises to supplement a beginner’s Russian course. The content is colourful and attractive, and features some interesting cultural insights. It is designed to be used alongside the Ruslan communicative course, but can also be used as a standalone product.

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Sadly, it’s a fact that there is a real paucity of material to help beginners improve their written Russian.  This means that the Ruslan series gets on our list by default, and not because we think it is an excellent workbook.

With around 200 written exercises it does what it says on the tin, and the attractive visual content and interesting cultural highlights mean that it is perfectly usable.  However, there is nothing particularly special about Ruslan, and it is as yet unclear how effective it is as a standalone product (there is a coursebook that you buy as well). 

Ruslan Student Workbook - Our Rating
70%

Russian Handwriting

A step-by-step workbook that teaches Russian cursive handwriting. Each letter is broken down into clear steps that show you how to write it cursively. Lots or practice in the form of example letters, words, phrases, and sentences. Three separate volumes in case you get through the first one and want more practice.

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Russian Handwriting

A step-by-step workbook that teaches Russian cursive handwriting. Each letter is broken down into clear steps that show you how to write it cursively. Lots or practice in the form of example letters, words, phrases, and sentences. Three separate volumes in case you get through the first one and want more practice.

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Handwriting is a bit like crooked teeth – the earlier you sort it out the easier your life will be in the future

The majority of Russian textbooks will only use the print alphabet and omit the cursive version entirely. The reason for this is obvious: cursive can be extremely confusing!  While each letter looks quite distinct in print, in cursive a lot of the letters look almost identical:

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This is just something we have to deal with.  And while the Penguin Course – to its credit – does have a chapter dedicated to cursive, it moves on from it pretty quickly, never to return.

Don’t let yourself experience the shock of sticking solely to print while learning, only to go to Russia to find that a huge amount of writing is done in cursive. These workbooks provide plenty of practice.  Although they are priced slightly cheekily, in the long run they are worth the initial investment.

Russian Handwriting - Our Rating
77%

Beginners - Speaking

Get speaking as soon as you can! It’s the hardest (and most important) language skill, but the one that we most often neglect.

Although you could get a private tutor straight off the bat, it may be cheaper and more constructive to enrol on an evening course in your city.

You may also like:

The hourly prices of these courses are often twice as cheap as those that a native speaker will charge for one-to-one tuition in your city. On the other hand, a large class will limit the amount of time you get to speak, and sitting patiently while the inevitable class laggard struggles through material that you mastered weeks ago can be incredibly irritating.

TextBut if you can find a course with a small-number of other highly motivated participants, your speaking will make incredible progress.

Well-reviewed Russian courses in selected cities include:


Beginners - Listening

Girl Laptop IllustrationGood news! The rise of computer technology and the internet means that there is now an enormous amount of listening opportunities out there for you to take advantage of.

Here we narrow down the best courses, channels, and podcasts for beginners to take their listening skills to the next level

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Rocket Russian

The best online Russian course for beginners looking to kickstart their listening skills. Packed full of targeted audio and writing exercises, all organised thematically. Seamless transition from desktop to mobile app, and vice versa. No subscription – a reasonable one-off fee unlocks the entire platform for life.

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Rocket Russian

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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In compiling this guide we trialled over a dozen of the top online Russian courses.  Rocket Russian stood out as easily the best of the bunch – here’s why:

  • The content is thematic

    We are huge fans of thematic vocabulary learning (Using Russian Vocabulary, for instance, is an essential resource to get) as we have found that structured learning is the best way to keep words in your long-term memory. We were really pleased to see that the team at Rocket Russian share this viewpoint and organise their lessons along thematic lines.

  • The mobile app is brilliant

    Most language apps come across as little more than half-hearted afterthoughts. Some platforms even have the audacity to charge you extra for it. Rocket Russian’s mobile app (free for both iOS and Android) has been designed excellently and was far more intuitive than all of its rivals.

  • It doesn't smother you with unnecessary features

    Rocket Russian only provides you with the tools you need to make real progress with your Russian – interactive audio lessons, detailed writing exercises, and an excellent narrative story which solidifies your situational vocabulary.

  • Everything is 100% downloadable

    This means that you can sit down and get all of the material in one place – no need to keep going in and out of the site itself to use its contents.

  • Real-life audio from the start

    The sooner a student weans themselves off what we call ‘teacher-speak’, the sooner they will understand real conversations. This is what Rocket Russian does from the very beginning, using authentic dialogues to build your listening skills up.

  • No subscription

    Almost all online language courses nowadays charge for monthly/yearly subscriptions, meaning that over time they turn out to be very expensive. With Rocket Russian, however, once you’ve paid the one-off fee you get access to the full platform for life. Although the price may seem a bit steep, you then fully own all of the lessons and downloadable material inside – you’re not ‘renting it’. This means that in the long run Rocket Russian is probably the cheapest course on the market.

Give it a go!

Sign up for Rocket Russian's free trial here:

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Learn Russian with Free Daily Podcasts

RussianPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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Learn Russian with Free Daily Podcasts

RussianPod101

Incredible online language learning system. Huge number of audio and video podcast lessons, extensive vocabulary lists, personalised learning programmes, PDF worksheets, review quizzes, and many more tools. Dedicated friendly staff and frequently updated content make this an excellent resource to get your listening off the ground.

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We are naturally suspicious of online language courses, as the vast majority do not deliver on their promises – RussianPod101 is one of the few exceptions.

For a very reasonable price you gain access to a veritable treasure trove of Russian learning tools and resources, including:

High quality audio and video podcast lessons

Printable PDF Lesson Notes

2000 Most Common Words List

Entertaining Review Quizzes

Database of Russian grammar constructions

1-to-1 Direct Instruction From Native Russians

Interactive Pronunciation Comparison Tool

Portable Survival Phrases Centre

A personalised learning programme

Although the lessons are probably a bit on the easy side for advanced learners, for beginners this is an absolute must-have resource.  The sheer quantity of audio and video lessons alone makes it far and away the most efficient way to improve your Russian listening skills.

RussianPod101 has been expanding steadily for the last few years thanks to its dedicated team.  As it is continuously adding new content to the site you can be sure that you will always have fresh material to practice with.

RussianPod101 - Our Rating
93%

Interested?

If you want to make sure that RussianPod101 is the right product for you, have a look at our detailed review

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While the online courses that we’ve reviewed above are excellent, make sure you don’t neglect the thousands of free YouTube channels dedicated to teaching Russian:

Amazing Russian

Amazing Russian is hands down the best YouTube channel out there for beginners looking to improve their listening skills.

The reason why we are so enthusiastic is because it is rare to come across such a practical and educational channel on YouTube.  Most ‘learn Russian’ channels rely heavily on gimmicks and flashy appearances without delivering much substance.  But if you want to make real headway with your listening then this is the channel for you.

The videos, mostly dealing with everyday situations, effectively ease students into the listening comprehension with a steady speaking pace, core vocabulary, and optional subtitles.

Beginners - Bonus


Russian Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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Russian Keyboard Stickers

High-quality transparent stickers for laptop keyboards. Versions for both black and white keyboards available.

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Unless by some extraordinary coincidence you bought your computer in the former Soviet Union, your keyboard won’t have the Cyrillic alphabet on it.

In time, this will prove to be a real annoyance, especially as there are so many great resources on the internet that require you to type in Russian.

Fortunately, the solution is both simple and cheap: you can find a range of transparent Cyrillic stickers that sit neatly on your keyboard without obscuring the original Latin symbols.

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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Intermediate - Grammar & Vocabulary

The Penguin Course does a really good job in laying a solid grammatical foundation.  By the end of it you will confident enough to have non-trivial conversations with Russian speakers.  However, you will also realise that you have only scratched the surface, and that there is still a huge amount left to learn. In order to progress past this point, you need a broader resource.

A Comprehensive Russian Grammar

The Russian grammar bible. Period. No serious student of Russian should be without a copy of this authoritative grammar reference book. Covers virtually every topic you can think of, using fresh, interesting vocabulary to illustrate key points. Its structure layout allows students to master Russian grammar systematically.


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A Comprehensive Russian Grammar

The Russian grammar bible. Period. No serious student of Russian should be without a copy of this authoritative grammar reference book. Covers virtually every topic you can think of, using fresh, interesting vocabulary to illustrate key points. Its structure layout allows students to master Russian grammar systematically.

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If the Penguin Course was the tip of the grammar iceberg, this is the massive bulk floating under the water. 

It is difficult to convey how useful this book is for any student of Russian who wants to make real progress beyond the beginner’s level.  This 630-page reference work is encyclopaedic in its breadth and depth: its topics include pronunciation, punctuation, noun formation, verbs of motion, particles, diminutives, participles, gerunds, prepositions, word order, etc. Basically all of the rules – important and obscure – that you need to develop a robust grasp on how the language really works.

The example sentences are all taken from real literary and non-literary Russian sources, and are a breath of fresh air from the typically boring constructions that language books normally rely on.

A highly recommend resource.

A Comprehensive Russian Grammar - Our Rating
95%

If you’re not in a position to buy Wade’s Grammar at the present moment, a respectable alternative is the free online grammar created by Duke University’s Edna Andrews.  Similar in content to Wade’s grammar (though not nearly as comprehensive or useable), this guide would be a great thing to bookmark and refer to for relatively straightforward queries.  The navigation sidebar makes finding what you need a breeze.

Using Russian Vocabulary

Divided into 18 thematic topics, this book provides the reader with over 5,000 Russian words and their translations. Each topic is broken down into three levels, starting with the most basic words and building up to some quite advanced (and obscure) vocabulary. Engaging self-study tasks at the end of each section and etymological insights make this an enjoyable and productive learning resource.

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Using Russian Vocabulary

Divided into 18 thematic topics, this book provides the reader with over 5,000 Russian words and their translations. Each topic is broken down into three levels, starting with the most basic words and building up to some quite advanced (and obscure) vocabulary. Engaging self-study tasks at the end of each section and etymological insights make this an enjoyable and productive learning resource.

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For those of you who have studied other languages, you may be familiar with Cambridge University Press’s excellent ‘Using X Vocabulary’ series. If not, you will have to take our word that this is an invaluable textbook, that will raise all aspects of Russian proficiency.

Learning vocabulary can sometimes feel like a slightly random and chaotic experience – we get to grips with some areas quickly, only to discover (at just the wrong time!) that we have embarrassingly large gaps in our knowledge.

