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13 Top-Rated Russian Courses for All Levels

Why would you ever learn Russian unless you had to? It’s got a confusing writing system, and it isn’t that useful anyway, right? Not quite.

While the Cyrillic alphabet may be daunting in appearance, it can reliably be learned in just one or two days. The fact that many of the letters resemble those in the Latin alphabet and that the language is much more phonetic than English are two big helps.

There are also plenty of ways knowing Russian could come in handy. It’s the most widely spoken language in Europe, the official language of four countries, and a lingua franca in many more. An understanding of Russian will also open up opportunities to learn other Slavic languages more quickly, like Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Polish.

Still not convinced? How about the chance to read renowned Russian literature in its original form, take a Russian-language architecture tour in Moscow, cruise the Trans-Siberian Railway, or simply deepen your relationship with vodka? 

Whatever your reasons for learning Russian, there are plenty of courses out there that can get you speaking the language. However, no two courses are created equal, and many are simply not very good. 

To help learners find the best courses for them, we’ve gone through the extensive list of resources we’ve tried and have listed the best of the best here. Only courses that we’ve rated 3.5/5 or above (with one exception) have made the cut. There’s a little bit of everything in this list, and we hope you’ll find something that feels just right.

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4.7/5
Price: €29/month
A super-thorough course for learners at most levels

Red Kalinka is known as the “Largest Russian School in the World” and produces several different Russian language products. Their online Russian course, Sistema Kalinka, is high-quality, in-depth, and suitable for everyone from absolute beginners to upper intermediates. There is a tremendous amount of content designed to help students read, write and understand Russian. It’s easily the most comprehensive Russian course we’ve tried.

After completing the course, they claim you’ll know over 3000 words, be able to communicate in most situations, and be able to enjoy watching Russian TV. You’ll also have email access to a personal tutor who can answer any questions you may have about the material. In terms of a course that does it all, Red Kalinka’s Sistema Kalinka is hard to beat.

Pros

  • Lessons build on each other nicely
  • There are chances to practice all major language skills
  • The material is comprehensive

Cons

  • There is potential for lessons to feel monotonous after prolonged study
  • The exercises aren’t particularly exciting or unique
4/5
Price: $19.95/month
Exceptional audio lessons with plenty of chances for active participation

One of the biggest names in language learning, Pimsleur makes use of well-structured courses and conversational lessons to help absolute beginners start speaking Russian right away. Speaking right away can make it feel like you’re making real progress almost immediately. This can be great for motivation.

It’s important to note that, since such an emphasis is placed on listening and speaking skills, there’s little attention paid to grammar and the written language. You’ll likely need to supplement your studies with other resources to get a well-rounded education, but Pimsleur is a good option for aural learners that want to get speaking right away.

The subscription price model is only available to learners in the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia, but the platform is accessible to learners around the world.

Pros

  • Lessons are well structured and progress logically
  • You’ll get to listen to a variety of native speakers
  • The platform is easy to navigate and visually appealing

Cons

  • Visual learners may struggle with the mostly audio content
  • You’ll need to look elsewhere for thorough reading and writing practice
  • The lessons can be somewhat dry
4.2/5
Price: $12.95/month, less for longer subscriptions
Well-structured lessons and a clear curriculum

Babbel has a reputation for comprehensive, well-organized courses — and it’s well deserved. Ideal for learners up to an intermediate level, Babbel delivers reliable, quality lessons at a fair price.

The lessons may leave something to be desired for learners looking for the most exciting way to study, but it’s hard to go wrong if you’re looking to build a solid foundation in Russian. There are plenty of explanations that accompany the lessons, and you’ll get practice in a variety of skills.

This probably isn’t the best choice for advanced learners or those that are primarily interested in conversation practice.

Pros

  • It’s easy to use
  • The course structure is well planned
  • Lessons and explanations are thorough

Cons

  • It isn’t the most exciting resource
  • It isn’t ideal for advanced learners
  • There isn’t much in the way of conversation practice
4.3/5
Price: From $8 – $47/month, less for longer subscriptions
A massive lesson library and thorough explanations

A subscription to RussianPod101 unlocks a vast catalog of content. The lessons are fully capable of providing learners with an in-depth look at Russian vocabulary, grammar, and the cultural context in which words are used. There are lessons covering just about every imaginable situation, each full of important words and phrases.

