Russian beginner advice + resources

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Russian beginner advice + resources

Postby wintermute » Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:20 pm

Hi everyone!

I am new on this forum. I am a native Dutch speaker and learned English during childhood. I also learned some Spanish, German, and French during high school but it has all become very rusty. Two weeks ago I decided to study Russian. At the very least I want to become conversational in Russian so I can use it during travels, I know that this is not an easy endeavour.

After doubting which course book to choose for a few days, I chose Colloquial Russian. Do you have any tips on complimentary resources, or how to use this course book as effectively as possible? I also read a post in which a person recommended to use Colloquial and Assimil simultaneously. Is there a big advantage in doing this? Also when you only have a limited amount of time you can devote to language learning (because of uni).

Thanks in advance! :)
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Re: Russian beginner advice + resources

Postby mokibao » Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:02 am

Did you check the master resource thread on this forum, as well as the sidebar for the /r/Russian subreddit ( You will probably find more resources than you can count. People often advertise RT's course but there are shittons of them on the internet, just have your pick.

I for one have been using the Assimil booklets (combining multiple editions) and enjoying them so far. I don't think there is any 'right' way to progress through it beyond carefully reading the text and notes and making sure you understand everything. Just make sure you have audio.

I've also been reading and listening to Frank Ilya's parallel texts (at Frank says that you can just start reading stuff side by side with no previous knowledge of the grammar but I think it helps a lot if you do have a bit of knowledge though. His materials are split into short-sized bites so if one day you really don't have time you can just go over a single short dialog or story or something.

If you're into the "Nature Method" I invite you to look at the following (pulled from

[...] there is a Russian course, still in print in Russia, which I understand is roughly comparable to [the Nature Method]; namely, Miller and Politova’s multivolume Жили Были... (Once upon a Time...). I also found these:
and ... n-russian/
and ... sian-books

We also have Ilya Frank’s courses: ... al-stories.

In addition, we have Marianna Avery’s Сорока (Soroka) children’s books, as well as Stanislav Chernyshov’s Поехали! (Poekhali!) books. There is a new course entitled Дорога в Россию (The Way to Russia) by V.E. Antonova, M.M. Nakhabina, and M.V. Safronova, too. There is also Ignaty Dyakov’s series of books, Рассказ Сенсация (The Story of Sensation), Рассказ Провокация (The Story of Provocation), and Рассказ Канонизация (The Story of Canonisation), to which learners sing praises.
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Re: Russian beginner advice + resources

Postby Sonjaconjota » Sat Apr 17, 2021 6:34 pm

I also read a post in which a person recommended to use Colloquial and Assimil simultaneously. Is there a big advantage in doing this?

I am not studying Russian, so I haven't tried the Russian versions of the books you're mentioning.
But I can tell you that the Colloquial books are more like typical self-study books with grammar explanations, charts and exercises.
The books from Assimil follow a more "natural aproach" of assimilating the language (hence the name) instead of studying it.
Personally I don't really believe in these methods, or at least I don't find them very effective. And I have other criticism towards the Assimil books.
BUT ... they usually are a great source for content in the target language. They include lots of lessons with both audio and transcript for every lesson, and usually the speakers and the quality of the recordings are very good.
So, yes, I would recommend to combine the use of a more "classic" self-study book like Colloquial and Assimil as a source for content. But personally I would suggest that you ignore the Assimil method and just work with their texts with your own methods.
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Re: Russian beginner advice + resources

Postby David1917 » Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:28 am

If you bought the most recent Colloquial Russian, you have a decent overview and a lot of useful travel phrases. I would suggest sticking to it for a couple weeks and getting the most you can from it. A great benefit to using Colloquial is that it has its own followup course, Colloquial 2, which is quite good at ironing out some nuance and giving a few more exercises and examples.

Assimil is a great complement to any course, used however you'd like. I personally like the Assimil method on its own for internalizing structures, whereas others mine it for Anki use. Either way, you get a ton of usable language. In the newer books it's more modern and colloquial, in the older books it's more literary. Do not fear the older books if you can find them!

The reality of Russian is that at some point you're going to have to sit down and work through some brute grammatical exercises. I would say the farthest you can put this off is when you get to the "Active Wave" of Assimil if you do it their way; or to whenever you hit a stump in the Colloquial books. For this there's a couple options. One is to work with a more substantive course with a lot of written exercises like Penguin's Russian or even moreso Terence Wade's Comprehensive Russian Grammar. The other is with pattern drills, especially the Cortina course available for free on the Yojik site with audio. With these you can open the book to the relevant grammar problem (instrumental plural, perfective verbs, etc) and work on those drills.
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Re: Russian beginner advice + resources

Postby Ogrim » Mon Apr 19, 2021 3:45 pm

Welcome to the forum wintermute!

I started learning Russian with Colloquial and I complemented with Assimil, but to get the best out of both I would recommend that you start with Colloquial and work thoroughly on each unit. The main difference between the two courses is that Colloquial explains grammar a lot better than Assimil (and that is a must for Russian). Another problem I have with Assimil in general is that the audio recordings are unnaturally slow for the first 10-30 lessons and there is too little content in each lesson for my taste, but then Assimil follows a different "philosophy" from Colloquial. The talking speed of the audio recordings becomes more natural when you get to lesson 30 or so. On the other hand, every text and dialogue in Assimil is recorded, and that is not the case for Colloquial. Therefore, I started with Colloquial and I just skipped the first 20 or so lessons of Assimil and started using it mainly for listening comprehension and additional vocabulary acquisition. I did not follow the passive/active method that Assimil advocates.

I am not saying my method was the best, you have to find out what works for you, but as David1917 says, you do have to work a lot on grammar, and I would also recommend Terence Wade's grammar with the accompanying exercise book - but only when you have been through a good part of Colloquial Russian.
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