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Whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, you will realize that finding educational and fun resources to learn Russian is harder than it seems. What are the best books to learn Russian? What are the best apps to learn Russian? I’m here to help with these questions.
This article lists some of the best apps, books, podcasts, TV series, and online courses that you can add to your language learning toolkit. Everyone is different, so explore different options until you find the perfect combination for you.
Recommended Russian learning resources
Here’s one way to go about this.
Firstly, you can download Babbel to get things going. With Babbel, you can become comfortable with the Cyrillic script and start building those sentences.
Then, consider the famous Pimsleur course which can sharpen your listening and speaking skills in just 30 minutes a day. (Get 7 days free access to the full Pimsleur course now!) Alternatively, try out Rocket Languages for top-notch audio exercises, as well as to practice your reading and pronunciation.
At this point, you might need extra guidance and feedback on your progress. A Russian tutor will help! Join Italki where you can find affordable lessons with Russian tutors that will personalize your learning program. Alternatively, try out the HelloTalk language exchange app to connect with other learners.
I’m sure you will want to compose your own recipe of Russian success, so here are 40+ resources to learn Russian for every level of mastery, budget, and learning style!
Best apps to learn Russian
There’s more to it than Duolingo! Below, you’ll find some of my top recommendations for Russian language learning apps. For more options, browse through the full list of the 18 best apps to learn Russian.
Babbel – Want to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and build a fundamental understanding of Russian? Through its spaced-repetition method, and by combining sentence building, audio, reading, and speaking exercises, Babbel is one of the most well-rounded apps to learn Russian. Highly recommended for beginners.
Pimsleur – We are all hiding within us a fierce auditory learner! The Pimsleur app feeds you gradually with digestible and useful chunks of vocabulary to maximize memory retention. You’ll learn how to speak Russian in no time. Here’s an offer for you: Try Pimsleur free for 7 days!
LingQ – Maybe you’d like to learn Russian through movies, articles, videos, and different resources. Then go eradicate those LingQs (unknown words) through the LingQ Library. There, you can customize your feed with resources ranging from newsletters and podcasts to entertainment gossip and sports commentaries.
SemesterRus – This hidden gem is the Russian learning app you have been looking for to learn grammar and vocabulary – for free. Through the app, you’ll learn Russian vocabulary in a listed and dialogue format. Moreover, you have the ability to test your knowledge through TORFL exam simulations.
LingoDeer – Check out the LingoDeer travel phrasebook to guarantee your survival in the Motherland. You can delve deeper into exercises to practice your pronunciation, correlate images to text, and structure sentences. Useful grammar tips will also pop up to always remind you of the joys of life. Meaning the six cases, or imperfective and perfective verb forms or participles.
Best Russian online courses and programs
So, one starry night you felt motivated to learn Russian. Your phone starts overflowing with Russian learning apps. After a few days, you get impatient and gave in to the compulsion of Googling “how to learn Russian in two weeks”.
Well, maybe it’s time to find solace in online platforms that can help you learn Russian in a structured way. Following are some of the online Russian courses focusing either on a specific skill or offering a more general, all-inclusive package.
Rocket Languages – Want to amp up your conversational Russian skills? The course offers Russian noobies a comprehensive selection of audio courses, writing lessons, cultural activities, and extra useful tools. Start your free trial!
Pimsleur (audio course) – Yes, I’m mentioning Pimsleur again because it’s that good. Petrified learners who dare not speak Russian in fear of pronunciation blunders, I summon you! The Russian Pimsleur audio language course, with its 30-minute sessions, will help you sharpen your speaking and listening skills.
Fluent City – Fluent City is a language-learning platform that employs over 250 teachers across the globe. Need Russian classes in a group or one-to-one? You can follow the fixed timetable of group lessons, set in a conversational and interactive environment. Otherwise, opt for private lessons to personalize your learning goals and program.
Rosetta Stone – Rosetta Stone is a language learning platform for beginners who would like to dive into vocabulary and grammar. It’s equipped with a speaking recognition tool and enriched with writing and reading exercises, as well as language learning games.
