How to Learn Russian Fast – 15 Learning Strategies + Tips
Wrapping your head around Russian grammar and vocabulary is the first step to demystifying the Russian language. Yet, your selected learning approach could make or break your mastery of the language, especially if you are interested in learning it fast.
In this tutorial, aspirational and flourishing polyglots are introduced to the basics, complemented by useful tips to make them stick quickly. Care to begin your tour of the Russian language landscape and know how to learn Russian fast? Let’s dive in.
How to Learn Russian Fast – Overview
As the seventh most spoken language globally and highly regarded by top-tier employers, Russian is indisputably beneficial for personal as much as professional development. Anyone studying Russian can testify to the dedication, patience, and adaptability that the learning process calls for, promising to be a catalyst for quick character-building.
Learning Russian can also meaningfully broaden your cultural compass, opening doors not only to Russia but also to other Russian-speaking regions. These include (but are certainly not limited to) Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Russian is likely to feel the most challenging at the onset of your learning journey, as you’ll be introduced to the distinctive Cyrillic alphabet, intricate grammar, and rolling your R’s – a key skill to master if you aspire to sound like a native. It’s a good thing there are plenty of tips and tricks to help you learn these fast and start practicing Russian from Day 1.
Traditionally, you can get certified as a Basic User (A1/A2), an Intermediate User (B1/B2), and an Advanced User (C1/C2) by taking the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) for each level, earning you a valuable accreditation for your language passport.
Let’s look and 4 major and common strategies on how to learn Russian fast.
1. Don’t Study Russian Grammar Independently of the Rest of the Language
With grammar being most people’s least favorite aspect of language learning (unless you are a rule fanatic), it hardly helps that Russian grammar is infamous for being notoriously complex and, as such, intimidating. For this reason, people tend to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to trying to master it and consider it to be every learner’s top priority.
In reality, although there is nothing bad about reaching for a grammar book on your first day, a pro tip for hacking Russian grammar fast is to see it play out in action.
In the spirit of a more holistic approach, opt for a real-life example and see grammar being used as one of the many cogs that make the Russian language go round. Rather than isolating grammar from the rest of your learning process, you can develop your understanding of it as you expand your vocabulary, and learn to speak and read Russian.
A good and simple tip for doing this is through the use of instructional videos that cover grammar as part of a real-life scenario. In FluentU’s vast database of interactively transcribed media content, you can find a video sample of a Russian couple’s first date. Such contextual tools can teach you Russian grammar alongside situational vocabulary.
Another traditional method of learning Russian grammar fast is to read Russian books line-by-line. With the additional benefit of refining your analytical skills, this exercise helps you appreciate the function of Russian grammar in many different forms. Children’s books are a great place to start before moving on to more advanced, language-rich literature.
2. Learn The Core Russian Vocabulary First
According to the United Language Group1, the Russian lexicon is less than half the size of its English counterpart, meaning that in theory accumulating Russian vocabulary should not be as daunting as it sounds, pronunciation and spelling aside!
“Where is the best place to start?” you may ask. Consider exploring the core vocabulary of the Russian language. The internet spoils us for choice, RussianPod101 being only one example of the many platforms that offer just such vocabulary lists, ranging from everyday diction to food, occupation, recreation, and much more.
If you’re looking to enrich your Russian vocabulary fast and retain as much of it as possible, try microlearning: a method that involves dedicating no more than a quarter of an hour to learning your language of choice. It is a streamlined approach to developing a strong vocabulary arsenal, as having only 15 minutes to focus on your list stops you from going through it mindlessly and prompts you to engage in the exercise more consciously.
Remember: consistency is key to retaining the vocabulary you learn! If you’re keen to learn Russian vocabulary fast don’t forget to revise it at spaced intervals. Start by revising freshly-acquired language daily until you are confident that it’s beginning to stick. Then, revise it less frequently and repeat the process as you accumulate novel vocabulary.
