So you want to learn Russian for free? That’s great. We live in the best time ever when it comes to learning a foreign language for virtually no money.
Even just 10 or 20 years ago it would’ve been difficult to find any Russian materials for free. You had the library and a couple of websites. And that was it.
All other methods would cost money. Going to Russian classes. Buying a Russian textbook. Hiring a personal Russian tutor. You couldn’t even watch a Russian movie without spending money to get the tape or DVD.
I’ve been learning Russian since 2016. And throughout the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking for – and using – helpful Russian resources.
This article is my summary of all the current free Russian resources out there. I’ve tested each free site/app/channel/course myself, so this is not a generic ’10 Free Russian Learning Websites’ article.
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Below you’ll find the most helpful free:
- YouTube Channels
- Advanced Russian materials
I’ve added my own comments after each resource. That should help you understand if that specific resource is better for beginners or intermediate learners.
5 Tips if you want to learn Russian online for free
Before we dive into the best free online Russian resources, let’s quickly discuss 5 tips that will help you get much more value out of the free content. Below are the tips I wish I knew when I started learning Russian 6 years ago. If you’re a beginner Russian learner, this advice can save you a lot of time and money.
Pick 1 resource and stick to it for at least 2 weeks before you try something else. You need to give each site/app/course/lesson/podcast time to understand if it works for you. Try out several resources for a week or 2, and once you’ve found something you like, stick to it for at least a couple of months. Don’t fall victim to ‘shiny object syndrome’ where you try something new every 2 days. That will only confuse you and won’t teach you anything.
Audio lessons are a great alternative to real-life classes. If you want to learn Russian online from home, audio lessons and podcasts are the best way to learn Russian. That’s because you hear real-life Russian, and it’s by far the best method to understand Russian grammar if you’re not working with a teacher.
Apps are a good way to improve your Russian vocabulary. Vocabulary is best learned through a ‘boring’ system of spaced repetition. Apps are a universal method to learn a couple of new words every day. Learn 5 new words per day, and you’ll know the 1000 most common words after a year.
If you’re not practicing conversations in Russian, you’re wasting your time. Knowledge without application is useless. When you say you want to LEARN Russian, you mean you want to SPEAK Russian. You must practice speaking Russian with native speakers, otherwise, all other efforts to learn grammar and vocabulary is wasted.
10 minutes per day is better than 2 hours once a week. Your brain can only take up a limited amount of knowledge each day. Then you need to take a break and let the information sink in. It’s much better to practice a little bit every single day versus a lot once a while.
Free websites to learn the Russian language
Russian for Free. A collection of free Russian lessons. It’s great if you’re just starting to learn basic vocabulary and grammar lessons. You can also find a couple of short stories with audio. These are fun to listen to and read at the same time.
Master Russian. An old site that has a good collection of Russian grammar lessons.
Russian Lessons. Another old site from the early 2000s has simple grammar and vocabulary lessons. Not that great for effectively learning spoken Russian, but it works fine as a quick overview of the grammar you need to learn.
Fluent in 3 Months. Benny Lewis is a polyglot and has learned several languages well. His website doesn’t have many specific Russian lessons. But it is a good resource for the mindset on how to overcome the fear of speaking a foreign language.
YouTube channels to learn Russian for free
Be Fluent in Russian. A solid channel that focuses on breaking down common expressions and often used verbs. It’s a great channel to watch a couple of videos from whenever there’s a new upload.
Real Russian Learning Club. Daria has some of the most popular beginner Russian lessons on YouTube. So watch those first. Her newer content tends to be a bit all over the place, so it’s best to go to her channel and sort her videos on ‘most popular’.
Russian with Max. Russian with Max is a channel for intermediate learners to help you learn Russian. Max discusses all sorts of topics in Russian, and it’s great listening practice.
Easy Russian. A channel where they go out on the street and ask Russians all sorts of interesting questions. It’s not directly about language learning, but it’s good for getting a glimpse of Russian culture, and for listening practice.
