We find ourselves often giving recommendations of products to learn Russian with, and we thought it’d be useful to compile a list for your reference.
We have included a number of our own products, only where we are convinced that they are deserving of their place in the list, and we have included paid and free resources without discrimination.
The list is broken up by category and each item is clearly marked as to what proficiency level it targets. Everything on this list deserves your attention, but resources we’re particularly fond of, the kind we’d use ourselves, are additionally marked with a little star.
- Russian textbooks
- Reviewing vocabulary
- Serious games
- Grammar reference
- Practice & radio
- Podcasts & audio lessons
- Vodcasts & video blogs
- Cheat sheets
Our very own textbook. Not written in a ‘hold your hand’ style that some require, but clear and comprehensive, covering all that is needed to prepare for the TORFL exams and most day-to-day situations. Native audio, interactive elements and assessments make it a perfect study and revision tool.
A great supplement to whatever intermediate textbook you’re using. A great variety of language is covered in this learning supplement from the Russian Life magazine.
A very well organized, though overpriced Russian textbook with conversational exercises, various readings and grammatical explanations and practice. The example sentences used are a little wanting in some aspects, and it’s the kind of text that’s best used with a teacher or language partner, as it can feel quite concentrated and heavy going at times.
One of the best traditional Russian language textbooks. It’s great if you’re starting completely from scratch, but it’s complete enough such that with enough perseverance, once you have followed its grammar explanations and completed its many translation exercises, you’ll have a very good foundation in Russian.
An interactive language learning website from the news site RT. The 30 comprehensive lessons include dialogues with audio, exercises, grammatical explanations, and tests. The site also contains sections on the alphabet, pronunciation, and grammar tables.
An excellent Russian textbook—written in the second half of the 20th century, but later revised, and still up to date. It is quite dry (“without sugarpills or fun and games”), but to the point, which makes it the ideal choice for focused, intensive study (the authors recommend it for an “eight classroom hours per week” college course).
An online language-learning platform that helps simulate common real-world scenarios and situations through interactive dialogues and mini-lessons.
A short but easy-to-use integrated course including activities and dialogues with native speakers, accompanied with CDs for practice while on the move.
An SRS vocabulary learning web app full of useful words, accompanied with native pronunciation audio, and tested in a variety of different ways.
Morpheem teaches you new words by showing you how they are used in real Russian sentences. By repeating them in different contexts they are safely stored in your long-term memory.
If you’re a dedicated learner and have the time and determination to spend perfecting your reviewing habits and environment, Anki—one of the leading SRS applications—might be the product for you.
Kleio is a recently launched competitor to Anki, and while it’s still very young and lacks some of the more advanced features, the app is actively developed and can be found on platforms where Anki is not available. Unfortunately there aren’t many good Russian decks just yet, so you’re best off creating your own.
The famous Vis-Ed Russian vocabulary flashcards are well worth the price if you prefer learning away from your computer but don’t have the time to create your own set of flashcards.
There’s no better place to start learning Russian vocabulary than at their roots. This book will not only show you why, and teach you how, but also provide you with countless example sentences and helpful exercises.
A dictionary listing 10,000 Russian words by frequency. All the words have English translations, many have examples of usage and the entries include information on stress and grammatical irregularities.
One of the few typing games that doesn’t bore the death out of you. Practice your typing skills and reinforce your knowledge of the Cyrillic script. Expert level is particularly challenging—even for natives.
The only resource on the internet that targets Russian synonyms. The highest difficulty level can be challenging even to proficient speakers, and can be especially helpful as a review tool for higher levels of the TORFL.
A great online typing trainer. Customizable, with helpful visual feedback and very detailed statistics. You can change the layout to Russian in the top-left corner of the screen.
There’s nothing like a word game with friends or family if you want to build and review your vocabulary. The gramota website has a list of countless variations for the next time you’re bored in a train or tired of reviewing flashcards by yourself.
The quintessential Russian resource covering every grammar-related topic imaginable, and in great detail. For every question you might have, there is a great chance that a detailed answer has already been published on gramota.
The new addition to the excellent Stack Exchange network, Russian Language and Usage is the place to ask your intermediate-advanced grammar questions. Don’t forget to do a quick search first, as much has been answered in great detail already.
We’re trying our best to make the LinguaLift E-textbook not only a place to learn the language, but also a handy reference tool. Each chapter is divided into sections dedicated to different grammar points, and all are easily searchable both in Russian and in English.
An almost legendary online Russian grammar reference, one of the first ones of its sort. Funky design and Java exercises might feel dated, but the content is still very solid and up to date.
A grammar resource based on misspellings in queries on the Russian search engine Yandex. As the Russian proverb goes, «Умные учатся на чужих ошибках, а дураки на своих» (‘Wise men learn by other men's mistakes; fools by their own.’).
