8 steps to learn Russian like a pro

Natalia Kandakova
Brave enough to immerse yourself in the endless pages of Russian vocabulary and the country’s culture? Here are a few ways to make the process easier - and to avoid a complete freak out!

1. Prepare yourself psychologically

When starting something new, it’s important to have a clear idea of why you are embarking on the endeavor in the first place. Motivation is a driving force that will keep you going through the hardest periods of your studies, when you wish the nightmare would just end. Maybe you are dreaming about finding love in Russia or want to move here for work? Whatever it is, be prepared to put the hours in and dive into the tough grammar head first - you just have to roll your sleeves up and get on with it.

2. Focus on the grammar, grammar, grammar...

Ok, sounds boring, but getting to grips with Russian grammar is important. If you are not sure about how to go about this, sign up for language classes in your town. If it’s not possible, don’t worry – there are many Russian tutors online that offer different approaches. Find the one that suits you.

3. Learn basic words

To be able to talk at least some Russian, you needs to learn a list of basic words and phrases. Every language has a core of common vocab and Russian is no exception. Find a good exercise book that presents these words clearly and learn them fast. Don’t go for the quantity, go for the quality: Learning 100 words well is better than vaguely mesmerizing 1,000 and not knowing their meaning. Small steps, don’t get overloaded!

4. Try online courses and apps

There are several online tools to help you learn Russian. Check our guide here and choose one that’s best for you. For instance, consider the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s lessons by Skype: They cost 16 euros ($18.8) per class and can be as intensive as you wish.

5. Watch Russian movies and TV shows

Learning Russian pronunciation is not easy, but nothing is impossible. Try watching Russian movies or TV shows on Youtube, for example. They will not only help you with pronunciation but also open your mind to the realities of life in the country. Many Hollywood films are dubbed in Russian so you can watch them as well. Russia has a great cinematic history, so watch movies!

6. Study Russian in Russia

The most effective way to learn the language is to spend some time in the country – there’s no substitute for this. If you can spend time here you must. You’ll love it - that’s a guarantee. And if you really want to immerse yourself, avoid big Russian cities where many people speak English - head to the provinces. "If you live in a remote place where people only speak Russian, you will have no choice but to learn," says Peggy Lohse, a German editor at Russia Beyond.

This is the only way to completely immerse yourself in the Russian language, says Ajay Kamalakaran, author of Globetrotting for Love and Other Stories from Sakhalin Island. “When you are living abroad, the learning does not stop and therefore you become better at the language,” he notes.

7. Make Russian friends

Yes, nothing new here. Friends will teach you all the slang and swear words and show you how to party like a Russian. Finding a Russian girlfriend or a boyfriend, as everyone knows, is also a good idea: Pillow talk can be very effective method!

Hugh Mc Enaney, educator, voice actor, and author, originally from Ireland, lives with his family in Moscow and agrees that one should aim to mingle as much as possible with the natives. “I've met many great Russians in bars and restaurants and clubs and had chats about all kinds of stuff. Naturally, my Russian level goes up tenfold after a few drinks, or my confidence certainly does anyway,” he told Russia Beyond.

8. Talk with strangers on trains and public transport

Travelling by train in Russia is not only a great way to see the country but also to boost your language skills. At some point on your journey you will have to talk to strangers - get used to it!

“Get out and meet the local community, there are enough of them. Don't be shy and, as I say to my English students, make mistakes. They are not mistakes, they are simply opportunities for learning and growth,” says Mc Enaney.

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