How to Improve Russian Speaking for Intermediate Learners

How to Improve Russian Speaking for Intermediate Learners

For most of you, learners of foreign languages, there comes a moment when you are capable enough to understand the textbook and its standard boring topics such as

'Привет, меня зовут Николай'


'Москва - столица Российской Федерации'

and so on. You want something more. You want challenge. I mean, you didn't go through learning all those Russian cases and verbs in order to read and listen to carefully chosen slow spoken boring texts. You want to talk to real Russians and you want to watch Russian films, read Russian books and try to understand the culture and feel what it is like to truly understand the language completely.

But in order to do that, you need to graduate from adapted material. Well, this task is hard but really rewarding. We can divide the task into two main problems. The first one is being able to listen and to understand uncut and native speech. Problem number two is being able to speak (or write) and being understood while doing that. Let me give you a few tips on how to get there.

Evening scene in Russia

Listening and Understanding

First of all, in order to speak, you need to understand what people say to you. As we all know, native speakers are prone to faster speech and they often 'swallow' the words or speak them indistinctly. The only way of getting used to the real tempo is listening to it. Listening to it a lot. Obviously, you need a source of Russian videos, audios, maybe some podcasts for iTunes in order to listen to Russian speech as much as you can. Now,here we come to a problem. Despite the fact, that the internet is supposedly uniting nations and people, it may prove to be quite a hassle for a foreigner to obtain movies or series in Russian. For example, you cannot watch Russian federal channels on their sites if you are in another country. So, my task here is to provide you with enough sources to be able choose the way you want to engage in listening and practicing. Because, to be honest, there is no universal tip on how to understand the language in a short time. You just have to practice and listen and your hearing will adapt itself to discern the passages and words in almost any person’s speech (Although, there are always some individuals who make such a jumble of the language, that even native Russians can’t understand them. I suppose, they exist in every nation, though). So, here is a little list, I’ve made for you.

1. Movies and series

First of all, not to reinvent the bicycle you could try to search Netflix for Russian translated series. Actually, I have already done that for you and found that there are actually only about 10-20 titles that have Russian audio. Among them, only 2 are worth your time. The first one being a criminal series about serial killers (Series called ‘the Method’, however be careful as it has a lot of violence and the spoken language is quite fast and hard) and the second – an animated movie “Смешарики” (or Kikoriki, actually the first time I hear the English equivalent and it is ridiculous. Word for word, it should be something like Funballs). The second one is ideal not only for children but for everyone learning Russian or just enjoying it. The series are short and the language spoken there is clear and slow. Yet, they always have a deeper meaning and it is most usually within the Russian mentality. You should definitely check them out. So, Netflix doesn’t have much to offer in terms of Russian movies and series. However, I can recommend you a site: It is fully Russian but fairly easy to navigate and it has tons of movies and series for you to watch online. It has some popup banners, but they are not really annoying. The advantage is that it has not only Russian movies but also American and English, that are translated and translated language is always more clear and easy to understand. In addition, you can compare them to the original movie. So, if you are just starting to listen to Russian, I’d recommend watching translated popular movies. That way you can enjoy a good movie and hone your language.

2. Radio and podcasts

You may not always have time or desire to watch videos. We are living in a world of screens and personal computers, after all. If you want to learn Russian without watching anything, podcasts and radio in Russian will be ideal for you. Well, the best source for you is actually iTunes podcasts. It has both podcasts and some versions of Russian radio. Here is a list of top Russian Podcasts. I am sure that you will be able to find something to suit your taste. If you don’t have the ability to use iTunes, then I would advise this Page . It has all Russian radio frequencies and you will definitely be able to find something you will like. I should mention that listening without seeing to unedited Russian speech may be harder to understand than movies, so be prepared.And the last, but definitely not the least! Browse our Blogs! They have tons of interesting stuff for you so that you can improve your language skills. Like spoken excersises and how to pronounce words correctly.

A cup of latte and an iPhone with a music app open on a table

3. Audiobooks and music. This one is the hardest of all the previous variants. Music and books use the hardest terms and song lyrics are much harder to recognize. But! If you want to listen to real music and audiobooks, here we go. Top 100 russian songs , this one is a site with a lot of different charts of Russian music. You can even listen to them there or buy them from some store! Check it out, the charts are nicely done. Concerning audiobooks, you should really go and see Bookmate. Not only does it have audiobooks but also eBooks of the most popular Russian authors (if you want to choose something, I’d recommend some contemporary literature, because its language is modern and it has easier words that are good for speaking Russian).

An open book in Ukrainian seen through a pair of glasses

Speaking and Being Understood

So, let us presume that you can understand most of what is spoken in Russian. Now, the hard part is to be able to communicate with real native speakers. And here we also have some problems because in spite of the fact that Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms for English-speaking users, that is not true for Russians. Our government decided that LinkedIn is bad for us and banned it, so we are mostly using Facebook for business stuff. What we really use for chatting with each other are the following 2 sites: Vkontakte and Odnoklassinki. Those are our most popular social media platforms. If you want to meet and talk to Russian people, you go there. The principle is the same as in Facebook and even simpler since they have less functions. I can tell you for sure that you will be able to find people to talk to, especially if you join some English learning groups. You can help them; they can help you. It’s a win-win situation, right? Hey,about win-win, if they get interested, advise them our site too so they can get tips on learning better English. The second site is for somewhat older people while the first one is for every age. So, just go there, register and feel what it’s like being a Russian in the worldwide web!

An phone with the Facebook app open next to Scrabble pieces arranged in the words “social media”

Let's Summarize

In order to speak better, you have to listen attentively and repeat the words as natives do it. You have to try to talk to them, to make them understand you day by day and only like that you will be able to speak freely and use the language for your pleasure without getting too worked up trying to form everything in your head. Good luck practicing!