This is the solution. The book is divided into eighteen section (the natural world, industry, leisure & tourism, the physical body, etc.), and each section is divided into three subsections.  The first subsection contains basic vocabulary, whereas the last one will prepare you to authoritatively discuss the topic in question. 

This means that you can pick or choose sections depending on your strengths and interests, or, alternatively, work your way through it systematically.

Combined with Anki, it is the single best way to accumulate a large enough word base to sit the B1-C1 exams.

Using Russian Vocabulary
88%

Intermediate - Reading

At this point you will feel ready to take off the training wheels and start reading some Russian literature in the original.

But there’s one thing you should know: not all classic writers are created equally when it comes to the difficulty of the works.  For example, the intermediate student who begins with one of Gogol’s short stories or Platonov’s novels will have a hard time getting through it.  The style and structure that these authors employ, make their books devilishly difficult to read.

Chekhov - The Collected Short Stories

Collected short stories from one of the masters of Russian literature. Tales in the volume include: ‘The lady with the Dog’, ‘The Princess’, ‘The Post’, and ‘Verochka’.

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Chekhov - The Collected Short Stories

Collected short stories from one of the masters of Russian literature. Tales in the volume include: ‘The lady with the Dog’, ‘The Princess’, ‘The Post’, and ‘Verochka’. .

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Fortunately, there is a good place starting point: we recommend Chekhov. 

The way that Chekhov writes means that he is ideal for the intermediate student: his style is solid and sensible, the realism of his stories prevent confusion, and his choice of words – although firmly rooted in the 19thcentury Russian tradition – are never flowery or redundant.

Who keeps the tavern and serves up the drinks? The peasant. Who squanders and drinks up money belonging to the peasant commune, the school, the church? The peasant. Who would steal from his neighbor, commit arson, and falsely denounce another for a bottle of vodka? The peasant. Anton Chekhov in Peasants

What’s more, his best writing was done in the form of short stories.  Even at this point you will rely heavily of a dictionary, and this means it will take you much longer to read one page of Russian than it would something written in your native language.  Reading a 10-page short story is an achievable task; being a hero and slogging through the Brothers Karamazov will not be much fun – yet! 

Chekhov Short Stories - Our Rating
90%

Advanced Russian through History

Serious book covering the entire span of Russian and Soviet history, broken down into 36 concise chapters. Specifically designed for ambitious Russian students that want to gain greater historical awareness and improve their academic vocabulary. Online exercises and mini-lectures included.

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Advanced Russian through History

Serious book covering the entire span of Russian and Soviet history, broken down into 36 concise chapters. Specifically designed for ambitious Russian students that want to gain greater historical awareness and improve their academic vocabulary. Online exercises and mini-lectures included.

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If you want a more structured approach to getting your reading up, then Advanced Russian through History is a good option.

As you work through the 36 chronological chapters, taking you from Kievan Rus’ up to the Post-Soviet Era, you will notice that the difficulty of the text gradually becomes more challenging.  However, this progression is so incremental that you never feel too far out of your comfort zone.

Vocabulary keys, high-quality learning tasks, and mini-lectures (found on the publisher’s website) make this a worthwhile book to buy.

Plus, it’s a fun way to learn more about Russian history!

Advanced Russian through History - Our Rating
83%

It would also be a good idea to start reading the news in Russian. That way you will have a constant stream of new material covering a diverse range of topics.

All of the major Russian newspapers – Vedomosti, Kommersant, Novaya Gazeta – are worth reading, but our favourite website is the BBC’s Russian service. It follows the rest of the BBC’s policy of using simple, clear diction and produces good, impartial articles on all major stories concerning Russia and the former Soviet Union.

In addition, the majority of the videos that you will find in the multimedia section now come with Russian subtitles – something that you will struggle to find elsewhere.


Intermediate - Writing

Wade’s Grammar is such an intimidating brick of a book that it can be difficult to know where to begin with it.  Because you now have so much information at your disposal you need an effective way to get it in your brain and keep it there.

Russian Grammar Workbook

Excellent workbook to accompany Wade’s grammar textbook. Crammed full of exercises to drill you on virtually everything you need to get your writing and speaking up to an advanced level.

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Russian Grammar Workbook

Excellent workbook to accompany Wade’s grammar textbook. Crammed full of exercises to drill you on virtually everything you need to get your writing and speaking up to an advanced level.w

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Fortunately, there is also a grammar workbook that can be used independently or in conjunction with the textbook. 

Both books share the same layout and subsection breakdown, so you can synchronise your grammar with written practice.  It features over 230 sets of exercises that involve all sorts of exercises: translation practice, sentence formation, etc.

Although it is only 270 pages, and some reviewers think it is a little on the pricey side for the number of exercises, it is worth pointing out that each of these ‘questions’ has multiple component parts.  This means that, given its size, you are getting a lot more value for money than this may suggest. 

A Russian Grammar Workbook - Our Rating
94%

A Guide to Essay Writing in Russian

Ideal for high school or university students, this book is designed to help readers improve their essay writing skills in Russian. Contains grammar reference, key thematic vocabulary, and practical writing advice, as well as plenty of written exercises. Themes include climate, economics, politics, and organised crime.

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A Guide to Essay Writing in Russian

Ideal for high school or university students, this book is designed to help readers improve their essay writing skills in Russian. Contains grammar reference, key thematic vocabulary, and practical writing advice, as well as plenty of written exercises. Themes include climate, economics, politics, and organised crime.