If you’re a flashcard fan, this is the time to break them out! If you enjoy virtual flashcards, check out Quizlet, a platform for custom study material that has a built-in test mechanism. Instead of just putting the translation on the flip side of your flashcard, consider adding visual aid to stimulate the mental association process that promotes better recall.
Vocabulary practice can also take the form of sentence-building. Sentence-building can not only help you practice your core vocabulary list but it can also add useful non-core language to your vocabulary bank.
For example, the Russian translation of the verb “to love” is likely to feature in all the core vocabulary lists out there. What you might not find as readily is the Russian equivalent of the plural noun “puppies”. So, if you’re someone that loves puppies (and you most probably are!), you might consider adding it to your vocabulary.
While this is just one example, sentence-building is a fun and creative tip for expanding your vocabulary quickly and acquiring versatile language that you might not have been taught until much later in your learning journey.
Tip: Ready to learn a language? Browse our lists of best Italian courses or German courses or English courses or French classes or Portuguese classes or Mandarin classes or Japanese classes or Spanish classes online.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Native Russian Speakers
We spoke earlier about the value of regularly practicing your vocabulary to learn it faster. Well, the same is true for all the skills that determine Russian proficiency, especially speaking and listening. Once you have some vocabulary locked in and a light grasp of Russian grammar, don’t be shy to seek out a native Russian speaker for real-life practice.
Whether you choose to attend a Russian cultural event in your area, invite a Russian-speaking friend out for coffee (or chai, the more traditional hot beverage in Russia), or simply hire a Russian tutor, you’ll be doing yourself a favor on the pronunciation front.
As you can imagine, pronouncing Russian correctly from Day 1 can help you learn Russian faster; no need to backpedal and correct it later on. In a conversational scenario, you can practice your speaking, attune your ear to the Russian language, and emulate the intonation, pronunciation, and rhythm, entrenching you in the mind of a Russian native.
While speaking to a native on the spot is a great tip for occasional practice, the best approach to perfect your pronunciation fast is to hire a one-to-one tutor that can also hold you accountable for your learning. Consider choosing a private tutor that is right for you as early as possible in your learning journey so that you can start using Russian from Day 1.
When it comes to fast learning, a key benefit of hiring a private tutor is that the teaching pace is dictated by your goals alone, meaning that you can reach proficiency quicker.
When picking a tutor, consider limiting your search to those that conduct at least the majority of their teaching in Russian, as you’ll be more likely to learn it quicker. Also, take note of their availability as, if they are in high demand, you may not be able to learn Russian as frequently, intensely, and quickly as you’d like.
4. Implement the Russian Language in Your Daily Life and Activities
It may be a simple tip, but it can make a real difference in accelerating your learning of Russian. It is a tip inspired by the academically proven notion that total immersion in a foreign language helps one learn it faster, understand it better, and use it more natively.
What does “implementing Russian” in your life look like? Let’s have a look at three practical steps for incorporating Russian into your day-to-day life, like a true “Ruskiy”:
Change your phone’s language settings to Russian.
Once you’re no longer a complete stranger to the Cyrillic alphabet, changing your phone’s language settings could be a helpful little tip for getting you to think in Russian outside the parameters of structured learning.
“Russifying” your phone can reinforce core vocabulary, such as the date, and introduce you to vocabulary that your formal learning may not have yet touched on, bringing you one step closer to learning Russian faster than your peers. Get ready to say “Privet Siri!”
Add your favorite Russian hits to your Spotify playlist.
A personal favorite, this is a great tip for learners of every level, although you’ll probably enjoy it more if you’re a music-loving, carpool karaoke kind of person.
Start by going through the Russian-themed playlists on Spotify/Apple Music for tunes that tickle your fancy, and enable real-time lyrics. Study the lyrics line-by-line and look up any vocabulary that is unfamiliar to you. As you become more fluent, you can do your best to sing along and test your ability to keep up.
Listen to a Russian podcast on your commute.
