Studying the Russian language


I don't know if I'd recommend investing in a formal course, at a university anyway.

You'll be in a group class with students from China/India/everywhere else waiting for your turn to answer (another) abstract grammar exercise. All it'll do is fuck your brain.

I think there's an element of domain dependence - you have four hours of Russian classes in a Russian university, therefore you'll learn Russian best?

It's like saying you'll get fitter by joining the gym. No, you can get fitter in the park for free. It's about what's most effective for you.

For me, group classes are a waste of time and money.

Take this morning - I could have joined the course at the uni. I would have joined two group classes (4 academic hours). It would take me an hour there and back. So in all I would have left at 08:00 and get back after lunch (let's say 14:00).

Instead, I watched a YT lesson already (1 ac. hr), will do a podcast lesson now (1 ac hr) do some study from my textbook (2 ac hrs) and then am meeting a studentka for a 'lesson'. All before lunch. All for free.

I guess it all depends on what works best for you. For me, it's way more efficient like this.

You're right about structure. But they're just gonna follow the same textbook, probably. There'd be set homework, but you'd need the same self discipline to do the same exercises.

Sociably, yeah maybe there's a benefit, but I went to have a look at the classes and didn't see anyone I'd likely want to hang out with. I went to one of their social events too, and there were zero Russian girls.


I only came on here to share a Russian video lesson I discovered today. Seems good -


For those of you who actually speak Russian:

Is there a huge variation of accents among Russian speakers? What accent is best to learn? Does Russian in Minsk, St. Pet, Moscow or say Kazan sound different?


ComebackKid said:
For those of you who actually speak Russian:

Is there a huge variation of accents among Russian speakers? What accent is best to learn? Does Russian in Minsk, St. Pet, Moscow or say Kazan sound different?

Not really sure about the Russian dialects.

But I've see on expat chat somewhere before dudes saying since the Russian 'o' is sometimes pronounced like an 'a'. Like OHA = Anna.

Some expat people say those in Moscow just pronounce every o an a. Just some unconfirmed info tho.
The "o" to "a" thing you are mentioning @AceP, is a normal and standard pronunciation rule, not a dialect/accent thing. Basically all unemphasised Os should be pronounced as As. People in Moscow are a little bit more lazy with this, but I would rather put this on a local-slang level rather than as an accent/dialect thing. An educated muscovite in a formal setting will still pronounce the emphasised Os.

As far as accents/dialects are concerned, I think the differences are minimal, considering there are 250 million Russian speakers. If you look at German or Italian, which have far fewer native speakers, the variation of dialects are just impressive, not so with Russian.

What you do have, as far as I can tell, are accents mostly by non-native or non-exclusively native Russian speakers. Ukrainians for example are known for having trouble saying "Г" and will pronounce it much more like an expired "h". This tendency will be stronger in Western Ukraine where people have Ukrainian as a mother tongue, but to a certain extent will happen in Eastern Ukraine as well, even where people have Russian as a mother tongue. There's also a whole range in between, as rural areas in Ukraine often speak a mix of Ukrainian and Russians (Суржик).
Similarly, caucasians and central asians will have their distinctive accents which may come from the fact that Russian isn't their native language, or even if they are native Russian speakers, because everyone else talks with this accent in their republic.

But inside Russia itself, and barring the cross-border influence of some of the other nationalities in the FSU, I don't think there is much accent / dialect variation. There is one standard language and the regional differences are minimal, as far as I have been able to find out. Anyone with fluent Russian who can weigh in on this?


I have lately found out about the Multi-Lingo Cultural Exchange evening sessions from Meetup. It's usually once or twice a week, depending on how big of a city you live in.

I attended one last week and was amazed at how good and well-organized it was. You're given a flag of languages you speak and want to practice, so you know off the moment you're there, who speaks what and it's a perfect excuse to talk. Everyone who attends wants to practice languages, so it's really great.

Had some great Russian conversation (and Polish) practice with both Russian folks and non-Russian folks learning the language, also a good exchange to see how others learnt the language and practice it. There were near 100 people there, so good for every taste and actually a lot more girls than guys. Everyone having a drink and open to talking. Pretty decent talent pool on the show too (much better than couch surfing meet ups)

Beer + girls + language practice + everyone wants to talk = what's not to this stage, I find it more useful than grammar practices and tenses etc.

Louis IX

icrus said:
No it's all the same. You have the odd word that exists in one city but not in another but Russian is everywhere the same.

