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By Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Russian > How to Be an Independent Learner of the Russian Language
 The United States of America has around 6 million Russian speakers. Why not join them?

If you run out of money, do not panic, it is possible to learn Russian on your own if you have enough motivation.

In the digital age, language learning is greatly facilitated for the self-taught learner.

Let’s see what tools are useful when learning Russian without the help of a teacher or tutor…

Why Learn Russian?

Russian-trip Do you have a planned trip abroad? Have you thought of Russia?

There are several reasons why you might want to learn Russian. But if you need some motivation before starting on your own Russian learning, here’s why this language is important:

  • It is the 8th most spoken language in the world: with 260 million speakers, it is the official language of Russia but also of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is one of the Slavic languages ​​also used in Georgia, Armenia, the Baltic countries, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, but also in Israel,
  • To find work: Since 1999, Russia has reappeared as a major player of the European and world economy. But that’s not all: the Russian middle class is developing and starting to travel to the USA. Speaking Russian can be an asset in the tourism sector if you are looking to work in Russia or at home,
  • To discover a rich culture: Russian literature and its many authors (Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky …), the Saint Petersburg ballet, or the lovely architecture of big cities such as Moscow.
  • To visit a Russia that is off the beaten path: if you are satisfied with the big cities, English will be enough to make you understood (not always!). But if you take the trans-Siberian and go to discover Russia’s less well-known parts, there will be little chance to communicate with the locals without any Russian basics,
  • As a personal challenge: learning one language is a real challenge. If you like to surpass yourself and succeed in doing things that will make you feel proud and good, go for it! Russian is the language for you.

Learning to Speak Russian On Your Own: Repetition and Regularity

Of course, when you start learning a foreign language, you have to start with the simple things and not go headlong into the most complex rules of Russian grammar–at the risk of discouraging yourself.

Learning the Cyrillic alphabet (the Russian alphabet) is already a first step in the right direction…

The Russian alphabet is actually easy to learn! Learning the alphabet is the first step to learning the Russian language. Even if you don’t plan to learn the language, knowing the alphabet is great for travelling because you can read all the street and shop signs. It may seem daunting to learn a new alphabet, but it is relatively easy. In fact, the great thing about Russian is that almost all words can be sounded out as they are written. Unlike English where the pronunciation of a word may not be clear from its written form. Russian also has one letter to one sound, unlike English where two letters often make one sound. (Example “sh”).

Knowing how to speak Russian without taking Russian lessons with a Russian teacher or tutor requires great motivation, hard work, and a lot of rigor. It is necessary that your learning becomes routine, an everyday event without it becoming a chore.

Working a little every day is much more motivating and effective in the long run than working two hours a week, for example.

We’ve already talked about it on Superprof but a technique that has proven itself to be effective is the Pomodoros technique!

“Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian but it refers to the kind of timers that are used in cooking. They can be set for 25 minutes, the estimated concentration time of most people.

Why not work diligently for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break? Only 5 minutes. Set an alarm not to exceed this time and stay focused on your work.


regular-work To avoid forgetting and in order to deepen the notions you have already learned, you must work regularly.

The ideal work schedule is to work for two or three 25-minute sequences a day, but if your schedule allows you only one, do not be discouraged, it still works. Your learning will simply take longer.

The other important element to remember is the forgetting curve. When you learn Russian vocabulary for example, you have to think about revising it as soon as possible in order to have it enter your long-term memory.

One trick for you is memory flash-cards with the Russian words on the front and the English translation on the back. By using 3 boxes (new words, words requiring revision, and acquired words), it is possible to enrich your vocabulary very quickly.

Adding pictures to your cards can make them a lot more memorable.

In cognitive psychology, there’s a concept called the Picture Superiority Effect, which describes how people tend to remember imagery a lot better than they remember words.

When we think about it from an evolutionary perspective, this makes complete sense; written language has only been around for about 5,000 years (and Homo Sapiens have been trotting the globe for over 200,000), and our brains have evolved to be very sensitive to imagery. The locations of food, the animals that want to eat us or stomp us into the ground – these things are far more important to our brains than abstract squiggles on a page.

Associating these two techniques guarantees good results!

Learning to Speak Russian On Your Own: 3 Applications

Learning Russian online quickly is easy today and can be done anywhere with your smartphone and the language learning apps you can download in the app store. We won’t mention Babbel, the best known language learning application, for the simple reason that everyone knows it already!