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All language learners have been set those uninspiring writing tasks from time to time: “write me an essay about what you got up to at the weekend”, “what is your favourite holiday destination”, etc.

What is so irritating about these topics is that, although the content is so simple a child could talk about them confidently, it can be surprisingly tricky to structure them properly.

Essay writing is a skill, and this well-written book will teach you how to excel at it.  Each thematic chapter starts with a grammatical guide, giving useful information on important aspects like conjunctions and word order, before presenting the reader with a series of exercises and essay questions. 

Each essay exercise comes with a template answer to help you develop the right instincts when faced with the real deal in an exam or professional situation.

A Guide to Essay Writing in Russian - Our Rating
81%

Russian for Business Studies

Ideal guide for those that want to use their Russian for business purposes. Follows BCP’s general format of grammar, vocabulary, and written exercises. In particular, it is a nice way to learn those set phrases and pleasantries that pervade every office environment. Topics includes privatisation, entrepreneurship, advertising, and the banking system.

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Russian for Business Studies

Ideal guide for those that want to use their Russian for business purposes. Follows BCP’s general format of grammar, vocabulary, and written exercises. In particular, it is a nice way to learn those set phrases and pleasantries that pervade every office environment. Topics includes privatisation, entrepreneurship, advertising, and the banking system.

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Also in BCP’s textbook series is Russian for Business Studies.  Like the Guide to Essay Writing, this book focuses on the specific grammar and vocabulary that will come in useful in a business context, before cementing this knowledge with a range of written exercises.

It was written in 2000 and doesn’t appear to have been updated since, leaving it vulnerable to the charge of being obsolete.  However, having worked through it, we can confirm that a surprisingly large proportion of the words are still used today, meaning that it’s still worth buying this book.

Of course, you won’t find up-to-date IT and technological terminology, so you will have to look elsewhere for this.  But if you are just interested in a general office-focused business textbook, this will do the job.

Russian for Business Studies - Our Rating
74%

Intermediate - Speaking

In the long run, the only way to improve your Russian speaking is to speak Russian. A lot. For a long time.

If you’re at university and are majoring in Russian, your course should involve a year abroad in a Russian-speaking country.  This is obviously in an incredible opportunity that will give you give you the complete immersion that you need to push yourself out of your Anglophonic comfort zone.

If, however, you are studying independently, it might be difficult to replicate this experience.  You probably won’t be able to take months off from work to study in Russia. There, of course, are a lot of private language schools in all major cities of the former Soviet Union that offer short-term language lesson packages – Liden & Denz, Russianlab, and Language Link are three of the most popular. 

But the high prices that these centres charge might well mean that they are outside your budget.  Taking into account flights and living expenses in pricy cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, you could easily burn through a few thousand dollars for a couple of weeks’ worth of tuition.

But don’t despair! There is a language school that offers excellent Russian lessons and a welcoming homestay experience with a local family, all for a very affordable price: The London School of Languages and Culture in Bishkek.

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire before it.  As such, everyone in the country speaks Russian as a first or second language.  This, couple with the fact that the cost of living is more than ten times cheaper than in Russia, makes it the perfect location to learn Russian for those on a budget.

The London School was founded in 1998, and since then has earned a reputation amongst Russian students as an honest and professional institution.  All of the admin involved in organising your stay in Kyrgyzstan (visa, airport pickup, accommodation and meal arrangements) is handled by the school’s competent English-speaking team.

The most important thing to note are the incredible prices: an hour’s worth of one-to-one private tuition with a qualified native speaker will only set you back $5-8 – there is quite simply nowhere else in the world that offers such value for money!

The lessons are top-notch as well.  The school uses its own online teaching system via classroom whiteboard projector screens, meaning that all of your modular lessons will follow the official structure of the course.  All of the teachers that taught us were friendly, knowledgeable, and highly professional.

If you take on the intensive course (20 hours per week), each school day will have a few hours of grammar in the morning followed by conversation and literature practice after lunch.  You will also be expected to complete homework for each class.  So you can expect to be very busy throughout your time in Kyrgyzstan!

Lessons finish at around 3 o’clock, giving you plenty of time to socialise and explore the city.  Bishkek is a pleasant city to live in: it has plenty of bars, restaurants, musical and theatrical performances to keep you entertained.  What is more, levels of English competency are generally very low in Kyrgyzstan, so you won’t have much trouble striking up a conversation with locals in Russian, only for them to switch to fluent English within a few seconds (as often happens in Moscow and St. Petersburg).

 With regards to living arrangements, you have two basic options: either live in the student dormitories that are located in the upper floors of the school itself, or live with a local family as a homestay arrangement (vetted and organised by the London School).  If you do the former you will spend a lot of your free time socialising with other English-speaking students, which is why we recommend that go for the homestay option. 

We guarantee you that you will learn just as much Russian by simply taking part in daily life with your host family as you do from the formal lessons. Kyrgyz culture highly values hospitality, so you can be sure of a warm welcome and involvement in all of the family’s social life.

The school doesn’t offer any tuition over the weekend, but they do offer lots of extracurricular activities, including: horseback riding, bazaar visits, and mountain treks.