Learn Russian.ru – Courses for all levels are offered by the Extra Class language center located in Saint Petersburg. While you can try out the center’s online individual and mini-group lessons, the main attribute of the center is its on-site programs. These packages would cover your accommodation, all your basic needs, and your daily learning program while in St. Petersburg.
Best websites to find Russian tutors
Struggling with those soft and hard consonants? Not sure if your Cyrillic is legible and your writing logical? Even with all the apps, books and online sites, you might feel like you are not progressing as quickly as you’d like. A Russian tutor will be the key to reaching the speaking and writing fluency you want to achieve.
Here’s a full list of websites to find Russian tutors, but a condensed version is below.
Italki – Italki is the perfect platform to find affordable one-to-one lessons that fit your schedule and learning goals. A 60-minute lesson with a professional Russian teacher starts from $4, but averages $10-12. Moreover, you can read student reviews and watch a video introduction of your tutor. Find a Russian tutor now!
Preply – Similar to Italki, with Preply you can personalize your study plan to learn Russian with a tutor. Some Russian tutors even offer specialty lessons with a focus on business Russian or preparations for the TORFL (Test of Russian as a Foreign Language). The average price of a 60-minute lesson is $15 and you can choose from over 1,200 teachers to learn Russian.
Rype – The platform proposes tutors based on your preferred timetable and the level of mastery you want to achieve in Russian. You pay for courses in bundles, each lesson lasting 30 minutes. The basic package would include a one-month bundle of four hours of lessons ($79.99). Long-term or intensive packages are also available with different price structures.
Verbling – An alternative to Italki and Preply. You can find teachers based on their hourly price, availability, spoken languages, and country of origin. An important difference with other platforms would be the possibility to start with a free trial lesson. The average cost for an hourly Russian lesson is around 19 Euros.
Best podcasts to learn Russian
Maybe you are stuck in traffic or commuting on public transport. Maybe your eyes are a little tired from your phone and computer screen. In any case, hitting the play button to a Russian learning podcast will help you spend that time productively. You can zone out for a couple of minutes and nourish those Russian speaking and listening skills.
Podcasts in both Russian and English
Russian Made Easy – This podcast series available on Spotify and iTunes is a great way to learn Russian for beginners and intermediate learners. This audio course can help with the pronunciation of soft and hard consonants. You’ll also learn vocabulary and grammar structures intuitively. I appreciate how from the first episode, you are not simply injected with new information but learn through different contexts. For instance, the personal pronouns “она” (she) and “он”(he) are taught by describing a person’s profession. Mark always encourages you to figure out the answer and repeat sentences, giving the podcast an interactive flare.
Russian Podcast – Comfortable with the Cyrillic alphabet, basic verb conjugation, and some elementary vocabulary? Then, this might be a helpful platform to develop your listening skills. In the initial courses, you can access over 350 dialogues on every-day life themes such as music, sports, and work. As you progress, more in-depth podcasts make their appearance on subjects like grammar and historical figures like the Romanovs. All transcripts are available for free.
Arzamas – If you are a bit of a culture junkie, you might fall in love with the different resources offered by Arzamas. Enjoy listening to lectures on themes such as World and Russian history, literature, art, and much more. Subjects could range from Jean d’Arc to the Caucasian war, the birth of Romanticism, or the discovery of the atom.
Время свободы – Learn about Russian and global current events through the podcasts and articles of Svaboda. The pieces published at the site include reporting and analysis of breaking news as well as interesting cultural special projects.
Эхо Москвы – An independent radio station in Russia, covering the news and providing political commentary on current events. You can also tune into interviews conducted with figures of Russian culture, scientists, and experts in various fields. If you already enjoy a certain fluency in Russian, you can check out “Полный Альбац”, a weekly talk-show deciphering the latest political news in Russia.
Best books to learn Russian
If you prefer to learn Russian with books, go for it. Books enable you to dive into the specifics of Russian grammar and vocabulary while getting loads of writing practice. Below are some of my favorites, but for more options, read this article on the 20 best books to learn Russian.
Books in both Russian and English
A Comprehensive Russian Grammar (4th Edition) – This is a life-savior for Russian learners of every level, especially beginners since everything in the book is explained in English. This book covers every grammar subject you can imagine, organized in detailed chapters ranging from numerals to pronunciation, case usage, short and long-form adjectives, and verb conjugation.
