Let’s be real: Russian isn’t the most popular language to learn. It’s not seen as romantic like French, suave like Italian or useful like Spanish. And that’s a real shame, because Russian is extremely eloquent, versatile and even, believe it or not, beautiful. In addition, Russia has been in the news frequently in the last several months. Regardless of your political opinion, no one can deny there is change coming. Russia – and Russian – will be playing a larger global role in the near future, if only in the news.
Personally, I love how playful Russian is. Its abundant prefixes and suffixes make it very modular, and it’s easy to make up (hilarious) new words, whose meaning will instantly be understood. For example, грудь grud’ meaning “chest,” can easily be turned into a well-endowed chest with few extra letters: грудище grudische.
There’s also the obvious: literature. Russian literature is world renowned and full of gems, some of which don’t make it through translation. It’s always better to read in the original. While someone of the masters might be a little tough for beginners, there are plenty of short stories and other accessible writing (Gogol’s short stories are particularly hilarious). If nothing else, you’ll get to read, in it’s sparkling original, my favorite poem by the great national genius/hottie, Aleksander Pushkin, called “Tsar Nikita and His 40 Daughters.” It’s about a king who has 40 daughters, who don’t have vaginas, and his quest to get them some. So there’s that.
I usually start any search or venture on Reddit. It has a great subreddit from learning Russian with a lot of fantastic resources:
More language and grammar:
Here’s some easy literature to start out with:
You can also immerse yourself in current music and events, to help get a sense of the culture alongside the language:
A list of Russian language newspapers – don’t be afraid of the advanced level. You’d be surprised at how much you can glean even when you only understand every 3rd word (or 10th).
From Russia with Soundcheck – WNYC’s Soundcheck recently produced a short series on Russian music, past and present, which is pretty interesting. It’s in English but a good jump-off point.
Russian Wikipedia – don’t underestimate this amazing resource!
Of course, a huge part of learning any language is being able to practice it with others. Check out meet-up groups in your area, Craiglists or even online groups, such as Google’s Language Practice Hangouts group.
More Massive Lists of Resources
Whatever way you prefer, don’t be afraid to learn Russian. It’s not easy, but it’s not much more difficult than other languages. At the very least, give it a try. And let us know what you learn!