Of course, you can also organise excursions yourself – Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful mountainous country with loads to see and do.  We strongly recommend that you take the time to see Ala Archa National Park, Issuk-Kul Salt Lake, Osh, Karakol, and Arslanbob. 

No matter how long you are able to study at the London School you will come back feeling that your Russian has improved immeasurably.

The London School in Bishkek - Our Rating
98%

But if you’re really not in a position to spend some time in a Russian-speaking country, the next best thing would be to find a language exchange partner in your home country.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Russian community in your city, then there will be plenty of opportunities to get to know people and practice your Russian with them.  In theory at least…

Although America, Canada, and the UK are some of the most diverse countries in the world, which should make learning foreign languages a breeze, there’s a major problem for us: most foreign residents speak excellent English.  They have to!  After all, we are extremely demanding when it comes to English proficiency and it is virtually impossible to get a decent job in these countries without fluent English. 

This means that 99% of the Russian speakers you will come across in your city will speak much better English than you speak Russian.  It’s very difficult to get someone to suffer your broken Russian when they know they could accelerate the conversation by switching to English.  Frustrating, but true!

One way you can get around this is by making a semi-formal agreement with your interlocutor that you will speak English for half of the time, and Russian for the other half – that way you both get something out of it. 

You can find people searching for this kind of arrangement on websites like My Language Exchange.

The success of the language exchange will vastly depend on how well your personality and linguistic requirements mesh with your partner’s. It’s really a case of trial and error. But if you find the right person you can rack up hours and hours of conversation practice without having to pay anything.

If, though, you live in small town and you can’t find any suitable prospective language partners, we recommend that you skip ahead and take a look at our speaking suggestions for advanced learners.


Intermediate - Listening

Respectable online language courses like RussianPod101, should still challenge you as you move up to intermediate level Russian.  But now you should begin to spread your wings and start listening to real Russian conversations (i.e. not the watered-down Russian that teachers use).

Mosfilm Logo

Mosfilm Catalogue

Film studio behind classic Soviet films like The Irony of Fate, Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears, and Gentlemen of Fortune. Vast catalogue available to watch for free on Youtube and official website. Russian and English subtitles.

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Mosfilm Logo

Mosfilm Catalogue

Film studio behind classic Soviet films like The Irony of Fate, Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears, and Gentlemen of Fortune. Vast catalogue available to watch for free on Youtube and official website. Russian and English subtitles.

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A few years ago Mosfilm – one of the oldest and most famous Russian film production companies – released a free catalogue of a huge number of their greatest films on YouTube and their official website. 

These are fantastic ways for improving your listening comprehension, not only because the vast majority of them come with both English and Russian subtitles, but also because these classic Soviet films have made a huge impact on Russian culture.  You’ll find that Russians are always making reference to quotes and characters from these films, so you need to understand what they’re talking about. 

As such, you’ll never be able to claim that you are truly fluent until you can appreciate these cultural nuances, as well as master the linguistic side of the language!

Important Info
Some films that are available on the official website are not available on the Youtube channel.

Mosfilm Catalogue - Our Rating
85%

The usefulness of slow news is a controversial topic.  Some people claim that it’s a good way of preparing yourself to listen to real Russian news programmes (in which the presenters speak at an ungodly pace).  Others say that it’s better just to jump in at the deep end and get used to how people really speak.

We reckon that the latter position is probably closer to the truth.  But if you think listening to slowed-down news would help you at this point then we recommend working through the audio clips found on this website. 

Try to listen to the clip a few times without looking at the accompanying transcription to see if you can understand the general gist.  Once you can understand the main points of the news briefing, it’s time to move on to the real thing.

Another good resource is LibriVox.  Here you can download a number of audiobooks of classic novels from Russian literature.  The narration tends to be at a reasonable pace, but even if you don’t understand everything at this point, just following along with the text in front of you will help your mind associate written words with their sounds.  This will improve your listening comprehension in the long run.


Intermediate - Bonus

Russian Swear Words

Teaches you the swear words that Russians really use. Takes pains to lay out the grammar and context behind each word so you can use it correctly. Lots of examples given.

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Russian Swear Words

Teaches you the swear words that Russians really use. Takes pains to lay out the grammar and context behind each word so you can use it correctly. Lots of examples given..

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Swearing Speech BubbleIf you want to learn how to swear in Russian, then you need this book.  As the author rightly points out, the vast majority of swear words and colloquial words that you find in dictionaries are not actually used today and will sound bizarre if you – in your foreign accent, no less – go about using them.

Instead, the best thing is to learn those evergreen swear words that people actually use in real life and don’t make you sound stupid. 

The book tells you which words to use and exactly how Russians use (with the correct grammar). 

Even if you have no interest in using the words, it’s still a useful book to read through as you can be sure that you need to understand when people are swearing and what they are saying!

Warning
Russian swear words are generally considered more offensive than their English counterparts, so use them with caution.

Russian Swear Words - Our Rating
84%

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

The Ultimate Resource Guide for Learning

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Advanced - Grammar & Vocabulary

Having studied Russian seriously for a few years, you will have picked up a wide range of words and phrases.  Your vocabulary will probably be close to ~10,000 words.  This should allow you to say pretty much whatever you want to say without having to break rhythm and rack your brains for a translation.

However, just because you know lots of words does not mean that you know how to use them correctly and naturally.