Sputnik: An Introductory Russian Language Course – If you are looking for a stellar book to build a basic foundation in vocabulary, grammar, writing, and speaking, the Sputnik method will be your go-to choice. The book introduces each subject step-by-step, rendering this Russian textbook an ideal solution for self-taught novices. You are also provided with access to an online platform where you can work on automatically corrected exercises and utilize plenty of audio resources.
The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners – A no-nonsense textbook with concise grammar rules, readings, and exercises. Whether you are a novice or well-versed learner, this book can help you revise the basics and build your intuition when using different grammatical structures.
Русский язык : 5 элементов. Уровень А1 (элементарный) – An all-round textbook to kickstart your Russian language learning through grammar, reading, writing and listening exercises. New vocabulary and grammar rules are introduced through every-day life conversations, as well as organized in neat tables and lists. Best used with a Russian tutor as it is entirely written in Russian.
Поехали! – Another great choice to support your Russian language learning journey. The book is filled with eye-catching illustrations as well as various classic writing, listening, vocabulary, and grammar exercises. Overall, it creates a conducive atmosphere for introducing gradually new vocabulary and learning new topics.
Дорога в Россию 3. Учебник русского языка (первый уровень) – If you want rich texts to delve more into Russian culture while sharpening your reading comprehension, writing and reading skills, this might be the book for you. My experience with this series of books involves specifically the third book. Texts on Chehov, Gilyarovsky, and Shukshin, figures that connect Tzarist Russia with pre-revolutionary times and the era of the Soviet Union. Some of the elements that helped me travel from the Tzarist era to the times of the Soviet Union, helping me demystify the cultural fabric of Russian history.
Dictionaries and niche options for Russian
Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book (English and Russian Edition) – The book contains a collection of stories that marked the Tzarist era of novella Russian history, comprised of tales by Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev, Bunin, and many others. The volume is enriched by cultural notes, a Russian-English dictionary, and a questionnaire on each text. These details let you travel between pre-revolutionary and Soviet society, from the aristocratic avant-garde to the common folk.
English-Russian, Russian-English Dictionary – An exhaustive dictionary with multiple concise definitions provided for each entry with different connotations. You are guided through conjugation and declension while annotations with both the imperfective and perfective forms of the verb. Includes words with the same root or stem and provides the entry’s genitive form.
Best websites to learn Russian
Russian learning websites can become the best study buddies when in need. Explore below websites that will guide you through the Russian language either as language treasure chests or amazing culture hubs.
Websites in both Russian and English
Master Russian – Honestly, one of my favorite sites to hide from my Russian-essay homework. Looking to get familiar with the 500 most common Russian verbs or 1000 most common Russian words? Want to refresh your savviness with the six Russian cases? Or maybe you simply want to learn more about Russian folktales, proverbs, and literature? This Russian language learning website site can direct you to plenty of resources. Whether it would be trying out the proposed Russian tests of the site, reading the free English-Russian version of “War and Peace” or simply checking the conjugation of various verbs, you will definitely come across a section of Master Russian that will make your life easier while learning Russian.
Aкадемик – Whether you explore the encyclopedic or translation-dictionary spectrum of this site, it is truly a Bodleianesque playground for devoted and inquisitive Russian language learners. You can find Russian dictionaries, manuals, and encyclopedias on biology, technology, economics, politics, religion, law, history and much more. Therefore it is an excellent internet camping site if you are eyeing an exchange program or a job in Russia. The most useful for me has been the countless dictionaries that are available. These dictionaries, like the Greek-Russian one I used, provide precise definitions and examples for each word. This helps you understand the subtle differences between words that might be different only in their prefix or ending.
Russian-only online platforms
Postnauka – Perhaps this article is overflowing with the footprint of Russian literature, cinema, and politics. Your antidote might be Postnauk, a platform-hymn to the exploration and appreciation of STEM as well as social sciences. On this site, you can audio lectures on physics, biology, neuroscience, economics, chemistry, and much more.
