Detailed and Honest RussianPod101 Review

RussianPod101 Review

It can be hard to find good, reliable resources for learning the Russian language.

I became a fluent speaker of Russian while doing language immersion in Russia recently and I can say from experience that it was a daily struggle without good learning material.

For such an important language like Russian there’s a disappointing lack of quality audio and video material online for learners like us.

The best online audio resource for learning Russian that I’ve seen is this one here (if you click here and scroll down to where the sample audio is you’ll see what I mean) but Innovative Language’s RussianPod101 is a great resource too.

As a comprehensive resource full of audio and video content ranging from introductory and absolute beginner level right through to advanced, RussianPod101 is not just one of the only options but also great as far as online learning tools for Russian go.

 

The RussianPod101 dashboard

RussianPod101 ReviewSo just a quick run-down on what you see when you first enter RussianPod101.

The RussianPod101 dashboard can be a little overwhelming when you first log in but it helps to know that nearly everything you need is under the Browse Lessons tab on the top left of the screen.

All of the lesson content is divided up between either audio or video lessons.

Once you click through to one of these sections, you’ll find all of the lesson content under categories on the left-hand side of the screen based on their level of difficulty.

As I said above, it starts at Absolute Beginner and goes through to Advanced but there’s also an Introduction category that familiarizes you with the Russian language, culture, country and history.

If Russia interests you then there’s quite a lot in this section that’ll you’ll enjoy.

Clicking on any of the categories brings you to a long list of courses which link to topical lessons on just about every real life scenario you’ll encounter in Russia.

The great thing about RussianPod101 in contrast with a lot of other Innovative Language editions is that there’s a large and even amount of lessons and content across every level – from the easiest content to the hardest.

In some of the other Innovative Language editions like ArabicPod101 for example, most of the lessons are only at Absolute Beginner level and then there’s not much else beyond that.

RussianPod101 therefore appears to be one of the most comprehensive and complete editions they’ve made.

 

Content delivery and style of the RussianPod101 audio lessons

The lesson delivery and style of RussianPod101 is quite unique in that each lesson is a podcast where two people explain the target for the lesson (similar to TTMIK if you’ve ever studied Korean before).

I’ve often said in the past that I don’t personally enjoy language learning podcasts because I’m a pretty impatient guy and I like to get straight to the point but for many people this provides an interesting and non-overwhelming way to learn.

The good thing is if you are like me and don’t want to listen to a conversation about Russian that’s mostly in English, you can actually just listen to the Russian dialogue directly by clicking the Dialogue feature.

RussianPod101 Review

You’re also able to download the dialogues as MP3 files which then makes a handy repetitive listening tool when you’re not sitting in front of the computer.

Two of the best features of the RussianPod101 lessons are the PDF lesson notes and the line-by-line vocab and expressions.

The written notes that accompany every lesson on the site are incredibly detailed and comprehensive – in fact some of the most impressive work on written lesson material I’ve ever seen (and I work as a language educator!). Someone has clearly put in an enormous of time and detail to explain each concept for you (again, RussianPod101 contains much better content than some of the other Innovative Language titles that I’ve seen).

As well as being able to listen to the entire Russian dialogue, you can click on the ‘Line-by-line Audio’ and ‘Vocabulary’ features to listen to individual parts of the dialogue which are written in Russian, English and Romanized Russian (Russian written in English letters).

If you need help with pronounciation, you can also record your own voice and compare it to the native speaker’s voice using their recording tool (though a native speaker teacher is always going to more helpful for this).

If you come across new vocabulary, you can add them to your word bank or send them to the inbuilt flashcard app (which is another great Innovative Language feature).

Then if you want to test how well you’ve learned the content, there’s a review section with multiple choice and written quizzes at the end.

 

What about the RussianPod101 video lesson quality?

It varies.

Some of the videos are frankly rubbish and others are absolutely excellent quality.

As I said in my ArabicPod101 review, a few of the vocabulary video lessons are frustrating because they’re basically just slides of images with annoying elevator-style music that’s meant to be a backing track but is actually playing louder than the voices so you can’t hear the words clearly.

Thankfully you can use the Lesson Materials tool under the videos to hear the words pronounced anyway so it’s still redeemable. :)

The two series of videos which I think are effing brilliant are the ones by Katya and the Bonus Listening Comprehension videos.

Katya’s a Russian woman who goes through various expressions and vocabulary teaching you how to pronounce and use them. She’s got a great personality and her lesson delivery is effective and easy to follow.