Learners at all levels will be able to benefit from the lessons, but the bulk of the material is probably most useful for those at the beginner and intermediate stages.

It’s worth mentioning that we did find the website to be confusing to navigate and that lessons don’t always progress in the most logical manner. It’s also true that, while RussianPod101 is fantastic for improving listening comprehension, you’ll probably need to find other resources to improve your conversational skills.

Pros

  • The lesson library is huge
  • There is material for learners at all levels
  • You’ll get to listen to a variety of native speakers

Cons

  • There’s limited speaking and writing practice
  • The platform can be difficult to navigate
  • The practice opportunities aren’t very engaging
4.2/5
Price: $197
Learn Russian grammar through stories

Grammar Hero is the brainchild of Olly Richards, the creator of “I Will Teach You a Language.” As the name suggests, the focus of this course is on helping students internalize challenging grammar points. This is done with a story-based method that gets learners to make meaningful connections with the material.

Practice happens by reading the story, learning the grammar rules, and then re-reading the story to understand why certain grammar points were used. Finally, Olly encourages students to actively produce the language by incorporating exercises such as writing practice, translation, and error correction.

Although Grammar Hero is on the more expensive end and is only suitable for intermediate students, it’s an exceptionally fun and engaging resource. Students wanting to improve their grammar will definitely get a lot of value out of this.

Pros

  • The story-learning method could appeal to many
  • Great for learners interested in understanding difficult grammar concepts

Cons

  • It’s only suitable for learners at the intermediate level
  • It’s fairly expensive
3.8/5
Price: $69 or $99
BITE-SIZE-LANGUAGES-01-1
A decent course for beginners

Something that might stand out about this course is that, although it’s targeted toward beginners, the accompanying materials are written entirely in Russian. The course also doesn’t attempt to teach the Russian alphabet, instead emphasizing that understanding the dialogues at the heart of the course is what’s most important.

We haven’t had the chance to fully test the Bite Size Languages courses, but they utilize comprehensible input in the form of dialogues with additional supportive materials such as transcripts, translations, and vocabulary and grammar sections. 

If you’re looking for a beginner course and aren’t interested in signing up for a recurring subscription, Bite Size Languages could be worth checking out.

Pros

  • Lessons utilize comprehensible input
  • There’s no recurring subscription
  • The course is designed specifically for beginners

Cons

  • The course doesn’t teach the Russian alphabet
  • The dialogues can become slightly boring
3.3/5
Price: $9.99/month for Premium, $13.99/month for Premium Plus
A decent course with a useful social feature

Busuu is a major player in the language-learning world. It’s been around since 2008 and has helped millions of people learn languages. The Russian course on this platform contains well-structured lessons that progress in a logical order and could theoretically lead you from absolute beginner to upper intermediate.

Busuu is more affordable than many other resources, but it also doesn’t deliver in some areas like others do. Grammar explanations, for example, don’t go into great detail and can leave out some useful information.

A unique feature of the Busuu platform is the built-in social feature. With it, learners can submit and correct each other’s writing and speech. This is free to use and fills in a gap where plenty of other resources fall short.

We rated this course a 3.3/5, but this score takes into account Busuu’s Mandarin Chinese course, which is of a lower quality. The score would likely be higher if we had only rated its Russian course.

Pros

  • The design is engaging and the interface is easy to use
  • Conversation lessons are especially useful
  • The social feature is free

Cons

  • Some exercises don’t include translations
  • Grammar explanations aren’t the best
4.7/5
Price: €29/month
A super-thorough course for learners at most levels

Red Kalinka is known as the “Largest Russian School in the World” and produces several different Russian language products. Their online Russian course, Sistema Kalinka, is high-quality, in-depth, and suitable for everyone from absolute beginners to upper intermediates. There is a tremendous amount of content designed to help students read, write and understand Russian. It’s easily the most comprehensive Russian course we’ve tried.

After completing the course, they claim you’ll know over 3000 words, be able to communicate in most situations, and be able to enjoy watching Russian TV. You’ll also have email access to a personal tutor who can answer any questions you may have about the material. In terms of a course that does it all, Red Kalinka’s Sistema Kalinka is hard to beat.