Make the most of your time in traffic by plugging into a podcast that is tailored to on-the-go learning. While you’ll find a great deal of free audio content on YouTube, Daria’s “Real Russian Club” channel is a good place to start. Even if you play these podcasts in the background, the language still seeps into the unconscious part of your brain.
Tip: Here is a general guide on how to learn a language fast. You can also dive into our guides of How to Learn Spanish Fast or How to Learn Italian or How to Learn English or How to Learn Japanese.
More Tips for Learning Russian Fast
5. “Netflix and Chill” Using Russian Subtitles
Who said learning Russian can’t be fun? Apply Russian subtitles to your favorite Netflix film and see if you can still make sense of it using only the subtitles. Pause the film regularly to look up any unfamiliar language and add it to your vocabulary list.
6. Travel to a Russian-Speaking Country
Where better to pick up Russian organically than in a Russian-speaking country? Not only can you access the authentic and unadulterated sound of Russian pronunciation from a born-and-bred native, but you can also truly immerse yourself in Russian culture.
7. Join a Russian Book Club for Russian Language Students
Keep your eye out for a Russian Book Club targeted specifically at people studying Russian as a foreign language. As discussed earlier, reading books in Russian is a tried and tested method of mastering Russian grammar and vocabulary fast. No such club in your area? Why not start one yourself?
8. Keep a List of Russian Slang and Colloquial Terminology
To sound like a believable native, you cannot overstate the importance of slang. Sound like a confident Russian in no time by keeping a list of every bit of slang you come across. To kick off, start by adding блин (pronounced “blin”) to the list; it can mean “pancake” or “dang” depending on the context!
9. Implement a “Word of the Day” Ritual to Learn Russian Daily
When building your Russian vocabulary, keep the momentum going outside the classroom by starting a “Word of the Day” ritual. You can find an auto-generated “Word of the Day” here2 or check out Real Russian Club’s YouTube Shorts for “Words of the Day”.
10. Find a Russian Pen Pal
Writing skills are just as important as speaking, listening, and reading if you’re looking to reach intermediate or advanced Russian proficiency. Find yourself a virtual Pen Pal and chat with them about a myriad of topics, giving you a chance to practice your Russian and learn to sound like a native even on paper.
11. Use a Russian Recipe
Consulting a traditional Russian recipe can give you invaluable insight into the Russian language and culture. For example, soups are inseparable from the everyday life of Russian people. As such, studying a traditional recipe in Russian can teach you the language that permeates every Russian home on a daily basis, such as “зажаркa”: the fried concoction of cabbage, carrot, and onion that is added to every Russian soup.
12. Eat Out at a Russian Restaurant
If you’re not much of a cook, try your luck at your local Russian restaurant. A traditional menu can give you a taste of the insight discussed in the previous tip and you can practice ordering your meal in Russian. Exchange “bon appetit!” for “приятного аппетита!”
13. Use the Google Translate App to Learn Russian
Next time you’re out and about, try the camera translation feature of the Google Translate app. Simply point your mobile camera at any text in front of you, be it in English or Russian, and get the respective translation. Have a go at translating road signs, menus, and public notices, and develop your vocabulary list much faster.
14. Play your Favorite Mobile Game in Russian
There is a high chance that your favorite mobile game is also available in Russian. If, like me, you are a Wordle fan, you can play Wordle Unlimited in Russian and learn a language that is more ambiguous, helping you add rare gems to your Russian vocabulary collection.
15. Use Post-it Notes to Your Advantage
Sticking Post-it notes on objects around your house is a great visual aid for consolidating your learning. Scribble the object’s Russian translation on the Post-it or use different colors to represent each object’s “gender” (i.e. “fridge” = masculine; “oven” = feminine). Group similar objects together and label them in stages, doing the contents of your fridge first and moving on to kitchen appliances.