RussianPod101 Review

The Bonus videos for listening comprehension are really challenging but probably my favorite out of all of them. You’re shown images and have to listen to dialogue in Russian carefully to make decisions and select the right answer. It’s a fantastic way to get you really honing your listening skills.

There’s no shortage of video material on RussianPod101 and just as the audio content is quite thorough so are the video lessons.

You’re also able to download the PDF and video files.

 

The Russian resources tab

Just a quick note on the Russian Resources tab at the top.

One of the criticisms I made of ArabicPod101 was that the content in these resources was skant and pointless.

For RussianPod101 this is not the case.

They’ve actually put in a lot of effort evidently to make a really thorough and useful resource section that explains things like the alphabet, grammar and essential vocabulary in great detail.

This is where you’ll also find the online Russian dictionary and you can search for either single words or whole expressions which return both a written and audio search result (many of the audio search results are in both male and female voices too so you can hear the variation).

I personally love the Word Lists which you can add to the in-built flashcard app or even run as a slide show.

RussianPod101 Review

 

Does the RussianPod101 approach work?

There are two important responses I received from Innovative Languages that I’ll share with you here.

Firstly regarding the methodology of RussianPod101:

Innovative Language believes in practical expressions, aligned to CEFR proficiency levels, in the natural context of native speech. Most lessons, then, begin with a dialogue in which a language skill is introduced in context. The rest of the lessons then go on to talk more about the cultural context in which the dialogue takes place, and the key vocabulary, phrases, morphology, and syntax that allow the learner to carry out the particular language task.

As I’ve said before, I believe this is a right approach to teaching and it works.

Especially with a language like Russian where the conventional approach is to go through grueling grammar lessons first, RussianPod101 just focuses on natural use of the language – teaching in context.

Most modern communicative teaching methods focus on this same approach and are much more effective in bringing students to fluency than tedious memorization of rules.

Regarding the freedom that RussianPod101 teachers have to be flexible and unique in their content creation:

The native speakers who create the content have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach, though we have a few standard series, such as Survival Phrases, that teach roughly the same kinds of expressions across all of our languages.

Innovative Language lessons are aligned to CEFR levels, and we typically ask that teachers try to teach to a standardized set of internal Can Do statements when preparing the dialogues and the grammar and vocabulary information.

What you’ll find with all Innovative Language editions is that there is some consistency across all languages – especially with the Beginner level content.

When you get to the higher levels however, the native speakers who the work has been contracted out to have more flexibility to produce unique and interesting content.

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing.

One of the comments I made regarding ArabicPod101 was that the content appears to be far too haphazard – it’s all over the place and lacking clear direction with a desired learning outcome.

I think RussianPod101 does a better job at not making this mistake.

There is a real risk when you hand over content creation to various people that things will get sloppy but the team at RussianPod101 seem to have maintained some great consistency on quality and content.

If you’d like to check RussianPod101 out for yourself then you make a trial 7 day account by clicking here.

 

Have you used RussianPod101 before? What are your thoughts on it? Comment below! :)

25 Prolific Language Learning Bloggers You Should Follow

Language Learning Bloggers

UPDATE: The original list here has been updated, revised and expanded (again) for 2015.

If there’s a blogger who should be in this list then let us know in the comment section below.

***

I thought I’d put together a short list of who I consider to be some of the most prolific and authoritative bloggers on language learning at present.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of every language blogger out there (there are loads of others I deliberately didn’t include for one reason or another and probably a lot that I don’t know about as well). I haven’t included popular websites (e.g. HTLAL forum) that aren’t blogs either.

When I started scouring the net for the best language learning blogs I found the lack of good quality, reputable blogs on this topic frustrating, not to mention how much I had to dig in order to find them. It’s good to read up on other people’s success and struggles in language learning, and to take what you can use from their various (and often conflicting) methods and approaches.

The people I’ve mentioned below may know several languages but all of them have languages of specialization or expertise to some extent. Many of them may blog about language learning in general but each of them have specialist knowledge of certain languages.

If you know of a blogger (either language-specific or general language learning) that should be mentioned here, add your input in the comments section below and I’ll update this list! :)

 

Olly Richards

Olly Richards IWTYALBlog: I Will Teach You A Language

Languages: English (native), Japanese, Cantonese, Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.