Pros

  • Lessons build on each other nicely
  • There are chances to practice all major language skills
  • The material is comprehensive

Cons

  • There is potential for lessons to feel monotonous after prolonged study
  • The exercises aren’t particularly exciting or unique
4.3/5
Price: From $8 – $47/month, less for longer subscriptions
A massive lesson library and thorough explanations

A subscription to RussianPod101 unlocks a vast catalog of content. The lessons are fully capable of providing learners with an in-depth look at Russian vocabulary, grammar, and the cultural context in which words are used. There are lessons covering just about every imaginable situation, each full of important words and phrases.

Learners at all levels will be able to benefit from the lessons, but the bulk of the material is probably most useful for those at the beginner and intermediate stages.

It’s worth mentioning that we did find the website to be confusing to navigate and that lessons don’t always progress in the most logical manner. It’s also true that, while RussianPod101 is fantastic for improving listening comprehension, you’ll probably need to find other resources to improve your conversational skills.

Pros

  • The lesson library is huge
  • There is material for learners at all levels
  • You’ll get to listen to a variety of native speakers

Cons

  • There’s limited speaking and writing practice
  • The platform can be difficult to navigate
  • The practice opportunities aren’t very engaging

FSI and DLI

4.3/5
Price: Free
FSI
Exceptionally thorough and free but dated courses

The courses created by the Foreign Services Institute (FSI) certainly aren’t the most exciting ways to learn a language, but they work — and they’re free. The Russian course comes with a complete Russian language textbook, audio clips of native speakers, and worksheets.

Similarly, the courses created by the Defense Language Institute (DLI) are as thorough as they are dry. They have quite a bit in common with FSI courses but may place more of a focus on military terminology at higher levels.

With either resource, you’ll have to put up with a type-written document that has been converted to PDF. This could be great if you’ve ever wanted to pretend you’re an intelligence agent from the ‘70s — otherwise, it’s a mild annoyance.

Pros

  • Courses are very thorough
  • These courses are completely free

Cons

  • The materials are dated and not the most exciting
  • Some of the language may not be entirely relevant for most people
4.3/5
Price: $19.99/month
befluent
A communication-focused course

We’ll say right away that we haven’t actually had a chance to test this course. We’ve checked out the BeFluent YouTube channel and were impressed with the videos, but this is our tentative rating.

The BeFluent course includes weekly group calls with the BeFluent team, a large lesson library, and a thorough curriculum. The premium course includes private coaching, for a more personalized and focused experience.

If you like the videos on the BeFluent YouTube channel and are interested in a course that comes with a community feeling, this one might be worth a closer look.

Pros

  • Weekly groups calls to discuss what you’re learning
  • A large lesson library

Cons

  • There’s no free trial
4.3/5
Price: $11.99/month
$29.99/quarter
$55.99/year
Convenient, quality lessons with a touch of gamification

This app gets several things right. For one, its fun-to-use interface and activities make it one of the less intimidating, more engaging ways to get studying. Coupled with the app’s in-depth explanations, variety of exercises, and ample review opportunities, Lingodeer makes an appealing option for beginner learners.

While Lingodeer excels at helping beginners build a foundation in Russian, those that are seeking fluency will need to use other resources. It’s one of the better ones, but Lingodeer is still a gamified app and can only take you so far. Especially for practice speaking and coming up with your own sentences, Lingodeer isn’t your best option.

Pros

  • The variety in exercises keeps practice interesting
  • It’s easy and fun to use
  • Short exercises make for convenient practice

Cons

  • It isn’t useful for taking your skills beyond the intermediate level
  • There isn’t much speaking practice
  • You won’t have opportunities to come up with your own sentences
4.2/5
Price: $12.95/month, less for longer subscriptions
Well-structured lessons and a clear curriculum

Babbel has a reputation for comprehensive, well-organized courses — and it’s well deserved. Ideal for learners up to an intermediate level, Babbel delivers reliable, quality lessons at a fair price.

The lessons may leave something to be desired for learners looking for the most exciting way to study, but it’s hard to go wrong if you’re looking to build a solid foundation in Russian. There are plenty of explanations that accompany the lessons, and you’ll get practice in a variety of skills.