Learn the Russian Language. This is the only Russian language channel run by a foreigner (it’s my own channel 🙂 ). You won’t find lists of Russian words or grammar lessons, but you will get a rare glimpse into the mindset of how foreigners can speak Russian almost to a native level.
StarMediaEN. A channel where you can watch Russian TV shows for free with English subtitles. Their war/history documentaries are absolutely amazing. But their TV shows are mostly B quality. That shouldn’t matter though, since the main objective is to immerse yourself in the Russian language. It’s a good place to start watching Russian content if you’re a complete beginner since you can still understand everything with the English subtitles.
Podcasts to learn Russian for free
Russian Made Easy. A podcast of 30 lessons of around 20 minutes. It’s a good beginner Russian course to get an overview of the basics.
Очень по-русски. This online Russian podcast is good for intermediate learners. Each of the Russian lessons contains a story. What I like a lot is that the text is written underneath each episode, including the stresses. This will teach you effectively where to put the stress in each word.
RussianPod101. It’s officially a paid podcast, but you can get a free trial for 7 days. They also have a lot of video content on their YouTube channel. I’m still including it as their podcasts are by far one of the most effective for learning Russian. I listened to it for 1.5 years, and without this podcast, my Russian wouldn’t have been as good as it is now.
Free Russian language learning apps
Duolingo. This is likely the most popular free Russian learning app. While it’s not good for real language learning, it’s great to get an overview of the Russian language if you do not have any experience at all. It’s also good if you’re undisciplined because the gamification tries to keep you engaged and coming back daily for new lessons.
Memrise. An alternative to Duolingo, but it focuses more on basic Russian vocabulary.
AnkiDroid. This is the ultimate Russian vocabulary app. It’s a simple free spaced repetition app where you can add your own flashcards. This simplicity makes it so effective to help you learn Russian vocabulary.
Best native Russian YouTube channels for advanced Russian learners
Антон Птушкин. The most famous Russian travel blogger. He makes interesting and calming travel blogs. He articulates well and doesn’t overwhelm you so he’s a good YouTuber to follow if you’re just starting out listening to Russian content without subtitles.
вДудь. Yuri Dud is the main interviewer on Russian YouTube. He interviews famous Russian people among them vloggers, musicians, politicians, and comedians. Your Russian needs to be good to understand this, but at least there are Russian subtitles available for most of his interviews.
Орёл и Решка. The main Russian (officially it’s Ukrainian, but they speak Russian) travel show. 2 presenters travel to a country for a weekend. One has unlimited money to spend, and the other only has $100. It’s a real TV show, so the production quality is high. This means that you can even watch it if your Russian isn’t that good, and just enjoy the scenes, while occasionally practicing your Russian.
Сергей Орлов. A comedian from a small village in Northern Siberia. He jokes a lot about the difference between how people from Moscow live versus the rest of Russia. He swears a lot, and his pronunciation isn’t always easy to understand. If you can understand this guy, your Russian is officially good.
BadComedian. Russia’s main movie review channel. It’s so popular that many people prefer to watch this guy’s movie reviews over the actual movies themselves.
Satyr. He makes parodies of other famous Russian people. Great to watch if you’re also interested in what’s going on in modern Russia.
What’s your next step to learn the Russian language?
If you’re serious about Russian language learning, I recommend the following:
Free apps and Russian lessons are a great way to learn basic Russian. Free online Russian resources can help you learn simple vocabulary and grammar. But the problem is that free lessons are usually unstructured, and do not follow a linear progression. After spending a couple of weeks following free resources, you need to ask yourself if it’s worth switching to a paid Russian course.
When you pay for a course, you get access to a better system to learn Russian. Sure, if you don’t have any money at all, you can learn most of what you need for free. But you’ll spend half your studying time looking for what you are going to do. This wastes a lot of time, and is less effective.
So for most people in most situations, you would do well to switch to a paid Russian learning course after 2 to 4 weeks of learning with free content.
And if you pick an online Russian course, you’re still going to end up paying a lot less than if you were to sign up for real-life classes.
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.