Product: Language Learning Foundations

His site in his own words:

“I’ll show you the techniques I’ve used to learn seven languages and how you can do it too.”

Olly’s a friend of mine who works as a language educator and is currently in Egypt learning Arabic. He offers loads of sound advice for language learners based on his own many years of experience as both a learner and teacher.

Check out his post: 7 year old speaks 5 languages

 

Benny Lewis

Benny Lewis - Fluent In 3 MonthsBlog: Fluent in 3 Months

Languages: English (native), Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin, Dutch, American Sign Language

Products: Fluent in 3 Months PremiumWhy Spanish Is EasyWhy German Is EasyWhy Italian Is EasyWhy Chinese Is EasyWhy English Is Easy (bundle)

His site in his own words:

“Over the past 10 years, I’ve developed a simple system for learning languages. Using this system, I can be confident at speaking any language in as little as three months.”

Benny has a popular blog that follows his travels and short-term language learning missions where he documents his progress speaking from day one.

Check out his YouTube channel: Irishpolyglot

 

Hyunwoo Sun (+ TTMIK team)

hyunwoosunBlog name: Talk To Me In Korean

Languages: Korean (native), English.

Product: My Korean Store and HaruKorean (see my review of one of their books here)

By far my favourite language learning site and really needs no introduction. The TTMIK blog consistently produces outstanding, high quality content and is really unmatched by any other language-specific site that I know of.

Check out the post: TTMIK Audio Blog – Instant Food

 

Eoin Ó Conchúir

Eoin Bitesize Irish GaelicBlog: Bitesize Irish Gaelic blog

Languages: English (native), Irish.

Product: Bitesize Irish Gaelic (which I reviewed here) and Learn Irish With Eoin

I’ve always recommended Bitesize Irish Gaelic to new learners of Irish but I’d also like to mention here that Eoin runs a blog where you’ll find some excellent posts about Ireland and the Irish language. The posts by Audrey Nickel in particular are very good.

Check out this post: Irish Gaelic: The Problem of Phonetics

 

Jared Romey

Jared RomeyBlog: Speaking Latino

Languages: English (native), Spanish (various dialects).

Product: Several books and ebooks on Spanish dialects.

His site in his own words:

“My books and now this website are a consequence of my early bumblings in Spanish, repeated bouts with culture shock, and confusions over the correct words for popcorn, gasoline, pen, bus, underwear, traffic jam and drinking straw.”

Jared guest posted here a while back. His blog in my opinion should be the first point of call for anyone undertaking Spanish, especially Latin American varieties.

Check out his post: Become Fluent Faster By Ignoring These 5 Spanish Fundamentals

 

Angel Huang

Angel Huang - MandarinHQBlog: MandarinHQ

Languages: Mandarin (native), English

Product: None.

Her site in her own words:

“We’re here to help you bridge the gap between textbook Chinese and real spoken Chinese.”

I’ve included Angel’s site here because I think her videos are amazing and I love her approach. If you’re learning Mandarin you should definitely subscribe to this.

Check out her post: “Become” a Native Chinese Speaker with the Character Shadowing Technique

 

Luca Lampariello

Luca LamparielloBlog: The Polyglot Dream

Languages: Italian (native), English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Romanian.

Product: None.

His site in his own words:

“This blog is entirely dedicated to my biggest passion: languages.”

Luca’s a co-founder of the Polyglot Conference and is a prolific YouTuber. He’s very clear about the fact that language learning takes a lot of time and that there are no shortcuts.

Check out his post: The 3 Stages of Language-Learning Evolution

 

Alex Rawlings

Alex RawlingsBlog: Rawlangs

Languages: English (native), Greek, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Afrikaans, Spanish, Italian, Catalan and Hebrew.

Product: None.

Alex was named Britain’s “most multilingual student” a few years ago and currently runs Polyglot Workshops with Richard Simcott.

Check out his YouTube channel: Rawlangs

 

Khatzumoto

KhatzumotoBlog: All Japanese All The Time

Languages: English (native), Japanese.

Product: AJATT Store

His site in his own words:

“This site is about how you can learn Japanese without taking classes, by having fun and doing things you enjoy—watching movies, playing video games, reading comic books—you know: fun stuff! Stuff that you feel guilty about doing because you should be doing “serious things”.”

Khatzumoto runs an enormously popular site on learning Japanese. His emphasis is on the importance of complete immersion in the language that you’re learning – even if you’re learning at home.

