What's the best way to learn Russian?

If you're an absolute beginner, then the simple dialogue on the right is a good place to start. With it you can hear, see, and thus learn, simple Russian words and expressions. Language learning is a physical process so what you really need is excellent material that guides you, word by word, and puts you in control of your learning speed. Each student is different so YOU need to be in control.

I presume you know that a vital aspect is daily practice. Half an hour, or even 15 minutes a day, is much better than 2 hours once or twice a week. And even just 5 minutes of physical practice 3 times a day, every day, speaking out loud with the audio, will yield impressive results.

As you can see from the sample text and audio on the right, it's best to start with short, simple words. In this way you can quickly learn to read Russian, naturally and easily, without wasting time trying to learn all 33 letters of the alphabet. Short term memory capacity is about 5 to 7 things, so it's best to learn 5 things that are simple and similar, so that they quickly move from short term to long term memory, thus making 'space' for you to learn 5 new words.

что (what),   кто (who),   это (this, that),   а (and, but),   да (yes),   нет (no)

We have a series for learning 10 Words a Day which gives a focused look at new vocabulary and sample sentences using ONLY words that have already been introduced. Most similar type material elsewhere uses a huge vocabulary outside the words learned for the sample sentences. That’s pointless and defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

Now, 10 words a day may not sound like a lot, but it really is a big target. It's possible, but it takes a lot of effort, so don't be discouraged if it seems later that you're barely learning any new words a day. The key is to continue listening and speaking along with the audio for an array of material, which continues to expose you to learning Russian from 'many different angles'.

And that's another key aspect of a good program. It has to provide 'repetition' but not simply going over the same material repeatedly. The fact is, we will forget. I usually forget within seconds of being told. But then, when I see something within a different context, BINGO!, a light goes on, my brain makes the connection to what I 'learned' previously but repeatedly forgot, and now it's 'locked in' forever.

For a complete guide for getting started learning Russian as a beginner, I suggest you try our learning guide and sample material for beginners which provides a clear, step-by-step path to follow through our material. Or, continue reading, as we continue chatting about the best way to learn Russian.

Here's a partial list of our material that starts from your very first Russian word. You can then decide for yourself which ones you like the best.

EURO 2012 – Chapter 1 : This new style of 'phrasebook' gives a full introduction to Russian and quickly takes you to a realistic dialogue. It's a fast way to gain 'survival Russian' and enjoy your trip to a Russian speaking country.

30-30_01 – 30 Words in 30 Minutes – Audio Series : This is set up as an ‘audio only’ series but comes with the text for reading along since that's also useful. As with the '10 Words a Day' series, we're careful to make sure that all examples only use words that have already been introduced.

Russian Lesson 1 : Reading and listening to Lessons 1 - 4 is a great introduction to Russian for absolute beginners. We often use all 4 as a 'first lesson' of one hour. Simply listening abd reading along out loud is a great physical workout.

London-Moscow Express : This is my new project, to compile everything into the absolute fastest way to learn Russian, covering every detail, but, like on a train, you see it once, and it's gone. Obviously, unless you can remember everything after reading it just once, you'll need to 'get off the train' and use the other material. It's super material for review also to ensure that you've learned everything.

And for more material : learning guide and sample material for beginners

If you like what you've seen so far, please share us with others. That's the only way we can grow and help more and more people. Спасибо!! (Thanks!!)

Where's the best material for learning Russian?

Of course, that's a matter of opinion, but I find that most students usually agree with what's 'good' and 'not so good'. So, I'll introduce a range of material from various places and you can decide for yourself.

MasterRussian.com is a particularly good site with lots of information but it really doesn't provide a 'step-by-step' path for a learner to follow and progress from absolute beginner to advanced. The forum at MasterRussian.com is quite good and you can get a lot of help there from native Russian speakers.

Russianforfree.com is really a great site with lots of good material and a very good approach for learning in a step-by-step manner. My main comment is that the audio is made artificially slow, which is fine for listening once or twice, but you mostly need to be listening to audio of people speaking at their normal speed.

Sample audio from their Lesson 1:

Lingust.ru also has very good lesson material. Each lesson is rather long for my liking, so not convenient for reviewing often or doing when you have 10 minutes. And the audio there is almost too fast for beginners.

Sample audio from their Lesson 1:

I find our 'speed control' and 'active text' to be exactly what I need to practice listening and especially speaking. I generally listen at normal speed, or even speeded up slightly, whereas for speaking I usually need to reduce the speed somewhat, sometimes to 0.7 (30% slower), and then continue practicing over several days or weeks until I can manage at 0.9 or full speed.

Pimsleur is often the program of choice for Americans, and although I mostly agree with the concept, I think the implementation was poor. The dialogues are not natural at all, and are often 'translations' of English expressions. You'll notice that the dialogues are essentially the same for all the various language programs. Also, you really do need to see the words written in order to 'hear' the subtle sounds, like knowing if it ends in 't' or 'd'.

Beginning of Pimsleur Lesson 1:

If you're listening to these while relaxing or doing another activity, then they can be beneficial, but you really only want to listen to them once, otherwise you're wasting a lot of time listening to the English repeatedly, along with excessively long gaps of silence.

Breaking words and phrases into segments and learning them in reverse can be very effective, but it's much more effective if the student is in control and repeat each segment as often as needed and in whatever order they want also.

Michel Thomas is another well known language learning program but it also has some definite drawbacks. Primarily, it's like being in a classroom and you spend a lot of time listening to other students with poor pronunciation. You're thus limited to the speed of the slowest student. Or you may be pushed too quickly if the others are learning faster than you. That's why you need to be in control, like if it's a private lesson.

CD1 Track 13:

Now, there are advantages to hearing students since you can learn from their mistakes, but then you have to remember to pay attention to your own pronunciation. Notice that she corrects the lady's pronunciation of 'интересно', then shortly after that the guy also makes a 'z' sound instead of an 's' sound. The lady often pronounces 'где' like "G'day!", and almost always pronounces 'здесь' (here) with an 's' sound at the beginning instead of a strong, sharp 'z' sound.

As with Pimsleur, I think Michelle Thomas is useful for supplementary listening but you can't possibly learn Russian well, and completely, using only these programs.

Long story short, this is it. You can find the best material for learning Russian right here, and if you find something better, then please, tell me, so that I can use it also. I would simply love to find the 'perfect' program, at whatever price, and then simply enjoy using it and learn Russian. Building such a program is a LOT of work. Until then, I'll continue building my program and sharing it with you.