Ruspeach – A colorful site with numerous game-like exercises to practice your vocabulary or refresh your grammar. With multiple dialogues brought to life by beautiful comic sketches and inspiring regular posts on news or interesting topics to discuss in Russian, Ruspeach is definitely a fun playground to experiment with.
BBC Russian – Reading news articles is the perfect balance for those who don’t want to delve too much into the Russian viva voce nor get lost in literary texts. Fresh articles and subtitled videos are categorized into sections including Latest News, Art, Russia, Economics, Science, and Sports. You can also customize your news feed and access the top three stories from each category offline. With Russia being a powerhouse in international politics, BBC Russia is a great free way to stay up-to-date with the country’s position on the world stage.
Best YouTube channels to learn Russian
Easily accessible YouTube videos for learning Russian might do the trick when you need a quick clarification on a grammar rule or expression. They can also be the place where you relax with your favorite Russian-speaking YouTuber. It can be the bridge where you connect learning Russian with your hobbies, whether it is gaming, history, or politics. Here are some of the Russian learning channels that stood out for me on YouTube.
Youtube channels in both Russian and English
Easy Russian – This channel uploads short videos that can boost your journey of learning Russian. Videos are made on life in Russia and language tips on such as how to use modal verbs or avoid common mistakes in Russian. Subtitled videos of natives answer various questions related to their culture and habits can also help you practice your listening skills.
Be Fluent in Russian – I have found myself binge-watching the short but extremely informative videos to learn Russian by Fedor Shirin on YouTube. One of his videos actually helped me cut down on the use of “это” (inaccurately translated into “this”). You can find dozens of videos on common points that foreigners stumble on when learning Russian. Fedor has also uploaded a couple of videos with translations or commentary on Russian cartoons and tips to motivate you to keep learning Russian, even when you want to destroy a couple of matryoshkas.
Russian-only Youtube channels
Redroom – This one is a special treat for history buffs. If your Russian level is pretty high, then you will certainly enjoy the content produced by Redroom. Egor Zirianov brings to your attention, in a light-hearted but also direct way, different historical events from Thibet and China to Ireland and the US.
Алексей Навальный – This might be a controversial channel, given the current political situation in Russia. Alexey Navalny is the main political opponent of Vladimir Putin, dedicating his channel to uncovering corruption scandals in Russia’s administrative system. To be frank, I stumbled upon his channel due to the English and Russian subtitles of his videos. Also, Navalny himself speaks clearly and coherently. If you want to become familiar with Navalny’s position, want to learn more about the inner workings of the Russian state, while listening to how one might compose different arguments in Russian, you could try out his channel.
Mosfilm YouTube Channel – We could say that Mosfilm is the Acropolis of Russian movie history, producing films since 1920. Want to time travel to the golden age of Soviet cinema? Check out some of the films that have been uploaded to Mosfilm’s channel. Constituting a central propaganda tool, Russian cinema intends to instill in the viewer the struggle of the proletariat; the woes and common experiences of the working class. These films also open a door to discover the Russian montage. You can observe how directors Kulashev, Eisenstein and Pudovkin yield the relationship of images to weave meaning into social symbols.
Best free resources to learn Russian
Many of the resources to learn Russian listed above are free, while others might be a little heavy on your pocket. In any case, the demanding nature of the language should not scare you with “strict tutors and premium-smelling books” connotations. There is always the option to learn Russian for free through different websites, forums, courses, and apps. Here are some of them.
HelloTalk – Intonation, vocabulary building, grammar, and idioms in Russian can be frustrating. Enters HelloTalk, a language learning and instant messaging app packed into one. With this app you can socialize and overcome language obstacles with other Russian speakers and language learners. Tools like “language exchange mode”, “correct sentences” and “translate sentences” will enable you to detect your mistakes and receive immediate feedback on your Russian skills.
Reddit.com/r/Russian – This subreddit was the first place I stalked to find out how I can learn Russian for free. While browsing the subreddit’s posts, wiki or “where to start” section, you can bump into anything related to learning Russian. Russian-inspired memes, questions about how to say certain phrases or discussions with feedback on users’ writing skills are just some of the examples you will encounter at the subreddit. The comparative advantage of this site lies in the interactive nature that is present in Reddit. This means that you yourself can create a post to ask for help or feedback on your Russian skills.