Using Russian Synonyms

Designed to expand and deepen the vocabulary of intermediate-advanced students. A guide to finding the right word for the context by illustrating the (often) subtle difference between synonyms. Huge number of words and lexical groups covered, arranged in an orderly fashion with an index.



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Using Russian Synonyms

Designed to expand and deepen the vocabulary of intermediate-advanced students. A guide to finding the right word for the context by illustrating the (often) subtle difference between synonyms. Huge number of words and lexical groups covered, arranged in an orderly fashion with an index.

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What do we mean by this?

Well, for example, we all know that when we go to a funeral and we are giving our condolences to the bereaved, that it is polite to talk about the person ‘passing away’, rather than straight ‘dying’ or ‘being killed’.  Although the latter two translations are technically correct, given the situation it would perhaps seem slightly awkward to use them in this context.

The same principle applies to all languages, and Russian isn’t an exception. If you want to stop being ‘that foreigner that can speak Russian well, but awkwardly and disjointedly’, this book will be invaluable to achieving, not just fluency, but naturalness as well.

All the synonyms are collected as groups.  So ‘to die’, ‘to perish’, ‘to pass away’, etc. are all one group, with ‘to die’ – the most common and neutral synonym – being presented as the group leader. The group leaders are all arranged alphabetically, meaning that finding the group you need is exceedingly simple.

Within each group the author provides the necessary grammatical information to use the words correctly, but also explains in what context the word should be used, states the register of the word (i.e. is it slang, neutral, formal, etc.), and provides plenty of usage examples.

While this book isn’t the end of the road when it comes to vocabulary, if you can work your way through it and absorb as many of the lexical nuances that are presented to you, you will be knocking on the door to genuine native-level fluency.

An absolute essential for advanced Russian learners.

Using Russian Synonyms - Our Rating
91%

While the Oxford Russian Dictionary that we recommended in the very beginning of this guide will still be your go-to reference for translations, if you want to use your Russian for a specific industry (oil, marketing, IT, etc.), then you should know about Multitran.   

Multitran is an online dictionary that specialises in giving accurate translations for technical terminology that probably won’t be covered by normal dictionaries.

So if you need your Russian for work and you just know in your gut that the translation your normal dictionary is giving you isn’t quite right, make sure you check out Multitran.

Russian - English Dictionary of Verbal Collocations

Lists Russian verbal collocations and translates them into English. Essential for understanding formal, written Russian found in newspapers and official reports. Excellent resource for ambitious advanced learners and trainee-translators.



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Russian - English Dictionary of Verbal Collocations

Lists Russian verbal collocations and translates them into English. Essential for understanding formal, written Russian found in newspapers and official reports. Excellent resource for ambitious advanced learners and trainee-translators.

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Why do we say ‘tall building’ rather than ‘high building’, and ‘high mountain’ rather than ‘tall mountain’?  The answer is: because we do.  Native speakers just know these lexical collocations intrinsically, and know what sounds right and what sounds wrong.

If we want to reach the level of a native speaker, we have to master collocations – there’s no two ways about it.  If you say принимать на внимание, rather than принимать во внимание it won’t matter how good your accent or depth of vocabulary is: you’ll simply sound foreign.

This useful dictionary aims to iron out any confusion you may have when it comes to verbal collocations.  If you have had any problems with Russian prepositions while learning the language, then it will be particularly useful. 

Russian - English Dictionary of Verbal Collocations - Our Rating
84%

If you haven’t done a degree in Russian, you may decide that you’d like to get some sort of official accreditation to certify your language proficiency.  It’s obviously a really useful thing to put on your CV, but is also worth getting for personal satisfaction’s sake alone.

The official Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (ТРКИ) consists of six levels, running from elementary to near-native competence.  You can sit them in universities and private language institutes throughout the world.

If you think you would like to sit one of the ТРКИ exams (ТРКИ-III should be attainable at this level), then we strongly recommend that you use the free information and material on the official website, and then buy the preparation books.

It’s a gruelling exam and requires a watertight command of Russian.  Sitting the exam blind will almost certainly result in failure as the types of questions are quite specific.  The preparation books will acquaint you with the structure of the exam and show and weaknesses you may have.

You can find some of the preparation (and sample exam) books on Amazon, although quite a few are missing.  If you can’t find them there, your best option would be to ship them from Zlatoust (the publisher), or get a friend to send you them from Russia (they can be found in big bookshop chains).


Advanced - Reading

At this level, you should be able to read virtually anything!  The entire world of Russian literature is now open for you to explore, and no writing in the contemporary media will be prohibitively challenging.

The main thing to do is to read widely – try to absorb as much vocabulary from as many genres, topics, and registers as you you’re able to bear.

Below we have listed some online newspapers and magazines that are worth bookmarking:


Advanced - Writing

While reading proficiency will have taken off for most advanced speakers, many will find that their writing skills are seriously lagging behind.

Time to take action!

Using Russian

Focuses on areas of written Russian that English speakers in particular find challenging. Learn how contemporary Russian is actually used in the real world. An excellent choice for students that would like to use Russian for business purposes and want to improve the professionalism of their Russian.

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Using Russian

Focuses on areas of written Russian that English speakers in particular find challenging. Learn how contemporary Russian is actually used in the real world. An excellent choice for students that would like to use Russian for business purposes and want to improve the professionalism of their Russian.

