How to learn Russian

Tips and tricks

Tips for beginners
Just set aside time
Study every day, at least 30 minutes.
Start with the Cyrillic alphabet and reading rules first.
What makes Russian great is that words can be sounded out exactly as they are written.
Find a good coursebook/teach-yourself book including audio tasks to learn common phrases.
You need to listen and identify simple phrases in everyday life. Listening to podcasts/radio/music in Russian helps you to tune your ear to sounds of the language.
Find a quick grammar reference (a book or any online resource).
It will be very useful when you want to look up something for basic rules. Russian uses the case system: instead of a strict sentence word order and multiple meanings of a word, you just need to change ends of nouns.
Start a vocabulary notebook to write out all new phrases (not just a word!) you plan to remember and use in the future.
Review them whenever you get the chance. For example on a train, in a car or in a queue.
Read adapted Russian books or books in the original but with translation.
Reading will help you speed up your learning: you will find out new phrases and easily memorize grammar structures.
Watch and listen to Russian films and music with subtitles.
Follow simple Russian phrases in films or on audio tracks and echo words you hear.
Find a language exchange partner to practise your written and spoken Russian.
There are many websites where you can do it:,, groups in social networks.
Make a game of learning Russian and enjoy your language studies.
Use apps for fast and diverting training: Duolingo, Quizlet, Memrise, Busuu.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
The more you try something the better you get at it. Practice makes perfect.
What to watch
Heart of a Dog (Собачье сердце) is a novel by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. It's generally interpreted as an allegory of the Communist revolution and "the revolution's misguided attempt to radically transform mankind. Its publication was initially prohibited in the Soviet Union but circulated in samizdat until it was officially released in the country in 1987. It is featuring a stray dog "named Sharik who takes human form" as a slovenly and narcissistic incarnation of the New Soviet Man.
Episod 1. Office Romance (Служебный роман) is a Soviet comedy film directed by Eldar Ryazanov. The film's plot tells the story of Ludmila Kalugina, head of a statistical bureau, and her subordinate, economist Anatoly Novoseltsev, who come from mutual aversion to love.
Episod 2. Office Romance (Служебный роман). Both romantic drama and screwball comedy, the film is noted for its scenes of Moscow in the late 1970s, and for its comical depiction of the everyday life and customs of Soviet society during the Era of Stagnation.
Kiss Them All! (Горько!) is a 2013 Russian film directed by Zhora Kryzhovnikov. The movie is a wedding comedy. Natasha and Roma — these two characters are the protagonists of the film who are progressive and talented and dream to organize their wedding by the sea in Europe. But Natasha's step-father thinks differently and drafts his own plan. In the film you can see a typical Russian wedding with drunk dances, stupid contests and fights.

The Fool (Дурак) is a 2014 Russian drama film written and directed by Yuri Bykov. It had its international premiere at the 2014 Locarno International Film Festival, where it won the prize for the best actor.
A Russian plumber is also a municipal repair-crew chief in an unnamed Russian town. Some of the city's housing blocks are already in a grave state of disrepair. A burst bathroom pipe reveals a much larger problem, as the exterior wall behind the pipe has cracked and started to shift…

What to listen
Russia's most prominent talk-radio station. Most of Echo of Moscow's content consists of news and talk shows focusing on social and political issues, where the station tries to represent different points of view.
It is a satirical novel by Ilf and Petrov. "A remarkably funny book written by a remarkable pair of collaborators". (New York Times)

Ostap Bender, the "grand strategist," is a con man on the make in the Soviet Union. He's obsessed with getting one last big score—a few hundred thousand will do—and heading for Rio de Janeiro, where there are "a million and a half people, all of them wearing white pants, without exception." When Bender hears the story of Alexandr Koreiko, an "undercover millionaire"—no Soviet citizen was allowed to openly hoard so much capital—the chase is on.

It is a satirical novel by Ilf and Petrov about two men who travel around Russia in search of an antique set of 12 chairs, one of which has jewels hidden in it worth a million dollars. The book became popular not just for the ingenious twists and turns of the plot, but for its hilarious humor. It was more popular than the works of Chekhov and Tolstoy, nearly everyone was talking in quotations from it.

Satirical tales, from "a writer who recorded, with unfailing style and wit, an era's troubles and a people's voice." (Los Angeles Times)

In his prime, satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko was more widely read in the Soviet Union than either Pasternak or Solzhenitsyn. His stories give expression to the experience of the ordinary Soviet citizen struggling to survive in the 1920s and '30s, beset by an acute housing shortage, ubiquitous theft and corruption, and the impenetrable new language of the Soviet state.

Resources for learning
Academic icon


The website contains many different dictionaries, encyclopedias and summaries of books.
Gramota icon


The website contains reference information: you can check word spelling and meaning.
Mezhdu nami icon

Documentary channel

Documentary with English subtitles about life in Russia.

Study materials

Между нами
It is a free, web-based textbook that provides a comprehensive introduction to Russian language and culture.
Russian for everyone
Russian language self study guide for beginners.

A Comprehensive Russian Grammar by Terence Wade

The grammar reference provides comprehensive guidance to usage, with exhaustive tabulated material and brief explanations. It is presented in 484 sections subdivided to take account of finer points of usage. It provides mainstream rules for quick reference, as well as access to the subtleties of the language for those who need more detailed information.
russian grammar reference book cover
Teach Yourself Beginner's Russian Grammar by Daphne West

It's a reference and a practice book. The explanations are clear and simple, and answers to the exercises are provided at the end, making it an ideal book self-study. The left-hand page of each unit introduces and explains one particular point of grammar, which can then be practiced by doing the exercises on the right-hand page. At the end of most units there are cross-reference to other units on the same related points.
self-study russian grammar book cover
Крыша поехала (literally, his roof flew off)
used to mean went crazy, or to describe someone who does something inexplicably strange.

1) Они ему такое сказали, что у него крыша поехала! – They told him something so amazing/outrageous that he flipped, he went bonkers!
2) У тебя что – крыша поехала? Ты с ума сошел? – What's wrong with you – are you off your rocket? Have you lost your mind?

Крыша поехала
krysha poekhala
Ты меня уважаешь?
Do you respect me?
often asked by Russians after they have polished off their first liter of vodka. When you hear it, know it's time to call a halt to the drinking spree, as your Russian friend is already plastered.
Ты меня уважаешь?
Ty menya uvazhaesh?
Ну ты даешь!
Well, look at you! or
Well, how about that!
said to someone who has done something surprising or unexpected.
Ну ты даешь!
Nu ty dayosh!
Ё-моё! or Ёлки-палки!
Jeez! Cripes!
used to express amazement, disappointment and annoyance.
Ё-моё! or Ёлки-палки!
Yo-moyo! Yolki-palki!
Will that do?
Is it a deal?
Shake on it?

It's a deal.
Let's shake on it.

Идёт? Идёт!
Idyot? Idyot!