Lesson 1: Meet Vlad, Your Russian Language Guide

By Ari Helderman
April 14, 2022

Introduction, personal pronouns, informal vs formal and your first adjectives.

What you'll learn in this lesson:

  • How to introduce yourself
  • The verb 'to be' in Russian
  • Russian pronouns
  • How to not offend people

Meet Vlad. He'll be your language teacher for the coming 2 weeks in which you'll follow a beginner Russian language course. He'll teach you the basics of the Russian grammar and vocabulary. You'll also learn the Russian alphabet and how to have your first Russian conversations.

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_1.mp3"] Привет!


[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_2.mp3"] Меня зовут Влад 

(Me-nya za-vut Vlad)

My name is Vlad

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_3.mp3"] Добро пожаловать в Россию

(Do-bro po-zha-lo-vat' v Ra-si-yu)

Welcome to Russia

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_4.mp3"] Я говорю по-Русски

(Ya ga-va-ryu po Ru-sski)

I speak Russian

Why don't you introduce yourself to Vlad?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_5.mp3"] Меня зовут _____

(Me-nya za-vut)

My name is _____

You just spoke your first sentence in Russian. Molodets! (good job)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_6.mp3"] Молодец!


Good job!

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

Which countries does Vlad like to visit?

Vlad is a patriot. He loves to travel to countries where he can speak his own language.

Did you know that 3 other countries have Russian as their official language? And that there are 11 other countries where knowing Russian will help you be understood?

Here's a list of all the countries where Russian is (still) very widely spoken:

(Countries with Russian as official language in bold)

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia 
  • Lithuania 
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan 
  • Turkmenistan 
  • Ukraine 
  • Uzbekistan

So what's a good holiday destination? Vlad loves to be out in nature, but he also likes to relax and chill. 

So he sets his sight on Sochi. Why? Because in Sochi you can both tan at the Black Sea, but the mountains for skiing are also close at Krasnaya Polyana!

Looking forward to his trip? Me too! Vlad has already packed his bags and jumps in his car.

But when he's on his way to Sheremetyevo airport, he gets stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam and misses his flight.

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_7.mp3"] Блин!


Blin! (pancake)

No problem, Vlad will stay in Moscow then and help us learn Russian. He'll show you all the great things to do in the capital and - he's planning his birthday party the 7th of October for all his friends. It will be a lot of fun and we'll follow him while he's making all the necessary preparations.

Of course, he's not going to organize everything himself. Let him introduce you to all his friends and helpers for the party...

Let's meet Vlad's friends

Vlad is meeting with his friends in a cafe on Tverskaya. They're having some drinks and they start discussing politics (a favorite pastime of Vlad and his friends).

Now, before we can eaves drop in on the conversation, we need to learn the Russian words for I, you, he, she, it, and they. If this were another language than Russian, we'd also have to learn the word for 'to be', but we can skip this when talking in the present.

Pronouns in Russian

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_8.mp3"] Я



[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_9.mp3"] Ты


You (singular)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_10.mp3"] Вы


You (plural)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_11.mp3"] Он



[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_12.mp3"] Она



[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_13.mp3"] Оно



[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_14.mp3"] Они



For the record: the literal translation of 'to be' is 'быть'. It's still being used a lot in Russian, but mainly for describing the future. We'll cover that in a later lesson.

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_15.mp3"] Быть


To be

So here's the funny thing in Russian - when you want to say that you are smart, you'd say "I smart"

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_16.mp3"] Я умный

(Ya um-niy)

I (am) smart

That's because in Russian when you want to say someone or something is [insert word], you do not need to use the verb. Easy, right?

Vlad describes his friends

His best friend Dmitri?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_17.mp3"] Дмитрий честный

(Dmi-tri chest-niy)

Dmitri is honest

His girlfriend?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_18.mp3"] Алина красивая

(A-li-na kra-si-va-ya)

Alina is beautiful

His colleagues?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_19.mp3"] Они смешные

(A-ni sme-shni-ye)

They are funny

And what does he say about himself?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_20.mp3"] Я спортивный

(Ya spor-tiv-niy)

I am sportive

So, now that you've learned some of these adjectives: how would you describe yourself?

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_8.mp3"] Я ______


I am _____

Russian formal vs informal

Whenever Vlad goes to an English speaking country, he always finds it a little weird when people say 'you' to him. It seems a bit impolite. Do you know why that is?

Because Russian actually has 3 forms of you:

  • You singular (meaning ONLY you)
  • You plural (when Vlad is talking to all his friends and colleagues he uses this form)
  • You polite (when you'd talk to your boss or person who's older than you - used often in Russian)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_9.mp3"] ты


You (singular informal)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_10.mp3"] Вы


You (singular formal)

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_10.mp3"] вы


You (plural)

The only difference between you formal and you plural is that you formal should be written with a capital 'В'.

When you're in Russia, it's best to use 'Вы' most of the time. Especially when:

  • you meet someone for the first time
  • someone is older than you
  • the person is working (e.g. customs officer, police agent, cashier etc.)

In fact, especially if you're a foreigner, it's best to wait until someone explicitly tells you:

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_21.mp3"] Давайте обращаться на ты

(Da-vay-te ab-ra-shat'-sya na ti)

Let's switch to you

[sc_embed_player fileurl="https://learntherussianlanguage.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/russianlesson_intro_22.mp3"] Давайте на ты

(Da-vay-te na ti)

Let's switch to you (short)

Don't worry about speaking these phrases yet. Just know that when you hear one of them (or anything with a friendly tone of voice and 'ты') that you've made a friend!

Enjoyed the lesson? Take the quiz to test what you've learned today before we go to the next lesson. There you'll find hundreds of Russian words - that you already know!


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