The Russian Accelerator course aims to get beginners and intermediates to a conversational level in Russian using techniques such as contextual learning and power phrases. Created by Mark Thomson around 2010, the course has not progressed or changed at all since then and so has a very dated look and feel to it. As other resources cover the material in a better and more engaging way, I personally don’t think it is worth checking out.
Very easy to use but poor design and low-quality content.
Mark needlessly goes overboard on some descriptions while neglecting to go into more depth on some more important grammar points.
I wouldn’t use Russian Accelerator even if it was free and it’s far from free.
Ummmmm… I’m not actually sure if I enjoyed anything about it. Actually, watching his students speak confidently in Russian on a trip was a nice moment.
I DON’T LIKE…
I didn’t find the material to be very engaging at all and lessons became quite repetitive very quickly.
Everything about Russian Accelerator looks and feels dated and, well, it is as it was last updated in 2010.
While there is actually quite a bit of content on the platform, not much of it is done very well and you can almost certainly find everything done better somewhere else.
Having never heard of Russian Accelerator prior to using the resource, I was immediately put off by the messy looking home page which looks as if it has come straight out of the 90s and upon closer inspection, I found out that nothing has changed about it since 2010.
Looks can be deceiving however and some great courses are hosted on the most basic of websites. Russian Accelerator is sadly not one of them.
The course is intended for beginners and intermediates and the goal is to get them to a conversational level in Russian through using various language learning techniques.
I personally found the lessons quite tedious to go through as they were too repetitive and not very well designed or engaging. In addition to this, the exercises pretty much amounted to saying words out loud to yourself and making your own flashcards with there being no way for you to actually practice your conversation skills.
As such, you would be better off choosing a different Russian course.
Although a beginner would certainly come away having learned a bit of basic Russian, there are lots of other resources out there that cover the material in a more engaging and entertaining way.
Consequently, I can’t recommend Russian Accelerator to any prospective Russian language learner and, having seen the price quoted for the course, I’m actually a bit insulted and indignant that they dare charge people that much.
While it may once have been ‘the leader in online Russian language training’, Russian Accelerator hasn’t moved with the times and the dated feel and look to both the website and the material itself mean that you’re better off looking elsewhere for your language learning needs.
All in all, Russian Accelerator has 18 different Units for you to work through and each of these contains five different lessons that build upon one another.
These introduce you to various useful words, phrases, and topics and the aim is to get beginners and intermediate learners to a conversational level. These lessons take around half-an-hour to forty-five minutes to go through and Mark recommends that you complete them a couple of times, just so that you solidify your knowledge of the grammar points and vocabulary.
Each Unit is based upon a short conversation in Russian and all of the dialogue is split into more manageable chunks which you go over in the five lessons of the unit.
After first being introduced to the new vocabulary, you then listen to the words used in context and go over a grammar point related to the vocabulary before listening to the dialogue in its entirety. You then say the words out loud and try and pronounce them as accurately as possible before translating what the speaker says as you go through the dialogue.
As you’re going over the same seven words and phrases over and over again, the lessons do get a bit repetitive and the main exercise which Mark gives you is to create flashcards for yourself.
While flashcards can be a helpful tool for language learning, I’d strongly recommend using a program like Anki or Memrise which use an SRS algorithm over making them by hand. This way, you don’t waste time reviewing words you’ve already mastered.
This repetitive nature of Russian Accelerator is designed to help you retain the information you go over and the whole course relies on techniques such as contextual learning, power phrases and pattern recognition to get you learning all of the words and phrases you come across.
In addition to these lessons which make up the core of the Russian Accelerator course and are made up of a mix of videos and short audio files, there is also a Russian Alphabet Mastery course on offer. This consists of nine videos, each around ten to fifteen minutes in length, which get you recognizing and reading the Cyrillic alphabet.
In addition to this, there are some other short sections on various topics for you to check out and we’ll look at these in a bit more detail later on.
All in all, there is quite a lot of material for you to work through but, as you’ll see from the rest of the review, I came away pretty underwhelmed at what each lesson actually entailed and what the Russian Accelerator platform had to offer up overall.