Here are three that can help you progress with Russian vocabulary learning.

1. Memrise

Available on iOS and Android, Memrise offers 200 languages, including Russian. Its technology adapts to your learning abilities and your results. As we mentioned earlier, revising vocabulary over time is the key to good memorization. The application takes care of this setting for you.

It’s possible to create your own courses with virtual cards as well as challenge other people online in order to get motivated. And besides, it’s free!

app-russia What is the best app for learning Russian?

2. MosaLingua

Learning vocabulary from everyday life is essential when planning a trip to Russia or going to work there. Thanks to an efficient and addictive method, MosaLingua helps you memorize Russian words and expressions in record time.

The application is available on iOS and Android but can also be used on the computer with its web version. You will find:

  • More than 2000 flashcards,
  • 14 major categories,
  • More than 100 subcategories,
  • Learning tips,
  • Grammar rules,
  • The audio pronunciation of words,
  • 10 levels of difficulty.

3. Anki

Also available on both your mobile or computer (Mac or PC), the application offers flashcards with text, sound. and images. It’s simple, just download the material in the desired language, take the short tests (1 minute or less), and track your progress.

Gradually, your statistics change and the application will tell you which cards you know best in order to avoid wasting time with words you already know.

3 Websites to Learn Russian On Your Own!

There are different ways to learn Russian without taking a language course. Russian lessons that will teach you Russian expressions are available online, and often for free.

Easy Russian

To learn how to cope with everyday situations or to improve your Russian language level, the Easy Russian website offers real online courses with:

  • A level test,
  • A beginner’s course,
  • Exercises and tests,
  • Courses with audio,
  • Review material for the Russian SAT Subject Test,
  • Russian grammar,

With this site you have the possibility to have 30 minutes of free lessons with a native teacher.
You will also find a virtual Russian keyboard (Cyrillic keyboard) in order to progress with Russian writing too.

Hello Linguo

Hello Lingo is the direct legacy of LiveMocha, which closed last year. Hello Linguo is based on the same concept: language exchange.

Finding conversation partners is one of the most effective ways to practice a language for free to improve your language skills. Indeed, the biggest problem for those learning a language at school or who are self-taught is how to practice it and speak it orally. It is indeed not easy to practice a foreign language orally, especially when you are unable to travel.

The design is very modern and the site also offers mobile access. The site’s advantages are:

  • Your correspondent is a fluent Russian,
  • It’s one way of discovering Russian culture,
  • One can also share his or her interests in order to find a correspondent with the same interests,
  • You will learn the true Russian language with its jargon and slang,
  • Language exchange is the best way to learn a language in immersion.

It is necessary to register on the site to access the platform, but once you have registered, it is free.

Master Russian

You will find many lessons to learn Russian on your own, here. From declensions to personal pronouns to oral comprehension and some slightly less serious articles, MasterRussian.com has great ways to learn Russian in a fun way:

  • How to speak fluently without having to talk to Russians every day,
  • What do Russians want and need,
  • 20 expressions to know if you are beginning in Russian,
  • Are you having trouble with grammar? Here is the difference between the perfect and the imperfect…

You will understand, with a little help, that it is quite possible to learn Russian without taking Russian courses, strictly speaking. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it’s possible!

Last Advice If You Want to Learn Russian On Your Own…

cell-app There are many ways to learn Russian on your cell phone.

Watch movies in Russian. There are a many Russian film masterpieces to watch. At first, use English subtitles then switch to Russian subtitles to finish watching the movie in the original version.

Read in Russian. Whether it is reading newspaper articles, children’s books, or the most difficult Russian literature (in a bilingual version to begin with), language learning should involve some reading.

Another tip: invest in a good Russian-English dictionary or use an online dictionary in order to avoid cluttering your home. As soon as you see a word you do not know, do not hesitate to look for it and write it in a notebook that will help you remember it.

In short:

  • Learning Russian can seem complicated at first, but with a little organization and a lot of motivation, it is possible to get there without the help of anyone.
  • Regularity and repetition are your best allies for learning Russian on your own: half an hour a day is more effective than an hour every week.
  • Use all the media you can to progress quickly: applications like Memrise, websites like Easy Russian, or movies in the original version, all means are good if you are looking to improve and acquire new vocabulary.

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