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Basic vocabulary to know before going to Russia

By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Russian > Russian Vocabulary You Need to Know Before Traveling to Russia

Thanks to its unique landscapes and its unmissable monuments, Russia is currently experiencing a real tourist boom!

In 2013, more than 27 million foreign tourists went to admire the Motherland. Unfortunately, many of them had to call in a translator or could only speak with the natives who knew English, whether they were in Russia as tourists or even those who went to work.

However, learning the language of Tolstoy before you travel will allow you to establish a real rapport with the natives and help improve American-Russian relations.

Here’s some basic Russian vocabulary so you can hit the ground running on your trip!

How to learn Russian vocabulary

Learn Russian vocabulary via books

Learning Russian easily is possible even without signing up for Russian courses online!

To learn Tolstoy’s language for free, some students go for a traditional education strategy that has decades of successful results: learning manuals.

Literature, architecture, music … Russian culture can be an endless source of amusement!

Available in university libraries, at major bookstores or in online shops on the Internet, Russian books are written by professionals in Russian linguistics who can help their readers discover new words.

In addition to a list of essential Russian words you should learn before traveling to the country of the tsars, the authors help propose a phonetic translation that will help students speak Russian by mastering the tonic accent and the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

Here are some books to learn beginner Russian vocabulary:

  • Complete Russian: the basics, from living language phrase books
  • 100 Most Frequently Used Russian words by Neri Rook
  • Book2 English – Russian For Beginners: A Book In 2 Languages by Johannes Schumann
  • Easy Russian Phrase Book by Sergey Levchin
  • Everyday English-Russian Conversations by Leonid Kossman
  • Easy Russian Phrasebook & Dictionary by Ann Rolbin
  • Dictionary of Russian Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Vladimir Shlyakhov and Eve Adler

It should be borne in mind, however, that most vocabulary textbooks are intended for beginners and will not help you become bilingual in Russian.

To get a good level of Russian, it is best to sign up for lessons in a language school with a Russian teacher. Find Russian classes London wide or in Glasgow with Superprof, where you can begin studying Russian literature in the original language!

Learn Russian vocabulary via apps

Becoming an expert in Slavic languages and learning a foreign language at home is totally possible thanks to all the Russian courses available online!

These free Russian courses are available on smartphone, tablet or computer and are aimed at a younger audience, who is happy to use new technologies. Russian-speaking families wishing to instill Dostoevsky’s language in their children can install fun and entertaining applications on their tablets in just a few clicks.

What’s the advantage?

You’ll be able to study your vocabulary from anywhere, even during a flight on the way to Russia!

Indeed, most applications are available offline, which lets you study your Russian vocabulary while on public transport, traveling or at work.

Here are some of our top picks of applications to help you expand your Russian vocabulary:

  • FluentU
  • Russian by Living Language
  • Learn Russian Words for Free
  • Learn Russian. Speak Russian
  • Learn Russian by Greg Vick
  • Babbel’s Learn Russian
  • Duolingo
  • Learn Russian in 6,000 words
  • U-Learn Advanced Russian

The applications use mnemonic means to engage all three types of memory (visual, auditory and motor memory). The beginner Russian student can follow their progress and boost their level of Russian by adjusting the difficulty of the exercises as their knowledge grows.

To learn new Russian vocabulary without your head exploding, the apps are a great learning tool!

Learn Russian vocabulary online

Whether it’s in order to prepare to study abroad, go and work in Russia, or even to just take a trip, students of the language can easily create their own study guides with the vocabulary they can find online.

Why not learn how to speak Russian colloquially with a native language speaker?

The top sites for learning Russian offer a complete vocabulary, grouped into several categories (personal pronouns, travel, Russian numbers, etc.). You can find online courses suitable for all ages: with exercises that range from the beginner to expert level, which is ideal for self-study as a beginner.

Learning to read Russian can be done in many various ways, be inventive!

Here’s a list of some of our top picks for sites to improve your Russian vocabulary:

  • russ,
  • Lingohut,
  • Wikiversity,
  • Master Russian,
  • Evaneos,
  • Study languages online,
  • Everyday Russian language.

Worried that you’ll struggle to learn to write Russian well through websites?

Do not panic: most sites offer a Cyrillic keyboard. Learners can still practice writing a word and reproduce it on a sheet of paper in order to perfectly master the letters and symbols of the Russian alphabet.

A perfect way to perfect your Russian language skills and be prepared to fend for yourself once in Russia!

What vocabulary do you definitely need to learn before you leave?

Introducing yourself in Russian

When traveling abroad, it is essential to know how to present oneself correctly when speaking to natives.

In Russia, unlike in English-speaking countries, it is not normal to use too many niceties or to smile at strangers: as a general rule, especially in the north of the country, a smile is reserved only for close friends or the family.

However, it is necessary to master basic conversational phrases, especially if you want to be able to speak with Russian colleagues or other native students of the largest country in the world!