After having signed up and logged on to your Russian Accelerator account, you are immediately greeted with an orientation video where the course creator, Mark Thompson, goes over what you can expect to learn from the course.
The idea is to get beginners and intermediates to a conversational level in Russian using various techniques such as contextual learning, pattern recognition and using constructions. This apparently gets you to quite a good level quite quickly.
Mark then goes over what a typical Russian Accelerator lesson looks like and teaches you how to navigate the site. Although this is undoubtedly quite useful, I couldn’t help thinking that, while other platforms would certainly benefit from doing the same, the Russian Accelerator website looks so basic/bootleg that you probably wouldn’t need this tour.
Another problem I had with this introductory video is that every example of a Russian person was basically just a photo of various beautiful women which someone had fished off of the internet.
In addition to this, the video of Mark speaking to someone in Russian is very poorly recorded with pretty bad audio and it seemed strange that it was with this video he was trying to convince people to sign up to his course. Anyway, let’s look at the first few lessons of Russian Accelerator.
After clicking on the Lesson 1 link below the introductory video you are then taken to the page in the photo above. You first listen to the dialogue 1 audio file and then listen to a brief conversation played out entirely in Russian. This is just a preview of what is to come and shows you what you will be able to say and understand at the end of Unit 1.
As Mark warned in the introductory video, this first lesson is really all about recommending you ways in which you can make the most of the course and he advises you to create your own set off hand-written flashcards and a grammar book.
After really hammering this point home in a seven-minute video, Step 1 again ends with a random picture of a beautiful Russian woman which looks as if it had been taken off of a catfishing profile on Tinder.
Step 2 gets off to a slightly better start as we are introduced to our first Russian word: mozhno. This means ‘May I?’, ‘Can I?’ or ‘Is it possible?’.
After hearing both a male and female native speaker say it out loud, Mark encourages us to pronounce it for ourselves before setting the scene and introducing the context in which the word is used. After going through quite a few more examples to highlight just how useful a word it is, Mark then introduces another of his learning techniques: power phrases.
This is a phrase we use to help us remember the word and for mozhno it is ‘May I mow the lawn?’. As it uses both the word’s meaning and sound in just one sentence, this simple phrase should, in theory, help us to remember both how to say mozhno and what is means.
Lesson 2, so the first proper lesson, has much more to it and in this one, you learn how to say yes, please, so…, you (from) where? and American in both the male and female.
Mark again gives you various scenarios and contexts in which each word is used. He also narrates some embellished stories which have a comical twist to them and these are intended to help you remember the power phrases he has come up with.
For please, so pozhaluista in Russian (though I’ve seen it Romanicised from the Cyrillic with a number of different spellings) then becomes ‘Can I PLEASE wear my pajamas?’ and this again has the meaning of the word and its starting syllables included in the sentence.
He then proceeds to do this for all of the various words introduced in the lesson.
After listening to each of the individual words again in Step 2, just to hear how they’re pronounced and said by native speakers, you can then move on to Step 3. This is a short four-minute video that teaches you how to use ‘you’ in Russian in both a formal and informal setting.
In Step 4, you start working on the dialogue which we heard at the beginning of Lesson 1 and what sounded unintelligible to someone just starting out learning Russian now begins to make sense as we already know how to say may I, yes, please, where are you from, and you’re an American.
Mark provides both a very literal translation of the dialogue and a normal translation below it. I found this quite useful at it helps you interpret how the words and phrases are used in normal Russian.
Step 5 is a ‘dialogue practice video’ where Mark then asks you how to say some of the words the lesson has gone over and you are given a bit of time to say them out loud before a native speaker confirms whether you’re right or wrong.
After this comes Step 6 which encourages you to listen to the first two lines of the audio and then say the words along with it or respond to one or the other of the two people having the conversation, pausing as many times as you need.
Step 7 is very similar in this respect but this time you are instead asked to listen to the audio and then translate is after each word or two that the woman says. Mark then translates if for you just to make sure you got it.
