So you’ve decided you want to learn Russian? That’s good. As it’s a beautiful language and few foreigners know it. Russian speakers love it when foreigners learn their language, so be prepared for plenty of compliments. But before you can speak it well, you must take Russian lessons.
In this article we will discuss the best Russian language lessons for beginner learners.
Best Russian language lessons for beginner learners:
- RussianPod101: best progression from beginner to upper intermediate
- Russian Made Easy: free Russian course for complete beginners
- Michel Thomas Russian: best absolute beginner lessons
- News in Slow Russian: practice your listening skills for upper beginners
- Real world Russian lessons: classes in your neighbourhood
3 Things to look for in a Russian lesson
Before we start judging different Russian lessons, we first need to decide on criteria to judge them. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I started to learn Russian. They can help judge whether a course or lesson is good:
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- Must include Russian audio. In order to speak Russian well, you must listen to a lot of correct Russian. If you follow a Russian lesson where there is not a lot of audio, it won’t be as effective. This means that books, apps, and websites without audio are not a good choice.
- Focus on all aspects of Russian. A good lesson teaches you vocabulary, grammar, listening skills, and even a bit of Russian culture. Only speaking is something you need to practice on your own. If the course or lesson you want to follow is only focused on words or grammar, it’s not a good all round Russian lesson. And it won’t teach you Russian as well. Lessons that focus on just 1 aspect are good for intermediate learners who lack that specific skill. Not for beginners who want to learn Russian.
- Logical progression structure. The Russian lessons you’re following should logically build on one another. This means that the second lesson is a bit more difficult than the first. And the third is more difficult than the second. This seems obvious, but plenty of YouTube channels, and podcasts have lessons with random difficulties, or no progression. This means that there is no gradual increase in difficulty, and therefore not a good Russian course for beginners.
Taking these criteria into account, here are the 5 good courses for learning Russian. To be honest, the last 2 do conflict with some criteria. So I recommend the first 3 as good allround courses to help you learn Russian. And the last two lessons are good to improve a specific aspect of the Russian language.
1. Russianpod101: best progression from beginner to upper intermediate
RussianPod101 is a collection of online audio lessons. Each Russian lesson is around 15 minutes long. You will listen to a conversation between a native Russian speaker, and a non-native speaker. The Russian speaker is great for explaining specific topics. And the English speaker sees things from your viewpoint, so he knows what new learners need to focus on.
Note: the entire dialogue is in Russian. But the explanation of grammar uses English. So it’s good for beginners.
Each dialogue consists of the following:
- A short dialogue in Russian (20-50 seconds)
- The same dialogue – still in Russian, but now spoken slowly
- The dialogue with its English translation
- New vocabulary + translation
- Explanation of new grammatical concepts
- Common used expressions
- The dialogue again – so you can test the things you’ve learned
RussianPod101 keeps on adding new Russian lessons every week. They have plenty of other content apart from their audio lessons, but I’ve found those to be the best part of their course.
Who should take lessons with RussianPod101?
RussianPod101 is a great Russian course to get your language skills from beginner to upper intermediate. If you’re a complete beginner, it might be a bit unorganized. So I recommend you start this Russian course if you already know the alphabet and the most common 100 words.
I actually listened to their language lessons for 1.5 year. And I attribute most of my success in learning Russian to this course. It’s a paid course, but there’s a free trial available to check if you like the teaching style.
2. Russian Made Easy: free Russian course for complete beginners
Russian Made Easy is a free Russian podcast made by Mark Thomson. He’s not a native Russian speaker, and learned Russian the hard way. Just like you and me. This gives him good insights on where to focus your time and effort in the beginning.
The course is a collection of 30 podcasts of around 20 minutes long. So you can follow the entire course in 10 hours. Though I recommend you take your time and re-listen to the podcasts after you’ve finished them.
The main idea of his podcast is that you start learning Russian. He starts off easy, and gradually teaches you more words and phrases. He does the podcast together with a native Russian speaker, so you also hear the correct pronunciation.
Who should follow Russian Made Easy?
Complete beginners. So if you do not have any experience with language learning, then this podcast will teach you the basics. He doesn’t only teach you words and grammatical concepts, but also covers the mindset behind Russian learning.
3. Michel Thomas Russian: best absolute beginner lessons
Michel Thomas Russian is my favorite beginner Russian course. It consists of 20 lessons, of around 1 hour each.
In each lesson there is one native teacher, Nastasha Bershadzki, and two other Russian students. What I like most about the Michel Thomas method is the gradual introduction of new words and grammatical concepts. This is all done in a relaxed way. But before you know it, you will already be able to create relatively difficult long Russian phrases.
The students – teacher dynamic is also good. You listen to the teacher asking questions and explaining Russian to the students. These then make common mistakes, which function to help you recognize where you could’ve gone wrong.
Who should take lessons with Michel Thomas?
If you’re a complete beginner, it’s good to start with the Michel Thomas Russian method. It also teaches you the alphabet. It’s an audio course, and great for listening to while commuting. This was the first Russian course that I listened to. This course helped me tremendously to get a head start and get comfortable speaking in a short period of time.
4. News in Slow Russian: practice your listening skills for upper beginners
This program isn’t exactly a Russian language course with a solid beginning and start. It’s a collection of news stories in Russian. Kristina Malidovskaya reads each story in slow Russian, and at normal speed. This helps you a lot to improve your general knowledge. It’s not a free Russian course, but it has a lot of material. There are 500 news stories, which should help you practice your Russian a lot.
Who should take Russian lessons with News in Slow Russian?
This is good for intermediate learners who want more practice. If you cannot yet read normal news stories in Russian, or watch Russian series or movies. In that case it helps to listen to these adapted stories.
5. Real world Russian lessons: classes in your neighbourhood
The last option I want to mention are real life classes. To be fair, I’ve never taken any. But I know that there are plenty of courses that can help you learn Russian. It all depends on what you want, and what is available around you.
Why should you follow real life classes?
If you prefer learning languages on your own, then it’s not a good idea to take Russian language classes. In that case it’s a much smarter idea to go for online lessons.
On the other hand, if you struggle with discipline, then going for classes nearby to learn Russian is a good idea. The classes will help you keep disciplined, as you don’t want to be the person who hasn’t done his homework.
A downside of Russian language classes is that they tend to be slower than online lessons. That’s because they usually go at the pace of the slowest learner. And if you’re here on this site, I assume that’s not you.
What’s the next step to learn Russian?
By now you should have a good overview of which Russian lessons are available. There are plenty more, but from my experience these 5 will give you the most language learning benefit.
One last piece of advice: stick with one course for at least 2 months. Even if the course is only for 30 days, relisten to all the lessons. The main benefit from these courses is that you follow one single progression. And if you switch around from course to course, that won’t be as helpful as doing one thing for the same amount of time.
P.S. Do you struggle making daily progress on your Russian skills? I've got a 4-week Russian program that gives you a step-by-step system to follow to speak Russian well. Get more information about the program here.