Hello Ircus. I am not Russian , so can't compete with your knowledge. But after 1 year or more in Ukraine , and a 2 weeks trip in Kyrgyzstan , I can tell you that for a foreigner's ear , there is a lot of difference. In some countries the russian is much clearer , has a different accent.
I found half of ukrainian people to speak in very annoying surzhik or some kind of unclear russian. In Bishkek , everything was so clear. I am yet to go to various parts of Russia, and will report. these were my 2 cents.
I also feel that even though there is no accent depending on regions too much , some people speak very clearly and some people are almost impossible to understand. but I guess this goes with every country.

My main recommendation is to try if you live there in your circle of friends but also if you chat with someone on internet to find someone WHO CAN ONLY SPEAK RUSSIAN - it is the only way to progress and not get lazy. if someone speaks some english , you will end up using simple english many times. the only way to progress is to confront yourself to the reality of someone who can only speak russian.
While many will say that this is narrowing your horizons , there are still some gems who make the effort to speak slowly and/or to use not so complicated expressions.

Another way to progress is to play with kids. or at least to stay in playground and listen to kids . I have been absorbing a lot of basic verbs , expressions and i got the main logic while listening to kids. I would then once i try to understand grammar try to make the link between the explanation and what a kid said earlier (why did he use this verb and not that one , indefinite vs definite etc) . Of course you need for this to live in a russian speaking country.

once you have reached a certain basic level you have to not ot be afraid to be wrong , if you cannot use the right declination and case then just use the ones at nominative to avoid misunderstanding.
then you can just watch some bullshit tv series with dubbing , if you are lucky to have a native next to you and ask her two three times what does this and that mean.

Hope this helps.
Polniy_Sostav said:
icrus said:
No it's all the same. You have the odd word that exists in one city but not in another but Russian is everywhere the same.

Another way to progress is to play with kids. or at least to stay in playground and listen to kids . I have been absorbing a lot of basic verbs , expressions and i got the main logic while listening to kids.

However enthusiastic one is to learn Russian, it might not be the best idea for some middle-aged dude to go by himself to a playground and start chatting up kids he does not know. There is a chance it wont end well. :dodgy:


Gold Member
I've watched the first few episodes of this comedy series about an American journalist from New York that gets sent to work in Moscow. It's good practice and quite funny although it plays a lot on overused stereotypes.

One thing I like about it is that it covers many things that westerners experience when they first visit Russia, which is good convo material for dates.

I've noticed a lot of people talking about....what's the best way to learn Russian, I've only learnt this much, you gotta watch this etc etc ....

You know what you all need to start to get off this thread and start learning. Find whatever method suits you and just learn, repeat and memorise. Don't think about learning the language to bang girls, but rather your learning the language because it's your JOB. FORCE yourself to learn it.

I'm a maths teacher in a secondary school in the UK, and learning something is all about confidence. Anyone can learn anything, you just gotta believe it and be confident that you can do it.

I see it with the kids I'm teaching. You have to manipulate their minds into thinking they can do maths; and you know what, they actually do very well in my class.

Be patient, consistent and be confident you can do it. Stop wasting time and just do it.


I signed up for an exam about a month ago (TORFL I).

Having a concrete aim and money to lose has definitely made a big difference, and my Russian has improved a lot over that time.

I should have done that a lot sooner, and at each step. My Russian would be more advanced now for sure.

Without really knowing correct grammar and all, it's difficult to be understood, and without a reason to learn it, it's easy not.

Each exam is about $120, so enough money not to waste by failing, which is worth it for the motivation and progress. Even if I do fail that exam, my Russian is more advanced now than a month ago, so in a way an investment anyway.

Still, a week left. On that, enough internet...


@Sterling Archer: was this the TRKI-1 exam? Could you or anyone else whose taken this exam discuss the speaking and writing sections. I got the sample tests and have no trouble with the grammar, reading or listening comprehension, but obviously no way to test my speaking or writing with the sample test. Do they expect handwritten cursive Cyrillic? Do they nitpick the formation of cursive? Can you use cursive but separate the letters? Do you have to use correct uppercase cursive or just bigger versions of lowercase, for letters with slightly different official uppercase and lowercase cursive?


Another thing. I'm thinking of taking a TRKI-1 prep course at in Kiev. Anyone with experience with this school?

As with Sterling Archer, my reason for taking the test in the future (next summer) is to motivate myself between now and then. I'm really good with passive Russian (reading and listening comprehension) because I enjoy listening to Russian podcasts and reading classic Russian literature. But I seldom speak Russian, other than brief exchanges with shop clerks and such when in Ukraine, and I never write Russian. So I need some motivation to work on those areas.

Right now, I'm using this anki deck ( ) of 7560 Russian sentences to build my active speaking ability. Listen to computer spoken Russian, then try to repeat back in Russian, then press to see written version in both Russian and English. What happens is my mind automatically translates and stores spoken Russian in English form, since that's my native language, so then I have to translate back to Russian to speak. It's also possible to arrange the deck to show written English first, then you translate and speak in Russian, then you press to show the written Russian version and also computer spoken Russian. I might do that in the future.