As you can see, these 7 steps really hammer home the same words over and over again and I did start to find it a bit repetitive towards the end. Now that we’ve looked at the first couple of lessons, let’s take a look at some of the later ones and what else the platform has to offer up
Each of the remaining three lessons that make up Unit 1 all follow exactly the same formula as we just went over for lesson 2 above. All of the steps are acted out in the same way and the only slight difference is in Step 2 where you are introduced to some different Russian grammar points each time.
These are generally quite well done as Mark goes into quite a bit of depth explaining subjects such as the gender of nouns, conjugation patterns and the basic grammar structure of the language.
As the $1 3-week trial subscription to Russian Accelerator only gave me access to Unit 1, I can’t say for certain what the other 17 Units look like but I imagine (or at least hope!) that they increase in difficulty and that less English is used in the explanations the further you progress.
I am however pretty sure that they follow the same formula as Unit 1 and this is because in the ‘Native Speaker Videos’ section you get two, well, native speakers, one male and one female, going over the material you have just gone over.
The idea is that hearing them say all the words, phrases and sentences both at a natural and slightly slower speed will help you to improve your pronunciation and comprehension skills. I thought this was a pretty good idea and was a bit disappointed to see that they only covered up till Unit 7.
These do increase in both length and difficulty the further you progress and so I think it’s safe to assume that the Russian Accelerator course progresses in difficulty, increases in terms of the amount of Russian you come across and also follow the same formula we saw above (at least up until Unit 7).
Okay, so how did I actually find the lessons that I had access to?
Well, there certainly is a very dated feel and look to Russian Accelerator and the only dates you see mentioned on the platform all date to 2010 when I suppose it was founded.
Since then it is highly unlikely that anything has changed in any shape or form and I suppose I’m kind of surprised that it’s still running and that people still apparently pay for it. Some of the videos, for instance, are not very well filmed, have poor audio and really do look their age.
In general, however, the course videos and material were fine without really setting the world alight.
In Unit 1 a lot of English is used and considering the fact that they take about half-an-hour to forty-five minutes to go through, you don’t learn all that much in terms of vocabulary or grammar. In this respect, I think a platform like RussianPod101 is much better as they cover a lot more material in a shorter period of time.
I suppose the Russian Accelerator lessons do try to get you engaging with the material in various ways but I thought they were are all a much of muchness.
This is because you are first introduced to the new words, then listen to them individually, learn the context in which they are used, listen to them spoken in Russian in context, are asked to say the words and phrases you’ve learned in Russian and are then asked to translate the words you have just gone over.
While each step does build on one other, it did get a bit repetitive and there aren’t, unfortunately, any other more engaging ways in which you can practice what you have learned, well, unless you count your hand-written flashcards as a bundle of fun.
In general, Mark is quite a good presenter and is very clear to listen to. He does, however, ask you to imagine this and imagine that almost constantly and while I found it a bit tiring, the heavy emphasis on contextual learning is probably very useful for a lot of people.
The power phrases are also a useful memorization technique and the slightly absurd stories he creates around them certainly help you to remember the words and phrases more easily. It was also good that most of the vocabulary you cover is written in both Cyrillic with the Romanicised version and the English translation.
While the heavy emphasis on contextual learning and repetition probably does help you to memorize the words and understand the context in which you can use them, I found the lessons a bit formulaic to follow and I don’t know if I could work through 18 Units of them, if they are in actual fact the same throughout.
As such, I came away quite underwhelmed by the lessons.
In addition to the 18 Units and 90 lessons which make up the main bulk of the material on Russian Accelerator, there are also some other sections on the platform for you to check out. As we’ve already seen, the ‘Native Speaker Videos’ were a welcome addition without again really setting the world alight as they again cover the same material as the main bunch of lessons and also have a very basic look and feel to them.
The next section on the website is ‘How to write Cyrillic Letters’ and these five very short videos teach you, well, how to write the Cyrillic letters. Each of them only lasts around two minutes and for such short videos, I thought they were quite confusingly done.