Online Courses to Learn Russian Fast
With a particular focus on sentence-building and pronunciation, this online course aims to mold you into an autonomous Russian speaker that can converse spontaneously, fluently, and confidently. Russia’s rich culture is interlaced into the teaching, promising to be incredibly relevant should you plan on traveling to Russia.
This course puts storytelling at the heart of language learning, employing the same passive method used to teach Russian children their mother tongue. The objective of this course is to help you build a strong lexical and grammatical foundation through the Story Method, teaching you to speak Russian intuitively.
With Red Kalinka, you get to learn Russian from a beginner to an advanced level by enrolling in a video course or signing up for private Skype tutorials delivered by a native Russian speaker. Both styles are supported by a pool of helpful videos and audiobooks.
Final Supplementary Tips To Learn Russian
We have covered in great length some of the top tips and tricks for learning Russian fast. You are encouraged to pick a handful that speaks to your personal learning style and that, most importantly, you can stick to (consistency is key!). When you carefully sift through these tips to create a custom learning approach that suits you, remember to:
Have a clear learning outcome in mind.
Learning Russian fast looks different for everyone. Are you planning on traveling to Russia and your focus is almost exclusively on learning to speak Russian fast? Or are you looking to achieve all-around proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and composition? Pinpoint a learning outcome so that you can focus on the topics and skills that serve to fulfill your goal as quickly as possible.
Expose yourself to a variety of Russian speakers.
Even if your tutor is a Russian native, it is important to vary the Russian speakers that you listen to. This protects you from being caught off guard in a real-life conversation, should the person’s accent or talking speed be different from your tutor’s. Secondary resources, such as podcasts and songs, can really come in handy here!
Reserve the majority of your studying for the evening.
Sleep is great, isn’t it? What if I told you that it also plays a major role in consolidating the information you pick up during the day? This makes evenings (or any time before you nap/sleep) the ideal time to study Russian, so that the process of memory consolidation3 can begin shortly after you’ve closed your book or said “dasvidaniya” to your tutor.
Get comfortable making mistakes.
You’ll have certainly heard at some point in your life that practice makes perfect. What this idiom doesn’t spell out for you is that mistakes are a crucial part of that practice. By daring to make mistakes, you can learn Russian much faster than if you avoid them like the plague. Leaving your pride at the door is the first step to learning Russian faster.
How To Learn Russian Fast – Conclusion
Wrapping up our guide on how to learn Russian fast. While there are many tips and tricks that you can use to accelerate your Russian learning, there are a handful of fail-safe, scientifically-proven methods that you should consider incorporating into your learning plans, such as hiring a private tutor, using spaced repetition to revise vocabulary, and immersing yourself in the Russian language and culture.
With these handy techniques under your belt, you can pepper supplementary tricks throughout your learning to make it more personal and fun, such as listening to and translating Russian songs, or joining a Russian Book Club.
When choosing from the list, be sure to ask yourself: am I able to commit to this method in the long term? If not, you may risk stalling your learning and the said method might not be right for you. If yes, give it a try and, most importantly, remember to enjoy the journey. Waste no time and start/continue your Russian learning today!
How To Learn Russian Fast – Tips
- Don’t Study Russian Grammar Independently of the Rest of the Language
- Learn The Core Vocabulary First
- Don’t Underestimate the Value of Native Russian Speakers
- Implement the Russian Language in Your Daily Life and Activities
- Travel to a Russian-Speaking Country
- Join a Russian Book Club for Russian Language Students
- Keep a List Exclusively for Russian Slang and Colloquial Terminology
- Find a Russian Pen Pal
- Reserve the majority of your Russian language studying for the evening.
Russian Language Learning Resources
- Be Fluent in Russian – YouTube – View
- 50 Words in Russian Everyone Should Know – YouTube – View
- Learn Russian with Daria – YouTube – View
What is your learning Russian experience? Have you got any other practical tips on how to learn Russian fast?´ Please let us know and contact us via email.
Sources: Russian Language – Wikipedia | United Language Group – 1 | Word of the Day – 2
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