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Using Russian is a guide to advanced Russian usage, focusing on areas of grammar, vocabulary, style, and register that are particularly difficult for English speakers.

It assumes that you have a solid grammatical and lexical foundation, so is able to skip past standard grammatical topics and instead focus on a huge range of miscellaneous problems: neologisms, fillers, idioms, measurement, currency, faux amis, translation issues, jokes, puns, verbal etiquette, etc.

We really can’t rate this book highly enough: even if you learnt Wade’s Grammar off by heart, you would still come across thousands of annoying difficulties in trying to write perfect Russian.  While we obviously can’t claim that this book contains the answer to every single one of those problems, just one look at its contents pages should convince you that it’s a vital tool for advanced learners who want to take their Russian to the next level.

Using Russian - Our Rating
88%

Perhaps you’ve already signed up to Vkontakte – if you haven’t you should now!

Vkontakte is the largest social media network in the Russian-speaking world. You make a profile just as you would on Facebook (in fact, much of the interface is virtually identical), and you’re good to go.

Apart from staying in contact with people you’ve met on your travels, it’s clearly a fantastic resource for keeping up-to-date with modern Russian culture, news, and topics of conversation.

Why is it in our writing section? Well, obviously, once you’ve connected with some Russian friends you can use it to practise your Russian writing with them all of the time!

But let’s assume for a second that your friends have lives and don’t want to spending every waking minute of the day correcting your past perfective participles – who can you go to for writing practice?

The answer is Lang-8.  The premise is simple: 1) Post in the language that you are learning.  2) Native speakers correct your writing.  3) return the favour by helping others learn your native language.

It really is that simple!

Of course, like all of these mutual-assistance websites, the more you help others, the more you’ll receive corrections for the material you input.  Even if you’re not a particularly altruistic person, the benefits of having your writing corrected by a native more than outweigh the time costs of returning the favour.

The Russian section of the WordReference forum is a great alternative if you can’t be bothered with Lang-8’s reciprocal set-up.

You can ask virtually any question related to Russian and expect to get a detailed knowledgeable answer back within a few hours.  As with any forum, make sure you read up on the site’s rules and etiquette before posting.


Advanced - Speaking

If you’re not living in Russia, keeping your speaking up for an advanced learner can be surprisingly difficult.  Language classes in institutes aren’t really worth their high costs at this point because you just need to talk, not have grammar explained to you.

If you haven’t got a burgeoning Russian-orientated social life, then you need to create one artificially!

Italki

Online language learning website which connects language learners and teachers through video chat. Over 5,000 teachers to choose from, ranging from qualified professionals to community tutors. Prices per hour can be as low as $5 for Russian. Best way to keep up your speaking skills from home.

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Italki

Online language learning website which connects language learners and teachers through video chat. Over 5,000 teachers to choose from, ranging from qualified professionals to community tutors. Prices per hour can be as low as $5 for Russian. Best way to keep up your speaking skills from home.

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Italki is essentially an online marketplace that links up language students and tutors for affordable Skype lessons.

Teachers are divided into two categories: professional teachers and community tutors.

Professional teachers are in possession of teaching qualifications and tend to follow a structured lesson plan.  They may charge quite a bit, depending on the language being taught. Community tutors on the other hand are just enthusiastic native speakers that can provide informal conversational lessons.  Their prices vary, but for some languages (including Russian!) you can get hour-long lessons for as low as $5!

If you are an advanced Russian speaker, we recommend that you arrange lessons solely with community tutors – all you need at this point is conversation practice, and a lot of it!

Of course, you need to find a tutor that you like with and whose teaching style suits you well.  Luckily, there is the ‘trial lesson’ feature that allows you to try out tutors in half-hour lessons at heavily discounted rates.  So you can sample a number of tutors that you think look promising and then arrange further lessons with the ones that you get on best with.

On top of all this, Italki also features a messaging tool, language specific blogs, Q&A forums, and feedback notebooks for any writing tasks that tutors set you.

Italki really is a fantastic tool that all language learners should know about.  There is now no excuse not to take your speaking proficiency to the next level!

Italki - Our Rating
96%

Advanced - Listening

Listening will remain a major hurdle for advanced learners, long after they have mastered other skills.  No matter how proficient you become in Russian you will always have to pay attention when a native starts talking to make sure you catch every word.

To feel truly confident with your listening you will need to watch many hours of Russian television and films.

Kartina TV Logo

Kartina TV

Russian TV streaming service that allows you to watch popular Russian programmes in your home country. Hundreds of channels and thousands of films available mean that you will always have fresh listening material. Reasonably priced and no contracts.

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Kartina TV Logo

Kartina TV

Russian TV streaming service that allows you to watch popular Russian programmes in your home country. Hundreds of channels and thousands of films available mean that you will always have fresh listening material. Reasonably priced and no contracts.

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If you are no longer living in Russia, we recommend that you purchase a subscription with Kartina.

Kartina is a streaming service (you will need to buy a Dune media streamer first) that distributes Russian television channels, targeting the Russian diaspora in most Western countries.

