I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t make the best impression with my neighbours in my block of flats when I had just arrived in Russia.
There was a puppy running around the halls, so I promptly scooped him up and paraded him around to the neighbouring apartments to ask them:
I’ve since learned that this sentence is basically nonsense, but would translate roughly to “you dog?”
Fortunately, my housemate managed to make amends and we were eventually invited to our neighbours’ apartment for an incredible meal and a night of dancing and vodka.
Their English was better than our (non-existent) Russian, but not much.
We bonded via both mime and music.
Whilst a lot of Russian was spoken, the one phrase that really stuck with me from the evening was “Тает Лед”.
It’s by a band called Грибы (mushrooms) and the song title translates to Melting Ice.
I’m not particularly proud to say that I love this song, but it’s catchy, the accompanying video is flawless, and I discovered it during one of my favourite nights in Russia to date – so it got some extra points for that fact alone.
That lengthy digression has lead me to this point: whilst the song lyrics were simply sounds to me at the point in time that I heard them, months (and many Russian lessons) later I was able to utilise the language that I learned listening to this song in my Russian class when it came time to talk about what I’d been up to.
It’s Spring, or Russia’s approximation of Spring, which is to say that my entire suburb is currently a river.
My teacher asked how my running was going and I was able to reply that everything was great, but that the snow and ice were melting.
Long story short: audio can stick and it makes for a great learning tool.
Here are a few resources that I have discovered throughout my Russian language adventures.
Music to help you learn Russian
Disney Songs in Russian
One of my favourite pastimes is having my foreign friends sing “Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book in their native language.
Whilst this channel doesn’t have this particular song, it does have a bunch of others that’ll get stuck in your head for hours!
For the sake of completeness, here’s the video for the Bare Necessities:
Russia’s hottest hits on YouTube
This playlist includes a healthy mixture of the latest and greatest songs from Russia and all of your favourites in English.
Throw it on whilst you clean, cook, or do your latest HIIT workout in your living room.
It never hurts to expose yourself to your target language.
A slight digression: – Russia’s questionable musical past
Vitas – 7th element: I don’t know why this song came into existence, but I am glad it did.
Feast your eyes (and your ears) on this absolute gem:
There are an abundance of highly entertaining (and often helpfully slow) songs in Russian that will keep you amused for hours.
A quick Google search for “funny Russian songs” will set you up with a bunch of hits and you can take your pick.
Russian radio for learners of all levels
You can use this website to listen to the Russian radio.
It’s great background noise for all levels.
Beginners can get a feel for the rhythm of the Russian language and advanced learners can test their comprehension.
They have programs across a range of themes including music, literature, philosophy, health, sports, and talk shows. The themes can be found here: http://www.radiorus.ru/programs/
So, there really is something for everyone on this site.
Learn Russian from TV
Moscow Club TV: Suitable for advanced learners
This webpage has three options for you to broaden your Russian horizons.
You can watch the Russian TV channel (телеканелы россии), the Discovery channel (познавамельные), or listen to the music channel (Музыкальные).
Streema: Suitable for advanced learners
This website has an abundance of Russian TV channels.
The links are constantly working and then failing, so it isn’t a flawless website, but I have had reasonable success finding several links that work for me at any given point in time.
Channel One Russia and RTR-Planeta are usually safe bets.
Винни-Пух (Winnie the Pooh): Suitable for beginners to intermediate
Alright, so this next one is a YouTube channel that contains the Russian adaptation of an English favourite – Winnie the Pooh.
The graphics are adorable and the episodes contain a lot of useful vocabulary for beginners.
There are also English subtitles, which is helpful because the speech is quite fast at times.
Google Play Store: Suitable for intermediate to advanced learners (some suitable for beginners)
This store has a ton of movies available in Russian for rent or purchase.
The prices are really reasonable, so price shouldn’t be a barrier for most learners.
The caveat here is that the bulk of the Russian films do not come with English subtitles, so beginners won’t receive as much benefit as the advanced learners.
The films available are recent and relevant, so you’re likely to find something of interest here.
As an aside, the Russian film ’12’ is available here and is highly recommended by both websites and my Russian friends – so I’d strongly suggest checking that one out if you get the chance (and have the linguistic capabilities).
Netflix in Russian: Suitable for all levels
There are quite a few series and movies that are either in Russian with English subtitles to begin with, or have been made available in Russian.