Here are the Russian terms you must learn in order to blend into the Russian landscape:

  • Yes: Да,
  • No: Нет,
  • Hello: привет,
  • Good day: здравствуй,
  • Good morning: доброе утро,
  • Good afternoon: добрый день,
  • Good evening: добрый вечер,
  • Good bye: до свидания,
  • How are yoy: как дела ?,
  • What’s your name (informal): Как Вас зовут ?,
  • My name is: Меня зовут,
  • Where are you from: Откуда Вы родом ?,
  • How old are you: Сколько тебе лет ?,
  • Please: Пожалуйста,
  • Thank you: Спасибо,
  • It was nice to meet you: Приятно было познакомиться.

It’s also well worth taking the time to study the etymology of Russian words, which will help give you an insight into Russian culture and history. In order to become a true polyglot, we’d recommend not just focussing on Russian vocabulary, but also learning all the fine points of Slavic grammar!

Finding a job in Russia

Whether they’re in Moscow, St Petersburg, or in Novossibirsk…altogether, there are about 30,000 Americans who have chosen to call Russia home!

Since you’ll be expert in the Russian language yourself, you can visit all the top tourist attractions in Russia without needing to hire an interpreter!

Generally, Americans living in Russia can be divided into two categories: those who have been expatriated with their companies (these often make up the bulk of the expat population), and those who have made the choice to find work in the country for personal or professional reasons.

Whether their goal is to find a job in the Russian Federation or to study abroad, Americans will need to master Russian grammar and Russian writing (and forget about the Latin alphabet and their mother tongue) in order to succeed!

Here is the essential vocabulary for a job interview in Russia:

  • I’m looking for a job: Я ищу работу,
  • I’m looking for a part-time job: Я ищу работу на неполный рабочий день,
  • I’d like to work full time: Я хотел бы работать полный рабочий день,
  • Here’s my resume: Вот мое резюме,
  • I have a college degree: Я выпускник колледжа,
  • Here’s a list of references: Вот список моих рекомендаций,
  • I have a work permit: У меня есть разрешение на работу,
  • Professional experience: опыт работы,
  • Pre-tax salary: брутто-зарплата,
  • Net salary: заработная плата нетто,
  • I’ve specialised in: специализируется на …,
  • Work extra hours: сверхурочная.

You should know that the average salary in Russia is $1058 per month. In order to support themselves more easily, Russian workers are more likely to work overtime than Americans.

With a good dose of motivation, you will easily find employment and become bilingual in Russian!

Knowing how to write Russian is an additional factor that can help you find work easier.

Visiting Russia as a tourist

With 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Russia is experiencing strong growth in international tourism, and with good reason!

Whether you’re going to visit the Bolshoi, the Red Square or the Kremlin, our compatriots will need to learn to speak at least basic Russian and pronounce Russian correctly, often by signing up for a few Russian classes.

Being able to speak Russian makes it possible to speak directly to the natives and gives you the chance to discover places that might be inaccessible to non-Russian speakers!

Here is the vocabulary to use during your stay in Russia:

  • I’m lost: Я заблудился,
  • How do I get to…? : Как мне добраться до … ?,
  • Downtown: центра города,
  • The train station: вокзала,
  • The airport: аэропорта,
  • The embassy: посольства,
  • Where can I find…?: Где я могу найти … ?,
  • A hotel: отель,
  • A supermarket: супермаркет,
  • A metro station: станцию метро,
  • an atm: банкомат,
  • Where can I buy a bus ticket?: Где я могу купить билет на автобус ?,
  • Where is the car rental agency?: Где тут прокат автомобилей ?,
  • Turn left: Поверните налево,
  • Turn right: Поверните направо,
  • Go straight: Идите прямо.

By mastering greeting and directions, an English speaker will be able to avoid hiring a translator when in Russia, and will even learn new words in Russian to enrich their Slavic vocabulary.

Travelling is also a great opportunity to get a few free language lessons from native language speakers!

Idiomatic expressions in Russian

The holy grail of every language student, mastering idiomatic expressions demonstrates a true understanding of a country’s language and culture!

Are you prepared for the harsh Russian winters?

The reasons for learning Russian expressions is twofold: the student will not only be able to understand colloquial Russian usage but will also discover the origins of idioms, which can help give you a better understanding into the national psyche.

Here are some idiomatic expressions to remember:

  • Leave without saying anything: уйти по-английски,
  • By heart: наизусть,
  • Throw oil on the fire: Подливать масла в огонь,
  • Lie through your teeth: Врать как сивый мерин,
  • Have the head in the clouds: витать в облаках,
  • To have a chat точить лясы,
  • To sleep like the dead: быть в объятиях Морфея,
  • It’s in the bag: дело в шляпе _delo v chl’ape_,
  • All roads lead to Rome: Все дороги ведут в Рим,
  • Gilding the lily: подсластить пилюлю,
  • Put the cart before the horse: Brositsia v past livu.

Learning Russian online or through private lessons with a native speaker can help you learn about another culture and discover the official language of the largest country in the world.

So, why not start with the basic vocabulary?

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