Check out his post: Why You Should Keep Listening Even If You Don’t Understand

 

Lindsay Dow

Lindsay DowBlog: Lindsay Does Languages

Languages: English (native), Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Mandarin.

Product: None.

Her site in her own words:

“For me, a big part of my job is inspiring others to teach themselves languages. Whether that be in a lesson with me when I’m in your home, a class on Skype when I’m in my home, or a blog or video you enjoy when I’m doing absolutely anything miles from you, I want you to know that it’s possible for you to learn a language.”

Lindsay’s one of the most energetic and infectiously positive language bloggers I know. She guest posted here a while back and I guest posted on her blog here about Arabic.

Check out her post: 8 Free Japanese Learning Resources

 

Simon Ager

Simon AgerBlog: Omniglot Blog

Languages: English (native), Mandarin, French, Welsh and Irish.

Product: None but runs an “Encyclopaedia of writing systems and languages”

His site in his own words:

“This blog contains my musings on language, linguistics and related topics.”

I almost didn’t include Omniglot in this list for the simple fact that it’s more of a blog for linguists, rather than language learners (yes there is a difference). You’ll find a lot of linguist jargon on this blog that doesn’t really interest a lot of people (as a linguist I personally get a kick out of it), but there are plenty of interesting and useful nuggets of information you can find there for general language learning. His mystery language recordings are a nice touch too.

Check out his post: Do It Because It’s Fun

 

Richard Simcott

Richard SimcottBlog: Speaking Fluently

Languages: English (native), French, Spanish, Welsh, German, Macedonian, Swedish, Italian, Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian, Portuguese, Czech, Catalan, Russian, Dutch, Romanian and Albanian.

Product: None.

His site in his own words:

“Speaking Fluently offers you the chance to read about language learning tips and stories.”

Richard’s the European Ambassador for Multilingualism and founder of the Polyglot Conference. He offers some very solid and useful language learning advice through his YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Check out his post: The Language Monkey

 

Rob and Liz

Spanish ObsessedBlog: Spanish Obsessed

Languages: English and Spanish (native)

Product: None.

Their site in their own words:

“We are Rob and Liz, from London and Colombia, and we started this site to share our passion for this incredible language.”

Their blog is an excellent resource for Spanish learners but in particular I love the Spanish Obsessed podcasts.

Check out this post: Spanish Phrases For Tourists

 

Maha Yakoub

mahaYouTube Channel: Learn Arabic With Maha

Languages: Arabic (native), Italian, Hebrew, German, English.

Product: None.

Maha’s a Palestinian living in Italy who runs a massively popular YouTube channel where she teaches Arabic (Levantine), Hebrew and Italian. Definitely aimed at low-level learners but I really enjoy her videos.

Check this video out: 5 Reasons That’ll Make You Fall In Love With Arabic

 

Olle Linge

Olle LingeBlog: Hacking Chinese

Languages: Swedish (native), Mandarin Chinese, English, French.

Product: None.

His site in his own words:

“This website is dedicated to unveiling the mysteries of learning a language in general and about learning Chinese in particular.”

As stated, Olle’s site is primarily aimed at the Chinese language learner and should be the first stop for anyone keen on learning Mandarin. I keep myself up to date with his blog as a lot of what he shares is helpful for language learning in general, not just for Chinese.

Check out his post: Reading Manga For More Than Just Pleasure

 

Brian Kwong

Brian KwongBlog: A Polyglot World

Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Japanese.

Product: #Add1Challenge

His site in his own words:

What you will get from A Polyglot World:

Inspirations From Untold Polyglot Stories

Hacks From Polyglots Who Spent Years Perfecting Them

The Add1Challenge, Where We Add a Language Together

Brian runs the enormously popular #Add1Challenge where language learners all over the world can together to encourage and motivate each other to achieve their language goals.

Check out his YouTube channel: DaGeniusLab

 

Catherine Wentworth

Catherine WentworthBlog: A Woman Learning Thai… and some men too.

Languages: English (native), Thai.

Product: None.

Her site in her own words:

“WLT aims to post Thai language learning tips and techniques, local quirks and insights of Thailand. Anything Thai language, culture, or travel related.”

Catherine’s blog should be your first stop if you’re interested in learning to speak Thai or about life in Thailand.

Check out her post: Onomatopoeic Words In The Thai Language

 

Corey Heller

Corey HellerBlog: Multilingual Living

Languages: English, German, Spanish and French.