My usual go-to method for finding material in my target language is to run of the following searches:
- Audio in Russian
- Subtitles in Russian
- Russian language
My personal favourite is “The Sniffer”.
It’s an …interesting… take on a crime series where the hero has a particularly acute sense of smell.
The sense of humour is dry and sarcastic and I love it!
It’s potentially not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has been a big hit in my household*.
There are also quite a few readily available plugins for Netflix that allow the viewer to watch either dubbed content in the target language, or that provide additional subtitles services.
I do not possess the technological wherewithal to explain any of these services to you – but if you’re so inclined, a quick Google search will point you in the direction of several providers.
*My household may or may not solely refer to myself, as I currently live alone.
Learn Russian through Audiobooks
Red Kalinki: Caters mostly to beginners through to intermediate
This is a paid service, but there are a heap of audio resources available for download on this website.
They offer an audiobook with an accompanying text so you can read along as you listen.
I have quite enjoyed the stories that I have downloaded.
The language used throughout related to relevant topics, so I was able to start using it straight away.
There are a lot of resources for beginners through to B2, but not so much for the C1-C2 level.
Librivox: caters mostly for upper-intermediate to advanced learners
This website contains copies of audiobooks which have been made publically available.
There is an abundance of Tolstoy, Chernov, Pushkin, and even Aesop’s fables – so I am sure that there is something to cater for almost all tastes on this website.
There are no transcripts for either the Russian or English texts available on the website.
This means that you’ll likely need to have a pretty good grasp of Russian to attempt to use this resource.
Alternatively, if you have a copy of the material already, this is an amazing chance for you to hear the material read out by a native speaker.
ЧТЕНИЕ: suitable for intermediate – advanced learners
This program really toes the line between podcast and audiobook, so I decided to place it between the two.
Sections of famous works are read out by native speakers of Russian and then briefly discussed at the end.
Podcasts to learn Russian with
Russian Podcast: suitable for all learners
This great site has podcasts suitable for beginners through to advanced learners.
There are transcripts available of the major learning points for each podcast, however, complete transcripts are not available for free.
The speed of the content is appropriate for the level the episode is available for.
Taste of Russian: suitable for intermediate learners
Each podcast comes with a complete transcription, so you can try to listen first and check your comprehension later.
The best of stuff designed for learners of Russian!
Resource to learn Russian grammar
He’s a little awkward at times, but his explanations are clear and easy to understand.
He also usually provides quite a few examples so you get a good feel for the use of the language that he is using.
Learn correct Russian pronunciation
This YouTube page isn’t exclusively for pronunciation.
Rather, it’s the page of a reasonably well-known Russian teacher and the author of the Russian Souvenir textbooks – Irina Mozelova.
She has some pretty good pronunciation videos, particularly for ы:
and the (previously impossible) distinction between Ш and Щ:
You can subscribe to her channel here.
Her vlogs are sometimes provided in English, but are often entirely in Russian with English subtitles (it’s all very easy to understand).
The videos are supplemented by visual cues so they are easy to follow and genuinely beneficial.
If you run any kind of search to learn Russian online you will absolutely come across RussianPod101.
Their lessons are very easy to understand and will give you a chance to hear the pronunciation, learn some grammar and practice yourself.
It’s a good audio resource for some extra practice and has an abundance of free resources if you sign up for a lifetime account (free).
There are graded levels and it has resources that are suitable for most learners.
It also counts the number of hours that you spend on the website, so that might serve as a little bit of extra motivation if you are that way inclined.
I have relied on the slow news podcasts whilst learning other languages and was excited when I had enough of a grasp on Russian to start looking for this kind of resource.
Unfortunately, there are fewer news resources available for learners of Russian than there are for, say, learners of German.
I located this website, but it is mostly a paid service.
You can do a free trial, or you can access the (very) limited selection of free resources, but there is the amount of free content is certainly not limitless.
Nonetheless, the website is worth a visit.
The stories are available in both slow and normal speed formats. Also, you have the option of hovering your mouse over specific vocabulary for the translation, if you need it (which I often do).
The resources are spread across three levels and are suitable for beginners, intermediate learners, and advanced students.
This website has a bunch of free (although often slightly dated) audio resources.
They have an entire section dedicated to listening to songs, fairy tales or stories.
This website is probably more suitable for learners at least at B1/B2 level.
The range of free resources is quite good though, so it will keep you busy for some time.
I’m sure that there are an abundance of resources that I have missed, so feel free to include any resources that you have found helpful in the comments!