Since I've already bumped this thread, a few more thoughts.

1) is a free pdf by a physician who uses his knowledge of neuroscience as a guide fur how to best learn languages. The final conclusion is pessimistic: there are no shortcuts. When vocabulary is significantly different, as with Russian, you're looking at maybe 1500 hours to high intermediate B2 fluency. Grammar and the Cyrillic alphabet are easy compared to vocabulary.

2) You really need a decent dictionary. I use ABBYY Lingvo. Be sure to buy the Ermolovich and Universal Russian-English and ExplanatoryBTS and Explanatory Russian-Russian dictionaries, since the free dictionaries are junk. ExplanatoryBTS gives full accent info whereas the Russian-English dictionaries only show nominal case and infinitive accents. Explanatory is the most complete dictionary. If reading Russian literature, many words only in that dictionary.

3) Moon Reader app integrates well with ABBYY on Amdroid, for those who like reading.

4) A rule in film is that a viewer should be able to figure out the story without understanding the spoken words. So movies not that great for learning foreign language. Podcasts and other audio recordings are more effective. Lots of stuff out there:,, etc.

5) You can get cheap teachers on for video lessons. If in Ukraine or Russia, buy one lesson on preply to get contact info, then meet in person and pay cash thereafter. Lessons work best AFTER you at B1 level or above.

6) TELC has some good mock exams to test your proficiency: , . These mock exams include sudio for testing listening comprehension.

7) The official Russian tests are TRKI-1, etc
Some sample exams here:


Finally, it's been a while since I was a beginner, but I highly recommend Pimsleur as your initial course. Don't be misled by how easy the first 10 lessons are. It soon gets more challenging. I used the 90 lesson course but there are now 120 lessons available. I recommend a new lesson each evening, then repeat that lesson the next morning. Be prepared to struggle some evenings, so set aside like 2 hours just in case you need to take a break and start over. Most times you'll only need the half-hour. The repetition next morning will be much easier can be done while lying in bed with eyes closed. Try to keep up this schedule 6 days a week (though of course 7 days/week best). This would allow you to move the Friday evening lesson to Saturday afternoon, so as to have both Friday and Saturday evenings free.

Assimil Sans Peine was also good. I used that after Pimsleur. You can order from the publisher: Shipping from France to USA is like $20 and takes a week in my experience.

Assimil includes a textbook, but you should also get other textbooks, such as New Penguin Russian Course by Nicholas Brown, since each such book tends to focus on different aspects of the language.

If you first do the Pimsleur course (new lesson each evening, repeat next morning, so hour per day total), then Assimil, I'd recommend reapeating Pimsleur at this point. Since third repetition, you should find it easy and can do it in the morning lying o inn bed with eyes closed. Spend half hour in evening on textbooks to make total of one hour per day. Then repeat Assimil while continuing to study textbooks.This should take one year in all, or 365 hours study. You'll still be a beginner but at least you'll have a good foundation of pronunciation, about 1000 words, basic understanding of grammar. To get the 1500 hours study required by most people for B2 fluency will take another 3-4 years.


Gold Member
I passed the ТРКИ 2 (B2) test a couple of years ago. The hardest part was the writing, where you had to learn formal vocab for a complaint letter and some other stuff that's probably not super useful. For the grammar, you just have to take many tests and see what your weak points are. At a b2 level they already expect you to get your cases right 90% of the time in writing and they also target more complex things like subtle differences in the use of verbal aspect.

For vocab, your best best is to read proper books as soon as you can, even if it takes frequent word checking. Listening to some podcasts or youtube video audios is also very useful. I wrote more about this in this post:

At the end of the day though, the only shortcut to fluency is to live/spend a lot of time in a Russian speaking country.

If you live around Russian speakers I'd estimate you can go from absolute beginner to fluent in around 2 years.


@Gopnik: ТРКИ-2 is much harder than ТРКИ-1, I can see from those sample tests I linked to. But in regards to the writing, I had some questions. Do they expect handwritten cursive Cyrillic? Do they nitpick the formation of cursive? Can you use cursive but separate the letters versus connecting them? Do you have to use correct uppercase cursive or just bigger versions of lowercase, for letters with slightly different official uppercase and lowercase cursive?

I never ever write handwritten Russian, so this would be something I'd have to learn specifically for the test. I'm not too worried about grammar or vocabulary in the writing part of the ТРКИ-1 test, since I frequently write emails in Russian using my smartphone. (Though my spelling might need some work, since the smartphone has a spell checker.)