Learn Russian RT – 100 topics that orbit around learning and practicing new vocabulary by completing sentences through reading and listening exercises. A free Russian learning platform, where you can find organized lists of grammar rules and vocabulary that can help you boost your lexicon. It can also complement perfectly your main textbook, app, or private lessons.
BONUS: Best Russian TV shows and movies on Netflix
We have all witnessed the spur of non-English productions fostered and blooming on Netflix. Russian films and shows are no different. So, get ready to snuggle under a blanket and enjoy some of these unique Russian series and movies on Netflix.
To The Lake (Эпидемия) – This might hit too close to home, with the series depicting the chaos caused by a rampant virus in Moscow. With a city falling into lawlessness as a background, a group of families flees to an island, hoping to sit the epidemic out. With strangers finding themselves confined and living under the same roof, another type of human drama ensues. Into apocalyptic dramas that do not lack good character development and engaging storylines? Put on your pajamas and fire this one up on Netflix.
Fartsa (Фарца) – Finally, a series that doesn’t equate the Soviet Union just with gloominess and somber camera filters. Set in the 1960s, the series follows the lives of a group of friends navigating the underground world of fartsovka. Fartsovka refers to the bootlegging, smuggling of foreign consumer goods and currency in times of strict Soviet control. More specifically, you will be following the life of Kostya Germanov. The heavily indebted protagonist and his pals specialize in records and acquiring foreign currency under the nose of Major Vostrikov.
Better than us (Лучше, чем люди) – Travel to a futuristic AI dystopia, where life-like robots are designed to serve humans. You will find yourself rooting for Arisa, a fembot whose creator dies and is sold to CRONOS, the den of robot production. After killing a man who tried to take advantage of her at the firm, she escapes and befriends little Sonia, instantly bonding with her. Be warned, the series will intrigue, excite, frustrate and make you all mushy all at once, propelling you to ask; what truly makes us human?
Территория (2014) – The film centers around the hardships and challenges expedition groups, led by Ilya Chinkov, come across as they try to discover coveted gold deposits at the Territory, located in the harsh depths of Siberia. It showcases the rarely covered beauty of Far East Russia, showing through 1960s excavations how humans try to adapt and survive under adverse conditions.
Mermaid (Русалка) – A comedy-drama film that follows young Alisa trying to find meaning and herself when she discovers that she has the ability to make any of her wishes come true. She is forced to face reality when she moves to Moscow, where she will collide with the idea of love and friendship. An unusual, almost coming-of-age story through the impact of the self-destructiveness of youth.
Tips to learn Russian quickly
For most people, especially if you come from a non-Slavic background, Russian is a long-term work-in-progress. Learning Russian quickly will depend on your organization skills and falling in love with the language. Here are some tips to move a step closer towards both of these targets.
Put in the time and effort: As with any skills that you want to master, Russian is no different. It might seem one of the most challenging languages to learn, but only if you do not put your heart into it. So, my advice is to schedule your weekly study sessions, make neat vocabulary lists, keep grammar cheat sheets near you, and don’t be afraid to listen to some Russian radio, even if all you hear is gobbledygook at first. While learning Russian doesn’t have to consume your life, devoting at least 3-4 hours per week to your learning will award you with amazing results.
Make the most out of it: Science has shown us that we perform better at tasks we enjoy. Therefore, do try to infuse your passions with learning Russian, whether it would be watching movies, reading about scientific or political developments, or simply meeting online new people.
Don’t be afraid to try new things: Maybe this can be as simple as cooking some bliny or planning a Russian adventure by taking the Transiberian train for a long sabbatical. Incorporating fun elements or experiences that are inspired by your Russian learning journey can become just as important and maybe more exciting as setting realistic learning goals and keeping up with a structured program.
That’s all folks! I hope that these resources will make a difference in your efforts to learn Russian. If you’re just a newbie, check out on next post on how to say “hello” in Russian and other common Russian phrases.
Let us know of any other materials that have helped with your Russian exploits! Have a great time conquering the Russian language and до свидания!