Best Russian Textbook for Beginners: Is This the Course You Need?

By Ari Helderman
May 2, 2022

With so many textbooks available, is it any wonder that you’re having difficulties finding the best Russian textbook for beginners? Not only does every book claim to be the missing puzzle piece to fluency, but the sheer amount of them makes it difficult to choose. I’ve read quite some Russian textbooks in my studies to learning Russian, and I think living language Russian is a good book for if you’re just starting to learn Russian.

You can read my living language Russian review here. But on this page, we will dive more into the textbook part of the course.

Living Language Russian does a great job of teaching you Russian

Whether you’re looking to learn some basic words and phrases in Russian, or get started on your journey to fluency in the Russian language, Living Language can help you out. It also works if you studied Russian in the past, and you want to get back to your previous level.

Here’s a short overview of what living language Russian has to offer you:

  • 3 Russian text books with a total of 46 lessons. It also includes additional review exercises knowledge about the Russian culture and a useful grammar summary.
  • A notebook for all the exercises, so you don’t have to scramble the answers in the main textbook and have all the exercises organized in one place for easy review.
  • 9 audio CDs in which you will learn vocabulary, dialogue, audio exercises and more. You can listen to them while you’re commuting or travelling, so you don’t need to sit behind a desk to learn.
  • Free online learning. You can visit for interactive quizzes, flash cards and games for each lesson. This helps if you want to learn the material well.

Living language uses a specific method in each of the courses that works well if you want to get down the basics of the Russian language:

best russian textbook
Living Language has a unique approach to learning Russian!
Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.


 Here’s a short overview of the 4 steps that you go through while learning:

  1. First you build a foundation with learning essential words and phrases. You can use these to already have a simple conversation after a couple of weeks of learning.
  2. After that your progress and you build on everything that you learn each lesson. This is where you learn to create full sentences and real-life conversations.
  3. The key to retaining the information that you learnt is to do specific recall exercises that move all the words and grammar from your short-term to long-term memory.
  4. Finally, the focus is not just on drilling down words, mimicking or memorizing. No, you’re developing practical language tools that allow you to create your own sentences in any situation.

So as you can see living language Russian is more than just a textbook in which you see long lists of words and grammar. Those are also included of course, because they are useful. But the focus lies on you developing your own practical language skills in Russian. Then you can create your own conversation and sentences, instead of relying on memorization. This gives you a lot of freedom for when you travel to Russia. As you’ll be able to freely talk about many subjects with native Russian speakers.

Here are some things you’ll learn in the books

No article about the best Russian textbook is complete without an overview of several things that you learn inside the course. So here are some things that you can expect to learn if you’re going to go through the Living language Russian book.

The book is divided into three sections: beginner, intermediate and advanced:

  • In the beginner or you learn all the basic and essential words and grammar that you need to have basic conversations.
  • In the intermediate part you’ll be presented with new topics that are well-covered. the number of topics may be a bit less than in some other courses, but the amount of sentences and words that you learn are many more. There are example phrases and dialogues included.
  • In the advanced part you go even deeper with things that you’re learning.
  • The course teaches you fundamentals principles that you can study first so that the rest of the course will work better.
  • It’s well suited for those who just want to jump in and trust the process. So you don’t need an elaborate plan on how you’re going to use the book.
  • it includes a complete list of conjugation of common verbs, such as to be, to eat, to have breakfast, to go etc.

And there’s also audio included – the best of both worlds

Another great thing is that the course also includes audio CDs. Now, you might be wondering why the best Russian textbook also includes audio? Well, we’ll discuss that in the following sections. In a nutshell, it is a good idea to take several modalities, such as reading, listening and seeing – and combine them into your Russian practice. You’ll see things from different angles, and this will work better to get a complete view of the Russian language. it also does wonders for your memorization.

russian audio
Combining reading with audio will do wonders for your comprehension of Russian!

Here’s why reading is great for learning Russian

The main benefit of Reading a Russian textbook is that you visually see how the language is build up. You can go through the material at your own pace, which means that whenever there is a specific section that is difficult for you to understand, you can easily make your own notes in the book. This helps you to personalize the learning.

Of course, reading how the sentences and words are written is also useful to get a better view of how the language works. Reading is very beneficial because you will learn how words are spelled and you can go through the course at your own speed.

And this is why audio works well

We’ve established that reading is a good way to learn the basics and fundamentals of a new language. But we can also not forget audio. The reason why audio is important, is because it teaches you how the language sounds. Now, if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably learning Russian because you want to speak and have conversations in Russian. If you want to speak, but it is imperative that you learn how words and phrases are pronounced.

Also, if you do not train your listening skills, then it will be very difficult for you to understand what your conversation partner is saying. So this is also a critical part of learning how to speak Russian. Audio also will clarify other aspects, and it is this double punch of reading how words and phrases are written + hearing how they are pronounced, that will be triple as effective than doing each on its own.

Is living language Russian for you?

If you’re looking for the best Russian textbook, and you made it to this part of the article, then I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a living language Russian is the right book for you. Just to confirm, here are the two types of people for whom the course will work best.

  • People who are just starting out learning Russian, and want a complete overview of the beginning stages of the language
  • People who prefer to dive into learning, and not waste too much time making elaborate plans on how to do so.

With that said, if you’re the type of person who prefers to methodically and systematically learn new things, this course might not be the best Russian textbook for you. I do not recommend you take this approach in the beginning stages, because there are too much things that you don’t even know you don’t know, that it will be difficult to create an all-compassing plan.

Especially in the beginning stages, it’s a lot better to just pick one program and get along with it. Do around 20 to 30 minutes of practice every day (maybe take one or two days off during the weekends) for a couple of months. After this period you will have a much better view of where you are in your Russian studies. You’re also know some basic conversations, and now you can make a more systematic plan on how to attack new things. Maybe you’ve noticed that your vocabulary is lagging a bit? Now you can create a plan for that. But in the beginning stages it is better to just pick a good course that covers all aspects of learning Russian (like Living Language), and putting in the time necessary to learn the basics.

 If you can do this, I assure you you’ll get far in your Russian studies.

Find out more about the best Russian textbook

If you’re curious for more information about the Living language Russian course, then you can do so through the following link. There you’ll find a complete overview of everything that’s included in the course + you also see the current price for which it is available.

 Click here to learn more about the Living language course Russian!

P.S. to put everything together: if you’re looking for the best Russian textbook for beginners, then Living Language Russian is a solid choice. Click here to learn more about the course.

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
  • grammar
  • listening skills
  • speaking skills

That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

And the best part? If you improve a little bit every day, soon these practices will become daily habits.

And then you will start making progress on autopilot.

This means that learning Russian is now a part of your daily routine. So you won’t even need discipline anymore to get yourself to practice.

If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman