Learn Russian with these Resources
To learn Russian, you’re going need a way to learn correct pronunciation, a frequency dictionary to form your base vocabulary, and a good grammar book. You’ll also benefit from a thematic vocabulary book for specialized vocabulary and maybe a book or two, once you learn your first 1000 words. Make sure you read the Method sections of the website, then check out some of these resources (I’m currently using these. Pictures are links):
Pronunciation and Alphabet
Note: As a faster (and more effective) alternative to the following pronunciation resources, check out my Kickstarter project. It will make the first steps of Russian much easier for you, because it takes advantage of how your brain works (and how to re-wire it) in a way that traditional tools just can’t.
First off, get a feel for how pronunciation works in English. The video tutorials here should help.
Once you understand that, start working on Russian. The Pronounce it Perfectly series comes with audio examples, all the pronunciation rules, and I’ve yet to see one that wasn’t excellent. The Russian version needs an update, since it comes with cassette tapes. However(!), Prof. Beyer has made mp3s available here to go along with the book (and all his other books, too)
If you want to jump to free internet resources, check out Wikipedia’s Russian Phonology page, as well as the Foreign Service Institute’s free FAST Russian course. The first hour or so of this course is 100% alphabet and pronunciation, and it has a nice progression from familiar letters to the new ones, as well as a great set of recordings to help with pronunciation. Nicholas Brown’s grammar book also has an alphabet section, but I like the FAST recordings. And this site has a pretty cool free grammar book!
Your base vocabulary
I’ve made a base vocabulary list of 400 words to start you off! As I talk about in that article, I find it easiest to translate those words using the short dictionaries at the end of a Lonely Planet Phrasebook; they’re cheap, short and give you good, standard translations for your words (just ignore the ridiculous pronunciation guides). Later, when you’re ready for sentences, you can go back to your phrasebook and grab some. After that, try some of these resources:
Right now, I’m using the list at Master Russian: The 1000 Most Common Russian Words. It’s lovely for a free resource, though there are a few mistakes. If you pay them a very reasonable $2, they’ll send you a nicely formatted PDF to print out.
Neri Rook has created a neat set of sentences, which are ranked based upon how frequently the words within those sentences show up within the language, then created Anki decks to store them, with Text-to-Speech recordings of each sentence and translations. They’re a nice resource to mine for useful content; I’d suggest finishing the 625, then looking through them in order for new words or new grammatical constructions, and then learning those new chunks via New Word cards, New Word Form cards and Word Order cards.
You can read anything that you enjoy. I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series in translation, especially if you can find an audiobook version to listen to at the same time as reading. I’ve linked the first three books; the first one’s translation is not as good as the later books, so if you’re already familiar with the series, skip to books 2 or 3.
5. Other Resources
I’m making my personal Anki deck available here. Please read the notes!
In terms of monolingual Russian dictionaries, so far I’m using Wiktionary’s Бикисловарь. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, and the definitions are easier to understand than other monolingual dictionaries I’ve tried so far.
Typing in Russian
In terms of typing in Russian, for PC users, go here. Mac users, go to System Preferences –> Language and Text –> Input Sources and check “Russian – Phonetic” and “Show Input menu in Menu Bar”. Now you can touch type in Russian. The keys roughly correspond to their Russian equivalents, and the ones that don’t take about 5 minutes to learn. (And if you have a jailbroken iPhone, you can even set up this keyboard there, too!)
The morphological analysis tool over at rinet.ru is extremely useful; you type in any word, even declined, and it will tell you all the forms of that word and where the stress lies in every declined form.
The Assimil series is a sort of special language learning resource that I discuss in a blog post here. It doesn’t quite fit into any of the categories above, and I think it works best as a sort of supplemental source of Russian input. I cannot seem to find an English copy, even though the Assimil company seems to claim that they publish one, so I’m stuck with linking the French version, because I’m using it now and the Russian texts are just so good that I can’t not recommend it.
Dictionarist provides translations, example sentences, conjugations, and synonyms for a number of languages including Russian.
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