If all else fails, Wikipedia generally comes to the rescue, especially if you’re ready to wander into its Russian language territory. You can find many Russian grammar points discussed at least in some detail, as well as use it to check how a certain construction is used by searching it in Russian articles.
When learning Russian, every once in a while you think that there must be a spell checker made specifically for foreigners, helping you with those parts of the language that may seem common sense to many a native speaker, yet mind-blowingly illogical to everyone else. Grammatica is all that and more, making learning the countless exceptions to common rules, be it in stress or inflection, a cinch.
This book is quite old but a classic. It focuses on grammar used in everyday conversation, and manages to do this very well if you’re already past the beginning stages. It’s a little dry and dull, but its low price and ‘dip in and out’ format means that it’s a handy compliment to your grammar-learning arsenal.
A workbook which is best suited to advanced-level learners, as some of the exercises are quite involved. The grammar rules are well explained, and it goes into sufficient depth in the exceptions to the grammar rules that so often trip up students.
Yes. This is a picture grammar dictionary! Excellent for visual learners, the book explains complex abstract grammatical structures using easy to understand, day-to-day visual examples, thus avoiding complicated linguistic vocabulary found in other books.
The ultimate compendium of dictionaries, including dozens of excellent Russian dictionaries of all kinds and on all topics.
The society of the Soviet Union, as well as of Russia of today, has been built around acronyms and abbreviations, which makes this dictionary of Russian abbreviations an indispensable tool for language learners at any level.
An online dictionary of Russian idioms, sayings, film quotes, etc. with meaning and etymology.
If you’re looking for a dictionary that employs American English in the translations then this is the dictionary for you. Extremely comprehensive and accurate, with a neat definition in English to clarify English terms in the English>Russian section. Better for English speakers than Russian, as no transliterations are given for English words.
Not the first book you should buy when you’re starting out in Russian, but a useful reference tool if you’re serious. There are 20,000 entries which contain the conjugation of the verb as well as other forms such as the long and short form verbal adjectives. It includes information on stress too. Online-only alternatives are available, but probably not as complete or accurate.
Probably the best conjugation book for an intermediate student. 501 verbs are clearly laid out, and a great deal of example sentences, using a variety of different tenses ensure that you really know how the verbs work in real life. Irregular verbs are dealt with exceptionally well.
Possibly better suited to younger learners, this beautiful recently-published book includes plenty of key vocabulary items. The phonetic pronunciations are mostly accurate, but should be treated with caution.
Another good picture dictionary, though be aware that it contains some archaisms and even outright errors in a number of places.
Based on the Ushakov explanatory dictionary, Ozhegov’s tome has first been published in 1949 and has since gone through over 25 revisions making it the foremost Russian dictionary on the market.
The magnum opus of German linguist Max Fasmer, this dictionary remains the most authoritative source for Slavic-languages etymology to this day. A great resource for when you want to dive a little deeper into the history of the words you’ve just learned.
Babylon is an application that sits in the tray and allows you to translate anything by clicking it and pressing a keyboard shortcut at the same time.
Practice & radio
italki is an online language learning service where you can find the best language teachers from around the world. Take a lesson when and where it is convenient for you. All you need is an internet connection.
Write Russian, get corrected by native speakers, help others in return. One of the first, and certainly the most successful site of this kind. Try to write regularly and take the time to understand the corrections and your writing ability will improve in no time.
A great collection of 19th-century Russian short stories that has been in print for years. The layout is perfect, with the English within easy reach should you encounter any difficulties with the Russian, which you almost certainly will considering the advanced level of the texts.
Intermediate-level stories written by three contemporary Russian-language authors reflecting the aspects of the lives of Russians today.
A basic Russian reader, with humorous drawings accompanying each story and exercises at the end of each section.
Great mini-writeups on all kinds of cultural topics teaching related vocabulary in context. Also includes examples from Russian literature.
An extensive collection of English literary classics in a side-by-side dual language format in Word format, some with an included vocab reference.
Everyday Russian is a great site, translated into French and Spanish for those who’d benefit, with an impressively large selection of cultural articles, each with native-recorded audio and real-world examples.
A joint project between the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics and Political Science covering a number of important Russian writers, including their works in a side-by-side dual language format, interactive exercises and a grammar reference.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, excerpts from the Bible, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Alice in Wonderland in a side-by-side dual language format, with audio.
A site by the leading Russian news agency RIA Novosti with lots of interesting articles and dialogues in a side-by-side dual-language format.
The place to listen to Russian radio online... Mosva.fm gives you acces to every major Moscow and national radio station, whatever the topic your interested in, or music style you favour.
The most popular Russian video-hosting websites is home not only to countless private videos, but also many TV shows and old Soviet movies. The latter are also available in great number on several official YouTube channels.
The largest online collection of contemporary Russian poetry. Have a read, and who knows—one day you might submit your own!