Product: Multilingual Living Magazine

Her site in her own words:

“Multilingual Living is a place where parents raising children in more than one language and culture can find inspiration, tools, advice, wisdom and support!  It is about living multilingually, in each and every way possible.”

Corey’s blog differs greatly from the others listed here in that it’s focused on families and raising kids who are multilingual. I consider her an expert on bilingualism and a wonderful person who is full of encouragement. I also guest posted on her blog here.

Check out her post: What Bilingualism is NOT

 

Ellen Jovin

Ellen JovinBlog: Words and Worlds of New York

Languages: English (native), German, Spanish and French (her blog documents her time studying 19 languages overall)

Product: None.

Her site in her own words:

“Through my blog here, this site chronicles my linguistic adventures, some misadventures, and the mental and physical fallout of spending a lot of time outside one’s own alphabet and grammar.”

Check out her extensive list of language product reviews here.

 

Susanna Zaraysky

Susanna ZarayskyBlog: Create Your World Book

Languages: English (native), Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Serbo-Croatian.

Product: Language Is Music and Travel Happy

Her site in her own words:

“I am a multilingual world traveler whose goal is to help people have fun learning languages with music, TV, radio and other media and travel the world economically.”

Susanna’s made several television appearances and has her own unique approach to language learning using music. Her approach is particularly useful for anyone trying to improve their accent.

Check out her post: Why You Should Care About Endangered Languages

 

John Fotheringham

John FotheringhamBlog: Language Mastery

Languages: English (native), Japanese and Mandarin.

Product: Master Japanese and Master Mandarin

His site in his own words:

“I created this site, The Language Mastery Show, The Language Mastery Insider, and my series of language guides to help adult learners reach their foreign language acquisition goals as quickly, cheaply, and enjoyably as possible”

John shares lots of insightful language learning content on his blog and runs his own podcast series where he interviews prominent language bloggers (listen to our interview here).

Check out his Language Mastery show podcast here.

 

Mike Campbell

Mike Campbell GlossikaFacebook page: Glossika

Languages: English (native), Mandarin

Product: Glossika GSR Training (available in lots of languages – see my review here)

His site in his own words:

“Glossika delivers an efficient foreign language learning method to people who want to acquire a new language.”

I have a lot of respect for Mike and he’s probably the most interesting language/linguistics blogger that I’ve come across. In particular, I’m very impressed by the work he’s done with the aboriginal languages of Taiwan and his Mass Sentence Method is based on solid research (it’s very similar to the Lexical ‘chunking’ method that I adhere to).

Mike had a fantastic YouTube channel that unfortunately was shut down recently but you can subscribe to his new channel here.

 

Steve Kaufmann

Steve KaufmannBlog: The Linguist

Languages: English (native), French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, Swedish, German, Italian , Cantonese, Russian, Portuguese and Czech.

Product: LingQ and The Way Of The Linguist

His site in his own words:

“For people who love languages or would, but were discouraged…”

The founder of LingQ and a prolific YouTuber. Steve’s language repertoire impresses me along with the frequent YouTube videos he puts out on many important language learning issues.

Check out his post: A Discussion With Stephen Krashen

 

Sam Gendreau

Sam GendreauBlog: Lingholic

Languages: English (native)Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese.

Product: None.

His site in his own words:

“Lingholic was founded in late 2012 out of a desire to tighten the community of language learners and polyglots that are scattered on YouTube and all over the web.”

Check out his post: Ten Amazing Reasons Why You Should Learn A Foreign Language

 

…and of course:

Donovan Nagel

donovannagelBlog: The Mezzofanti Guild

Languages: English (native), Egyptian Arabic, MSA, Korean, Russian, Irish, Ancient Hebrew and Greek.

Product: TalkInArabic.com.

I know it’s cheating but I had to include myself in this list! :) In case you’ve just landed on this blog for the first time, I’m a linguist, translator and language instructor with a huge heart for minority languages, cultural immersion and Arabic. I have a bit of a preference for languages of the East (both Near and Far Eastern) and I use my own proven method that I’ve developed based on the Lexical Approach to language learning.

Check out this post: The Uncomfortable Truth: Social Risk-Takers Are Better Language Learners

 

Who would you add to this list? :)

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Learning another language or want to? This site is aimed at offering you unique foreign language learning tips, travel advice, anecdotes, encouragement and providing another handy place for language learners to connect.

Click here to read more about The Mezzofanti Guild.