Learning Russian is a fantastic way to increase your ability to travel, make friends, and better understand the world around you through the eyes of another culture.
Language learning can be difficult depending on your native language and whether you'll be learning via a 2nd language, but with a simple set of steps and dedication, you'll know Russian in no time at all.
This checklist is not exhaustive. You may find that other techniques and schedules work better for your personal learning style. The most important lesson from this list is that you should be immersed in Russian as much as possible in order to absorb it. Language absorption helps you learn faster and is much more enjoyable than rote practice.
Feel free to follow these out of order. Pick one or two to try out and stick to them. You can't learn Russian in a day—that's what's so exciting about your new skill! Once you master Russian, you can look back and how much work you put into it.
Enroll in a Russian class.
The most obvious way to learn a language is to hire a professional and put yourself in a classroom setting. Enrolling in a class is important but will not work on its own to get you learning Russian in the fastest and most natural way. Use a Russian class to supplement your absorption of Russian language and culture.
Taking a Russian class can be a great way to keep you motivated because you must stick to a schedule and you'll likely be paying for it. Having to be somewhere (time) and having to give up resources (money) to learn are two strong motivators. Try to find somewhere close to your home or work to minimize inconvenience.
Create a Russian learning schedule.
Beyond taking a Russian class, you'll need to constantly keep your goal to learn Russian in the back of your mind. This doesn't happen automatically. Take out whatever you use for a calendar and set a personal event around the times you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to speak some Russian phrases out loud. Role play encounters with a Russian speaker like ordering at a restaurant or locating the airport. If you're in a place where it might be awkward to speak aloud, whisper to yourself or write down phrases, even if you throw out the napkin or small note that you used.
For this task, it can be helpful to keep a personal phrasebook of phrases you want to memorize or you know you'll use often. Mate Translate has a phrasebook and syncs across your browser, Mac, and iPhone so you can reference phrases wherever you happen to be.
Download a translation app.
Getting your hands on the right translation app is essential for learning Russian. Like any good tool, a translation app is what connects content around you to your goal to learn Russian as fast as possible. Whatever content you absorb regularly, you'll be able to translate on the go so you can start picking up more Russian phrases and recognizing parts of speech to implement in your own conversations with native speakers.
Some apps like Mate go as far as translating subtitles in Netflix. Enjoying the learning process is half the battle—you'll quickly drop off in progress if you're not having fun picking up Russian. Finding little ways to personalize the language learning journey are essential.
Increase your exposure to Russian.
Everywhere you see and hear your native language, you should also be thinking in Russian. It takes a little while to get to this point, but once you start thinking even basically in Russian, your brain will start making connections between your learning sessions and the real world.
Next time you read an article on the web, translate it without leaving the page to expose yourself to the Russian version alongside your native language for contextual comprehension.
Find a Russian speaking partner.
Nothing beats speaking Russian with a native speaker who can adjust their speech speed and complexity to your level as you converse. Speaking with a Russian speaker is also way more enjoyable than scrolling through endless digital content that can really drain your motivation.
If you're keeping up with a Russian pal via a messaging app, try to write entirely in Russian with them as best as you can. If you get stuck, highlight their message or your reply draft and check it in a translator popup that doesn't interrupt the flow of the conversation.
Pick a Russian dictionary.
Dictionaries are old-school tools for translation. Thankfully, we no longer need heavy books to get the words we need when we need them. You've likely already found an online source for Russian words or were perhaps given one by a friend or Russian instructor. It can get tiresome looking up words when you are learning a narrowed-down lesson to match your current skill level. Repeating the learning schedule task on this list—a phrasebook quickly becomes your closest companion in the journey of language learning.
Some Russian learning tools combine a personal phrasebook with a translator so you can slim down what you need to accomplish your lessons and language absorption each day.
Keep yourself motivated to become fluent in Russian.
Learning Russian is slow at first. If you haven't had any prior exposure, it can seem impossible to teach yourself. Don't give up! Learning Russian becomes easier with time. Once you nail down the basics, the rest is a matter of building your vocabulary to be able to talk about a wide range of subjects. Even native Russian speakers have to look things up sometimes, as with anyone who communicates. Having a reliable translator handy is always a good idea. We've referred to Mate Translate here because it's the only translator that works without disrupting your day.
Mate is a great way to consume content as you normally would while contributing to your goal of learning Russian. It works on webpages, in your Mac menu bar, in popups on highlighted text, on your phone, and on your iPad. It syncs your history, settings, and personal phrases so you always have what you need wherever you are. When you're finally ready to head to Russia to apply your newfound knowledge, you'll be absolutely ready.