8 GREAT ways to learn Russian online

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It’s true, Russian is difficult. It takes the average English speaker 1,100 hours to master Russkiy. That’s almost twice the time needed to learn French, Spanish or even Swahili! But, even if you’re not planning to spy for the CIA or read Tolstoy, there are still many reasons to put the time into learning Russian, especially now. Read on to find out where you can begin your Russian language adventure online!

The ‘AБВ’ of Cyrillic

1. Real Russian Club 

Free Youtube Videos + Paid Courses

Daria, the bouncy redhead behind ‘Real Russian Club’, has a knack of making even the most basic of beginner lessons exciting. Stories, and not grammar tables, are the focus of the Real Russian Club. Her YouTube videos on the Cyrillic alphabet, basic Russian phrases and general vocabulary will get you from zero to pre-intermediate in no time. For intermediate, everyday Russian, tune in to her free ‘Slow Russian’ podcast. Thanks to Daria’s PhD in Russian history, a ton of fascinating cultural and historical insight is also woven into the language learning. 

2. Babbel

Free for students

This language app delivers results. It’s no frills word drills, bite-sized grammar rules and phrase builders make learning easy-peasy. Usually, it costs around 10 Euros per month, but now it’s free for all students during lockdown. The speed with which this app will have you speaking Russian is impressive, but it comes with drawbacks. An app can’t teach you whether it’s appropriate to call a middle aged woman devushka (“girl; young woman”) or the distinction between saying dobriy dien (“good day”) and den dobriy (“day good”). These subtle, but important, features of culture and language can only be learnt from an actual Russian. 

Getting to Know the Genders 

3. Russian Pod 101


Are YouTube videos too fake for your taste? Then sink your teeth into all the nuance and richness of Russian through the in-depth descriptions and countless exercises on ‘Russian Pod 101’. Its textbook-like approach to teaching is thorough. Its catalogue of lessons runs into the thousands and covers all levels, from beginner to C1. The material is also culturally relevant; you won’t be taught how to say absolutely ridiculous, outdated sentences like in an old textbook. It is a shame however, that the audio recordings weren’t all done by natives. While the English co-hosts try hard, only a Russian can teach how to roll an R properly.


Free YouTube Videos

There’s no time for balabolka in RU-LAND’s four-minute youtube videos. The host, Nika, covers all the pesky parts of Russian, like exceptions to rules and endings in her no-nonsense lessons. If you’re stuck at the semi-conversational stage and just need to solidify your understanding of a few tricky grammar rules or brush up your vocabulary, RU-LAND will get you speaking faster than you can say zdravstvuyte (“hello”)! 

5. Learn Russian RT

100% Free

Unlike other Russian language resources, which claim to be free, but are really “freemiums”, the ‘Learn Russian’ site by RT truly is free. And because it is funded by the Russian government, there are no hidden costs. 

Though less fancy and colorful than other sites, the quality of its explanations and exercises is on par with those provided by the leading language schools. The exercises on this site are especially good for cementing difficult grammar though loads of repetition. For conversation practice, the endless recordings of real-life situations are unbeatable!

Talk Like a Local

6. Easy Russian

Free Youtube Videos + Paid Courses

It’s worth learning Russian simply to have an awesome teacher like Masha! Fresh, beaming and funny, her YouTube lessons don’t feel like lessons at all. But even though the channel is called ‘Easy Russian’, beginners won’t have much luck without English subtitles. All her vlogs are almost entirely in Russian and despite the fun, they can get intense. Her hit videos include topics like her love life and leaving America. Advanced students can enjoy hours of edutainment and beginners, well, they have something to look forward to.

7. Elena Jung

Free Youtube Videos

DIY protein shakes and how to sharpen a knife aren’t things that usually come to mind when you think of learning a foreign language. Somehow, Elena’s videos on these very things are unbelievably helpful for learning Russian. Plunge head-first into real Russian; the kind you’ll hear in a kvartira (“apartment”), not from an outdated textbook and roll up your sleeves for some DIY-ing with Elena!

8. Coursera: Russian as a tool for successful communication

100% Free Course

This course is a challenge. It’ll turn all the rules you’ve learnt on their head; it’ll force you to critically analyse the way you speak and then change your Russian, for the better. Developed by The National Research Tomsk State University with native speakers in mind, this course is only for the most competent students of Russian. Unlike other advanced courses, the focus of this course is refreshingly forward-looking. The professor running this course is no grammar nazi; quite the contrary, she challenges the old and looks to find the best in modern Russian. 

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