This is because you aren’t really given an introduction about the Russian alphabet and so you just hop around between letters, slightly uncertain as to whether you’ve covered them all or not. As such you are shown a random letter at a time, are taught how to write it in Cyrillic and how to pronounce it before Mark gives you a tip or two on how he remembers the English equivalent.
I think there are a lot of ways that these (again) very basic videos could be improved upon to make them clearer to follow. There are plenty of YouTube channels that offer the same thing, but with higher production quality.
In the next section of the website under the ‘Language Q and A’, Mark seems to have dealt with my criticism above as he has the Cyrillic alphabet written out in order for you to work through.
In this section, Mark responds to any questions that members have about the material covered, gives them advice on how to deal with any learning issues they have and addresses a number of grammar points.
Indeed, there seems to be more grammar covered in this Q and A section than in the lessons themselves (at least the ones I went through) which leads me to believe that a lot of people struggled with the learning methods used in Russian Accelerator.
After this comes the ‘On Location Videos’ section where you follow Mark around places such as Kiev, Simferopol Airport and to Cape Fiolent. In these, he uses a mixture of English and Russian to explain various aspects of Russian or Ukrainian culture and along the way you meet some locals from time to time.
They are pretty random and not particularly well filmed but I suppose they do get you seeing a bit of the countries and learning about their various cultures.
The next section is just as random but is actually quite nice as in the ‘Live Workshop Videos’ you get to watch various Russian Accelerator members using their new-found Russian language skills in Ukraine when they came together for a week-long workshop in 2010.
These short videos highlight just how much Russian the members had picked up from using the course and I was quite impressed and surprised to see how comfortably they spoke to the locals.
Whether it is visiting a museum and walking around the galleries, going bowling or simply meeting people for a coffee, they all do really well and so perhaps you too could pick up that much Russian from working through the lessons.
After this comes a series of bonus videos that you can either download and work on offline or work through on the site.
These videos are actually quite helpful and they teach you how to read the Russian alphabet in just a few hours. There are fourteen of these videos on offer and each one of them looks at a few of the letters of the alphabet at a time and Mark explains how they are used in context.
Finally, there are seven videos for you to go through which give you seven tips and tricks to use in your Russian language learning journey. These videos again aren’t anything special but may offer some nuggets of information to some learners.
All in all, there is actually a decent amount of material to be found on the Russian Accelerator platform, the problem is that not much of it is all that useful and if it is, you can almost certainly find it presented in a better way on another website.
While I could list a plethora of ways in which it could be improved, the fact that nothing has changed since 2010 makes it highly unlikely that the material is going to get better any time soon.
I didn’t find it very engaging to work through and the videos dragged on a bit as Mark really hammered home most points. As such, it got quite repetitive and the only thing you were ever asked to do was say things out loud to yourself or practice your flashcards.
As the whole point of the course is to get you to a conversational level, I was disappointed with the lack of ways that you can practice speaking. A far better option would be to save the money you’d spend on this course and find a personal tutor on italki to practice with.
Alternatively, you can get speaking practice and feedback on your pronunciation from a real person on Speechling. Even Glossika, which has plenty of weaknesses, would be better at developing your speaking skills.
While I didn’t come away very impressed by Russian Accelerator, I was impressed at the short videos of Mark’s students meeting Ukrainians and speaking to them quite confidently in Russian which indicates that some people may benefit from following the course.
To really improve your Russian I think you would have to use Russian Accelerator alongside a number of other resources and, as it is so dated and not all that fun to go through, I’m certain you can find a more up to date Russian course online for you to try out.
RussianPod101, for instance, has hundreds upon hundreds of lessons for you to work through and these cover a lot of subjects in great depth although it too has its weaknesses as do all language learning resources. It is undoubtedly much better than Russian Accelerator though!
For me, Russian Accelerator is to be avoided due to its dated look, repetitive lessons and the fact that quite a lot of the material on the website is pretty random and not all that well done.
Plans and Prices
For language learners interested in trying out Russian Accelerator for themselves, there is thankfully a $1 three-week-long trial that you can sign up for and this gains you access to the first unit of lessons on the platform as well as all of the other videos and audios that are included under other sections.
