The Best Russian Language Lessons on the Internet
So you are up for the challenge of learning Russian? Great! It will open the door to a fascinating new culture and give you more opportunities than you ever expected. With one small hitch. It will not be easy at all to master it…or to even come close. Fortunately, we live in an exciting new world where the Internet can give you the solution to anything, as long as you let it.
There are some amazing resources out there! As you probably know, we are not huge fans of classic classroom-based language learning. We have scoured the Web and have compiled the best Russian language lessons available to you right now.
Learning Russian begins today!
The Best Russian Language Lessons on the Internet
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first! If you are technology-savvy enough to be reading this article, you know what Duolingo is all about.
Their Russian language lessons are short and sweet. 5 minutes a day are all it takes, they say.
I don’t doubt the appeal of quick and efficient fixes but my personal experience is not that great. If you have ever used Duolingo, you probably know that it has an excellent user interface, it is fun and engaging, and most importantly, free.
I am not complaining about any of these.
As apps go, Duolingo is one of the coolest out there. It has rightfully received attention and recognition for its’ awesomeness.
My only problem with Duolingo is that it is not very sustainable. For a tough language like Russian, it would be practically impossible to learn it just through Duolingo. Because it requires such a low initial investment, both in terms of time and money, you end up not valuing Duolingo and falling out of the language learning habit.
What Duolingo is amazing for, though, is revision and extra practice. Whether you are a complete newbie, or you have some Russian skills to brush up on, Duolingo is convenient, well-structured, and exciting. It will not at all feel like a chore. P
lus your morning commute can get infinitely more productive. Only if you are using public transport, though. Don’t Duolingo and drive!
Learn Russian is by far the best free set of Russian language lessons that I have come across. It has 100 different lessons available plus some additional tools and resources. Learn Russian will take you from a very basic beginner level to a decently intermediate.
The graphics are not as stunning as Duolingo, and there could be more tools added but overall, I find this too good of a deal to be true. You are getting more than you pay for (which is not hard, considering that it is free).
The grammar and vocabulary lessons are simple and straightforward. Even if you are already using another course, or if you go to real-life classes, check out their ‘Grammar Tables’. These can teach you anything from the proper gender of the words by topic (like professions), to using the dative case, and understanding declensions for numbers.
If you are going to use Learn Russian by itself, you would definitely need some external progress tracker. This is the biggest downside of the course. If it had one, it would be perfectly fine as a standalone product. Since it does not, and since procrastination will defeat you so easily without one, devise a progress tracking system for yourself. Whether you do it through an app, a desktop program, or in your physical planner is totally up to you!
It is quite straightforward what Russian for free is all about. They have three mini-courses that teach you to read, speak, and use declensions. These are low-level courses so don’t expect to go in depth. Russian for free is cool to break that initial barrier of starting. It can help you gain some momentum before you move on to more elaborate courses.
One thing I love about Russian for free is that they give you a very clear lesson and course structure. Right off the bat, you can see how many days the course will take to complete and how many lessons you should do each day.
Another great thing about it is it breaks down dialogues and phrases into very small and manageable chunks. You are expected to listen to the recording and then repeat. Usually, the recording is only around a minute, so you spend about 2 minutes per phrase and then move on to the next one. I am a huge fan of chunking as I find it prevents me from procrastinating! Plus it makes it all very manageable.
Like Learnrussian.rt, Russian for free features amazing Russian language lessons but virtually no progress tracking or other motivation boosting tool. That could really hinder your success!
Russian: An Active Introduction by the FSI
When the Foreign Service Institute prepares diplomats and other professionals for work in Russia, this is what they use. Russian: An Active Introduction is freely available as a pdf online.
There are also some sites that allow you to read the e-book and listen to the audio on the same page. The 11 lessons are based on dialogues (starting to see a pattern here?) and they are very focused on practicality. This is truly the ultimate no-BS course.
It is also a bit old school, as it was originally published in the 70’s. Don’t expect to learn any slang words here! At least not any contemporary slang words.
The downside to using Russian: An Active Introduction is that it does not lend itself easily to self-guided study.
With the exception of the introduction, everything else is in Russian. I am a big believer in jumping headfirst and in fighting through the difficulties. Still, even to me, the Russian language lessons here seem to be a bit too advanced for beginners.
Although it was meant as an introductory course, the FSI used tutors, and self-study does not give you that luxury. It might be best to save it for later or to find a tutor/buddy to help out.
YouTube, Movies, and Audiobooks
Think outside the box!
Entertainment could be very educational. If you think about how children learn their mother tongue, it is not through a course. They just listen, listen, listen. Even though your brain does not have the plasticity of a toddler’s, you could still tap into the power of learning by immersion.
One piece of advice I give all of my friends that start a new language (and that I used to give to my students when I worked as a tutor) is to start watching their favourite show in the foreign language. Of course at first, you will need English subtitles at first. Move on to Russian subtitles as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel super ready.
YouTube, movies, podcasts, and audiobooks are some other Russian language lessons that don’t feel like lessons at all. I assure you, Russian culture is amazingly diverse and rich. Their cinema, their literature, theatre, music, they are all very different from what you are used to and very beautiful, too!
Rocket languages is a paid course. Before you shy away, it is a very affordable and very high-quality online course. For me, it’s the best of both worlds. You will not be learning Russian from scratch, having to compile your own resources. You will not be tied down by the demands of the group, which happens all too often in classroom-based courses.
It is less affordable than the free classes but infinitely more so than offline classes. There is no similar product online, free or not, that offers that sort of quality. I would go as far as saying that you will not find all that in a single package offline either. Chances are, if you are reading this article, you would agree. Classroom education just does not cut it for busy people who want optimal efficiency.
Rocket Languages are great at providing it all in one. They have the audio lessons, the tests, the progress tracking and motivational tools etc. One special feature that Rocket Languages has is the built-in voice recognition software. So far I have not come across anything like this in a free resource, and it is pretty neat. Basically, you pronounce the phrases and the software tells you whether you have said it right. Most other courses simply ask you to repeat after the recording. This could be ok for some languages but Russian is really very particular. The pronounciation will take a while to master and simple repeating will not cut it.
Their ricing structure could not get simpler, either. You pay for a lifetime access to their Russian language lessons. It is a one time thing that includes all future improvements and updates. On top of that, they also have a satisfaction guarantee. You can get your money back within 60 days, no questions asked.
We are yet to hear about somebody that wanted to, though 😉