“Russia is tough. The history, the land, the people - brutal.” - Henry Rollins
Whether you love foreign languages or Russian culture, learning Russian is becoming increasingly popular. The best way to learn Russian is through immersion.
Russian is one of the official languages of many international organisations as well as a useful language for business so whether it’s in a university, with a host family, or on an exchange programme, Russian is easier to learn if you’re regularly using it with native speakers.
How can you improve your Russian?
You’ll find out in this article! Here are our tips for studying Russian, finding a language school, or preparing for a trip to Russia.
Choosing a University to Study Russian
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just finished your A Levels, degree, or are studying a PhD, you can always study in Russia if you want. When choosing the right university, it depends a lot on the learner:
- Do you just want to learn the language?
- Would you like to go over the basics like the Cyrillic alphabet or grammar?
- Would you like to gain fluency?
Russian language classes and Russian grammar classes probably won’t be like any other language classes you may have studied.
In any case, you can also study other subjects while in Russia including:
- Political science and international relations
- Linguistics and other languages
- Economics and marketing
- History and art history
- Finance and international business
- Social sciences and humanities
Rather than thinking “Which university should I attend?” you might want to ask “What does each university offer?”. If you love Pushkin, Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy, you might want to study Russian language and literature.
Here are the best overall universities in Russia:
- Moscow State University
- MGIMO, Moscow State Institute of International Relations
- Tomsk Polytechnic University
- Saint Petersburg State University
- Novosibirsk State University
- Higher School of Economics
The 2021 World University Rankings placed:
- Moscow State University in 74th place.
- Novosibirsk State University in 228th place.
- Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) in 281st place.
To choose your Russian university, you may also want to consult the league tables for various subjects.
Looking to learn Russian?
Immersion is the way to go!
Planning to Study Russian in Russia
Before you can go to Russia, you need to be accepted onto a course.
There are a few different ways to get onto courses at Russian universities:
- The “European” system: a candidate chooses a programme, submits an application, completes application forms, provides a CV and cover letter, etc.
- The “Russian” system: a highly-selective process in which free education is provided to exceptional candidates.
- A random draw.
Once you’ve been accepted onto a course, you’ll need to follow the enrolment procedure to the letter. You’ll also have to ensure that you have a passport that’s valid for over 6 months after the end of your stay. If you don’t, you may have to restart the application.
You’ll need to request a visa and provide the following supporting documents:
- Your invitation letter (from either immigration or the university)
- Insurance including repatriation
- The visa application form
- ID photos
- Medical certificate and an AIDS test
You’ll also want to plan your accommodation in Russia. You can choose from:
- Renting a flat.
- Staying with a host family.
- Living in a university dormitory.
Finally, once you’ve finished with all these formalities, there’ll also be a few to do once you get there:
- Enrolment once you’re there.
- Planning a budget in rubles and organising payments.
Speaking of accommodation, which is the best for learning Russian?
Do you need Russian lessons?
How to Find a Russian Host Family?
One thing’s for sure, learning Russian from the locals is the best way to learn how to speak fluently. For native Russian speakers, having a foreign student living with them is a win-win. Before you choose a host family, you’ll want to think about why you’re there:
- Language exchange
- Language courses
- Intensive language courses
- Foreign internship
- Studying Russian
- Working holiday
- Summer camps
- Private lessons
- Grammar lessons
If you’re going to Russia with a good level of Russian, a host family is a great option!
To make your choice, you might want to help pick a reputable host family as there are plenty of people who try and rip off au-pairs and students. Some agencies and organisations can help you:
- Language schools
- Tour operators
- Professional training groups
A lot of these groups work with host families who can provide you with accommodation during your stay.
Choose families according to your level of Russian. If Russian is new to you, you might want host families who have a good level of English. If your Russian is good, you’ll want families who speak very little English. It’s a great way to improve your Russian for free.
You can also get Russian lessons online.
10 Tips for Studying in Russia
Learning a foreign language is quite a challenge, but it can be made much easier if you actively participate in local life. Immersion in Russian culture is much easier if you’re studying there.
Similarly, you could learn Russian without even taking a single Russian lesson, though we still recommend studying the language.
But how can you do it?
Whether you’re planning on studying Russian or another subject, you might want to get in touch with other students who’ve already done it. You can find them on Facebook or LinkedIn, for example, and ask them about:
- Financial help and how it works.
- How to get Russian language qualifications.
- Whether you need to take out student loans.
- Taking Russian language lessons online.
Most Russian universities have an office for international students. They also organise things like Russian cinema evenings and activities for the students.
Don’t expect to become amazing in Russian during your time there. It’s estimated that it takes around 7 years of study to speak Russian fluently so be patient!
You must learn some important phrases before you go to Russia and learn how to read the Cyrillic alphabet. If you’re not great at the language, you might want to take a class before you leave. Whether you’re in a university or studying Russian privately, our advice is the same.
So are you ready to learn Russian?
If you are just starting to learn Russian or need to brush up before you go, consider getting private tuition from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on Superprof!
When it comes to learning languages, you need to practise and having someone regularly teach you and allow you to use your new language is a great way to learn.
There are a few different ways to get private tutorials and each type of lesson comes with its pros and cons. It's usually up to you, how you like to learn, and your budget that will decide which tutorials are right for you.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and the tutor and are tailored to you, what you want to learn, and how you like to learn. The tutor will put together lessons with you in mind and while usually the most costly version of tutorials available, they're also the most cost-effective as every minute of the tutorial is spent helping you to learn.
If you can't quite stretch the budget for face-to-face tutorials, group tutorials are a good option. While less one-on-one time with the tutor isn't ideal in other subjects, with languages, peer learning and practising in groups can also be beneficial. However, you won't have as much control over the course content.
Finally, you can broaden your search all over the world and look for tutors teaching online. As they don't have to travel, they'll usually charge less than face-to-face tutors and there's the bonus that they may be Russian native speakers or actually in Russia!
Don't forget that a lot of the tutors on Superprof offer the first lesson for free. Use this to try a few different tutors out before deciding which one is right for you and what you want to learn.