As such you can try out the first five lessons of the course for yourself to see if they suit your learning needs and you could also work through all of the Russian Alphabet Mastery videos and the How to Write Cyrillic Letters in that time.
While this is a generous offer, you need to be very careful if you sign up as you will automatically be billed four monthly payments of $97 each if you don’t cancel!
While you do receive an email after sixteen days to warn you that the trial is nearly over, I thought this was very sneaky as the email could end up in your junk mail box or it could slip your mind after you’ve inevitably stopped using Russian Accelerator after just a couple of days having realized it’s not for you (or possibly anybody).
In total this would mean that you pay $388 for what really is a very dated course when there are definitely more up to date platforms out there with more fun and engaging lessons.
This gains you lifetime access to the following courses: Russian Accelerator Conversational Russian, Russian Accelerator Fast Track to Fluency and Russian Accelerator Advanced Verbs and Idioms.
I couldn’t figure out where this last course was located on the website and the Fast Track to Fluency one is basically seven videos that give you tips on how to learn Russian quickly.
It is not very inspiring stuff and is next to worthless in my eyes, if not a complete waste of time. As such the Russian Accelerator Conversational Russian course (so all the main units and lessons) is possibly the only course there that is even slightly worth checking out.
In addition to this though, it does gain you access to all of the bonus sections on the website which include the Russian Alphabet Mastery course, access to some other audio files and a Members Only Podcast.
While I think the alphabet course would help you learn the Cyrillic alphabet, on the whole, the bonus sections are just as dated and repetitive as the rest of the material on the site.
The final thing included in the bonus section is twenty-one days’ access to Russian Accelerator’s Success Coaching which is where you can personalized feedback from their staff as you send them emails and audio files with any questions you may have about the material.
Slightly cheaper than the bundle option is the Main Course option which instead comes in at $291 split over three monthly payments. This signs you up for the main Conversational Russian course and doesn’t include the Fast Track to Fluency or Advanced Verbs and Idioms course. It does, however, include all of the bonus material that we just went over.
As you may have gathered, I came away very unimpressed at the Russian Accelerator course and I am slightly shocked that a) it costs so much and b) that the website is still running at all.
The website and material itself is very dated and most of, if not all, of the lessons and exercises are not worth going through in my opinion as they are very repetitive and not very engaging to work through.
As such, I doubt I would use Russian Accelerator even if it was free as there are definitely better options out there for learning Russian.
Red Kalinka, for instance, is a lot better in my eyes for all it offers up and in this day in age, there are lots of better courses out there than a website that hasn’t been updated since 2010. Consequently, I would give Russian Accelerator a miss. If you do end up signing up for the $1 three-week trial please just make sure to cancel it in time if you find that it doesn’t suit your learning needs.
Possibly the only redeeming factor of the expensive Russian Accelerator course bundle is that there is a 100% money-back guarantee if you do end up paying and finding that it really isn’t as good as you imagined it to be.
With its dated look and feel, Russian Accelerator really has been left behind by the times and it seems strange to me that people are (apparently) still signing up for a course this old. The material is not very engaging or interesting to work through and the production quality is very low for most of the courses and bonus sections on offer.
Although there is quite a lot of material to be found on the Russian Accelerator website, most of it is not worth working through in my opinion and a lot of it seems to be almost an afterthought, just randomly chucked in alongside the main Conversational Russian course.
While beginners will almost certainly learn something from following Russian Accelerator, it is very doubtful whether they would be making the most of their time and money.
For the price quoted, you can certainly find better Russian courses out there with more engaging material, slicker production and more in-depth analysis of anything from grammar and vocabulary points to culture and learning methods. Not only that, making use of free podcasts and YouTube channels would likely be a better use of your time.
Other courses, for instance, have much more engaging exercises for you to complete rather than the endless array of flashcards that Mark asks you to produce while following Russian Accelerator.
All in all, I think Russian Accelerator is best off avoided unless you want to travel back in time to a simpler era.
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