You link it up to your television and for a small monthly fee (around $10, no contract) you get access to a 150+ channels and 2000+ on-demand films from across the former Soviet Union.  All the programming is archived for two weeks, so you have complete control over when you watch your programmes.Once you have a Kartina account, as well as watching it through Dune on your television, you can also login via a laptop or with the official app (iPhone and Android) on your phone at no extra cost.

It’s a reliable, fast service that we have had no problems with over the years, and an excellent way to get some Russian listening practice in if you have a spare 15-30 minutes.

Important Info
We have linked to the North American branch. If you live outside of the USA or Canada then simply google 'Kartina TV + your country' and it will bring up the local branch's website.

Kartina TV - Our Rating
81%

The only criticism we have of Kartina is that none of the channels come with Russian subtitles.  This would be useful for learners who are not quite good enough yet to understand everything spoken on Russian television.  But considering that Kartina is primarily aimed at Russian expatriates, and not foreign language learners, it’s not surprising that this feature has been omitted.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anything to fill this gap in the market – you will just have to struggle on with unsubtitled Russian television until you get used to the speed and complexity of the speech.

Some learners have given positive feedback about the 3ears project which adds fully subtitled videos every now and then.  The videos aren’t popular television programmes or films, though, and are usually very short.  Even so, it’s a site worth bookmarking and checking up on every couple of weeks to see if there’s anything new.

Otherwise, Youtube and Rutube are your friends.  You can actually find most of the programmes that you get through Kartina on these sites.  So if you’re on a budget, these can be a good alternative to the subscription service.


Advanced - Bonus

The Russian Word's Worth

Cultural study and colloquial dictionary rolled into one book. The collected articles of a long-time Moscow expat, covering a smorgasbord of interesting and quirky topics. Great fun and a good insight into how Russians really speak.

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The Russian Word's Worth

Cultural study and colloquial dictionary rolled into one book. The collected articles of a long-time Moscow expat, covering a smorgasbord of interesting and quirky topics. Great fun and a good insight into how Russians really speak. .

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Translator and Moscow Times columnist, Michele Berdy has been living in Moscow for decades – since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, in fact. In that time, she has built up an enormous wealth of knowledge about Russia, its culture, and its language.

The Russian Word’s Worth is a collection of her humorous articles on a variety of topics – politics, the workplace, holidays, etymology – all of them focused on translation and the struggle that expats have in expressing themselves correctly. 

You will pick up a lot of practical Russian vocabulary: how to: express your condolences, how to deal with plumbers, how to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, among other things.

The articles are refreshingly apolitical – a rarity when it comes to Russia! And the fact that the author doesn’t take herself too seriously makes them a pleasure to read.

All-in-all, It’s an excellent book for advanced learners who want to expand their colloquial grasp of the language and gain a deeper appreciation for Russian culture.

The Russian Word's Worth - Our Rating
92%

Russian - English Dictionary of Idioms

Colossal collection of Russian idioms, old and new. Over 14,000 entries with explanations and examples. The only resource that any Russian learner would ever need to enrich their vocabulary with colourful idioms. A must-have for (in particular, literary) translators.

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Russian - English Dictionary of Idioms

Colossal collection of Russian idioms, old and new. Over 14,000 entries with explanations and examples. The only resource that any Russian learner would ever need to enrich their vocabulary with colourful idioms. A must-have for (in particular, literary) translators.

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You can actually find hundreds of Russian idioms on Wiktionary (with their literal translations and English equivalents). 

But if you that’s not enough and you feel you want to delve deeper, then this dictionary is perfect for you.

With close to 14,000 fully-translated items from the nineteenth century to the present day, it can rightfully claim to be the ‘most innovative, comprehensive, and scholarly bilingual dictionary of Russian idioms available today’.

Like all good language books, it packed full of examples, grammatical explanations, and stylistic and usage information.

Important Info
If you want a more general colloquial dictionary, then you might like the Dictionary of Advanced Russian Usage.

Russian - English Dictionary of Idioms - Our Rating
85%

Introduction to Russian - English Translation

Very practical, hands-on guide for Russian-English translators. The main aim of the book is to identify problematic aspects of Russian and English that might cause translations to sound clunky or awkward. Provides numerous examples for each point made and supplementary exercises to test your knowledge.

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Introduction to Russian - English Translation

Very practical, hands-on guide for Russian-English translators. The main aim of the book is to identify problematic aspects of Russian and English that might cause translations to sound clunky or awkward. Provides numerous examples for each point made and supplementary exercises to test your knowledge.

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Perhaps you want to do more than speak excellent Russian.  Perhaps you have ambitions of working as a professional Russian translator.

If that’s the case, it’s important that you realise that being a good linguist and being a good translator are two COMPLETELY different things.  They require different skills, and different competencies.  In fact, many people claim that to succeed as a translator depends more on how well you write in your native tongue than how well you speak the foreign language you’re translating from.

That’s why books like Introduction to Russian-English Translation are so important: they teach you the vital translation skills that you won’t get from general Russian textbooks. 

The book is focused solely on the specific language pair of Russian-English, covering topics such as:

  • Key words vs props
  • Identifiers
  • Calques
  • Intensifiers
  • Diminutives and augmentatives
  • Loaded words and implication
  • Delays and interruptions
  • Rhetorical and pragmatic factors
  • Sovietisms

If you don’t know what a lot of these terms mean, then … all the more reason you should buy this book!

Introduction to Russian - English Translation - Our Rating
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