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A Beginner’s Starter Guide to Learning Russian

There’s a lot to love about the idea of learning Russian. You’ll be able to read some of the greatest classical writers (think Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Nabokov, just to name a few), you’ll have access to awesome Russian music and films, and you’ll be able to navigate your way around one of the most beautiful nations in the world! That’s not the only benefit to knowing Russian; these days Russia is a global powerhouse and, with tensions between Russia and the West often high, knowing Russian can increase your chances of nailing a coveted government job. Whatever your reasons for learning this delightful language, you may be feeling at a bit of a loss about where to start. Fear not, we’re here to give you something of a ‘beginner’s boost.’ Read our Russian starter guide for tips on how to begin learning Russia’s native tongue, and start your language journey today!

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Find a solid beginner’s course

First things first, you need to make sure you find a course that will cater to your needs as a fledgling learner of Russian. It can be tempting to take the route of self-taught courses, but many experts advise against isolating yourself while trying to learn a language. A good tutor or teacher can give on-the-spot help and advice that you won’t get from a computer program, and, even better, mould the course according to your strengths and weaknesses. The best idea, if you really want to learn Russian effectively, is to do both! Going through a Russian course at your own pace at home, but also having a tutor you see once or twice a week, will help you to advance and learn more quickly.

Check out our free Russian placement test to see how your level measures up!

 Find a language-exchange partner

 You can usually find a language-exchange partner through your local university or by even asking your language teacher. Spending time practising with a native speaker will be a valuable addition to your language learning process. It doesn’t matter if you can barely say ‘hello’ and ask ‘where’s the bathroom’, seek out a conversation partner anyways. By the end of your first language-exchange session you’ll have a plethora of new phrases that you’ve learned to use! The great thing about chatting in an informal setting with a native Russian speaker is that you’ll also learn how people use the language casually out in the real world.

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Take a trip

You may think it’s a terrible idea to take a trip to a Russian-speaking country when you can barely speak the language, but immersion can be an intense learning experience and a great way to get over your hang-ups and fear of making mistakes. When I first moved to Taipei, I knew only a handful of Mandarin words, but within a week I was making amazing strides with the language— this is something which would not have been possible back home. The same goes for Russian. It may seem scary, but you’ll return home more enriched by the experience and much more confident in your language abilities.

Listen to Russian music and films

You don’t need to be fluent in Russian to start appreciating the music and movies available in this language. In fact, even as a beginner you should be listening to Russian music and films every single day. Most teacher say that actively listening (or watching) for around 15 minutes per day can have a huge positive impact on your language progress. As my language teacher once explained to me: in the beginning you’ll find yourself spending the entire 15 minutes reading the English subtitles and feeling overwhelmed, soon you’ll need the subtitles a little less and will pick up words and phrases, and before you know it the subtitles will be a handy tool that you turn to only on occasion!

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Be consistent

I can’t drive this point home enough: if you want to successfully learn Russian you need to commit to the language. And you’ve got to do it as a beginner. From the first day you start learning the language commit to consistently listening or watching at least 15 minutes of music or film in Russian. Commit to attending every single one of your tutoring sessions. Commit to putting yourself out there and try to meet people who are native-speakers. You’ll be amazed at how important consistency is for your learning process, and find that all that hard work and commitment will pay off big time in the end!

Do you have any tips for new Russian language learners? Share a few with us!