Podcasts & audio lessons
This is in no case the fastest way to learn the language, but what you will learn you’ll probably remember forever. Fairly enjoyable, well thought out lessons, but beware of the hefty price tag.
The Assimil series is a special language learning audio resource that doesn’t quite fit into any single category, and that not everybody can see the beauty in right away, but for the right learner, with the right approach, there’s nothing quite as good.
An excellent linguistic radio show for both advanced students and native speakers alike, covering current Russian language tendencies, correct usage, and literature.
The audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, but Russian podcast is nevertheless a worthwhile resource with hours of interesting content for learners of all levels.
A very good podcast for higher intermediate and advanced students, discussing latest slang, common expressions, idioms and even swearwords.
Good language learning podcasts, plus a nice website with grammar review, cultural tips and exercises.
A podcast all about verb conjugation. Now you can listen to verb conjugation tables and example sentences during a jog, in the tram, or even in your sleep!
BBC Russian videos, radio, and podcasts. The language isn’t easy, but generally moderately slow and very clear.
If the BBC podcasts aren’t enough for you, podfm is a great curated resource listing the best episodes from podcasts around runet every day.
Audio lessons to accompany the Russian Grammar in Literary Contexts, but they can equally be used independently of the book.
News in slow Russian. Not as regular as one would like, or as the website would suggest it is, the podcast is nevertheless very useful for the intermediate level students.
An intriguing website, whose name translates as “old radio,” playing music, news, and radio shows from the Soviet times.
45 audio-lessons—short, well-structured and to the point, on all kinds of topics. The podcast starts by teaching basic phrases to help you start communicating with your Russian friends, and then moves on to more substantial reading and grammar lessons.
Vodcasts & video blogs
A Russian YouTube celebrity teaching English in an unconventional way has been contracted by the news site RT to bring all she’s got to Russian language students. If your private or college classes aren’t quite sexy enough for you, Hot For Words might just be what you need.
A renowned Russian children's comedy TV show which kickstarted the career of many a prominent actor. Fun, smart, and generally easy to understand—especially look for older Soviet editions.
Dozens of mini video-lessons by RussianPod101 on all kinds of topics. Basic, but clear and well presented.
A collection of Soviet videos for foreigners learning Russian as a second language. If you’re a fan of the old BBC language video lessons, this might very well be the site for you.
The actual BBC video Russian language course. Highly educational, interesting to watch, and still very much up to date.
Video mini-lessons by the Russian news site RT. Especially interesting are their street interviews Живая речь (Living language).
Cultu.ru is a beautiful website broadcasting plays from theatres across Moscow, every Wednesday, often with English subtitles.
Our Russian colour names cheat sheet is beautiful and useful at the same time. Quickly lookup the right colour name for the occasion, as well as a bunch of other, related vocabulary.
If you’re going to visit a doctor in Russia, don’t leave your house without this cheat sheet labeling (almost) every part of the human body in Russian.
As a general rule, Russians tend to use cursive when handwriting, and it’ll help you enormously if you learn both to read and write this script before you go to Russia.
Advanced expressions and grammar
A book explaining some of the Russian concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are particularly difficult to translate into English by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Also includes an extensive chart of Old Russian Measurements you may meet in literature.
Written by a real authority on the Russian language and culture, this book would make a great addition to any intermediate learner’s bookshelf. Idioms are a crucial part of day-to-day Russian, and this book makes searching for them a breeze, and provides extremely accurate English translations.
This collection of idioms is by far the most comprehensive available, and would be indispensable for any advanced learner looking to do some translation work.
A most interesting book on Russian idioms, colloquialisms and set expressions with translations and example sentences from day-to-day speech and famous writers.
Motion verbs are notorious among Russian language learners for their complexity and difficulty, and this handbook presents a more thorough and rigorous treatment of these verbs than any other.
A word of the day blog providing detailed information on one word per day, with a back story. The site hasn’t been updated for a while, but there’s a backlog of hundreds of entries from the past few years.
A website dedicated to the articulation of sounds found in the Russian language with audio recordings, verbal description and pictures showing how exactly you should position your mouth.
There are many books on swearing in Russian but most tend to be cheesy and outdated. This particular one successfully avoids a similar fate by focusing on a handful timeless expressions that will never fall out of use.
History, literature & culture
If you’re looking to break into Russian literature then you can’t go wrong with this Anthology. Featuring literature by Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenyev and many others spanning many genres, its breadth is unrivaled. Almost all of the content is however legally available online for free if you are prepared to search hard enough for it.
You’ll find this book a joy to read even if you only have a passing interest in Russia’s cultural history. It’s pretty heavy going, but it covers the major themes, actors and events from 987-1917.
A very interesting, interactive site for advanced learners, teaching the Russian language through history.
A useful collection of animated Russian cursive letters. Use in conjunction with the aforementioned cursive writing practice sheet.
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