This probably isn’t the best choice for advanced learners or those that are primarily interested in conversation practice.

Pros

  • It’s easy to use
  • The course structure is well planned
  • Lessons and explanations are thorough

Cons

  • It isn’t the most exciting resource
  • It isn’t ideal for advanced learners
  • There isn’t much in the way of conversation practice
4.2/5
Price: $197
Learn Russian grammar through stories

Grammar Hero is the brainchild of Olly Richards, the creator of “I Will Teach You a Language.” As the name suggests, the focus of this course is on helping students internalize challenging grammar points. This is done with a story-based method that gets learners to make meaningful connections with the material.

Practice happens by reading the story, learning the grammar rules, and then re-reading the story to understand why certain grammar points were used. Finally, Olly encourages students to actively produce the language by incorporating exercises such as writing practice, translation, and error correction.

Although Grammar Hero is on the more expensive end and is only suitable for intermediate students, it’s an exceptionally fun and engaging resource. Students wanting to improve their grammar will definitely get a lot of value out of this.

Pros

  • The story-learning method could appeal to many
  • Great for learners interested in understanding difficult grammar concepts

Cons

  • It’s only suitable for learners at the intermediate level
  • It’s fairly expensive
4/5
Price: $19.95/month
Exceptional audio lessons with plenty of chances for active participation

One of the biggest names in language learning, Pimsleur makes use of well-structured courses and conversational lessons to help absolute beginners start speaking Russian right away. Speaking right away can make it feel like you’re making real progress almost immediately. This can be great for motivation.

It’s important to note that, since such an emphasis is placed on listening and speaking skills, there’s little attention paid to grammar and the written language. You’ll likely need to supplement your studies with other resources to get a well-rounded education, but Pimsleur is a good option for aural learners that want to get speaking right away.

The subscription price model is only available to learners in the USA, Canada, UK, and Australia, but the platform is accessible to learners around the world.

Pros

  • Lessons are well structured and progress logically
  • You’ll get to listen to a variety of native speakers
  • The platform is easy to navigate and visually appealing

Cons

  • Visual learners may struggle with the mostly audio content
  • You’ll need to look elsewhere for thorough reading and writing practice
  • The lessons can be somewhat dry
4/5
Price: Free
duolingo
Fun, convenient practice in a free app

This is one of the most popular language-learning resources out there, and it’s no wonder why. Duolingo is completely free to use and offers courses in an impressive number of languages, including Russian. The activities don’t take more than a couple of minutes to complete, and they’re fun. This makes for practice that’s convenient and enjoyable. Hard to beat!

However, there are some limitations to studying with Duolingo. The audio isn’t the best you’ll find, and the lessons don’t go into great detail with explanations and examples. You also won’t have opportunities to practice creating your own sentences or many opportunities to practice speaking.

All things considered, Duolingo is a pretty great way to get some Russian exposure or casual practice with the language if you’re interested and at a low level. For much more than that, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Pros

  • It’s easy and fun to use
  • It’s free 
  • Practice is convenient to start or stop at a moment’s notice

Cons

  • There isn’t much in the way of in-depth instruction
  • The audio isn’t very good
  • You won’t get to create your own sentences
4/5
Price: Freemium, $8.99/month
memrise
Official Russian courses make this more than a flashcard platform

There are two ways to study a language with Memrise. One is to use one of the many free, user-created vocabulary or phrase decks. These sometimes come with images or audio, and you’ll be able to practice them efficiently with a spaced repetition system. Beware that quality does vary from course to course.

The other way to use Memrise is to study one of the official Memrise courses. These are of a higher quality than the free courses and even include videos. Partial access to these official courses is available for free, but you’ll need to purchase a subscription to get full access to grammar lessons and extra features. Learners at lower levels will get the most out of these courses.

It’s worth noting that the full, official Memrise courses are only available through the app. The browser versions of these courses are limited.

While it does have decent official courses, Memrise is probably best used as a source of vocabulary review and for learning new words.

Pros

  • There are a lot of free courses available
  • Practice is efficient with spaced repetition
  • The official Russian course includes videos of native speakers

Cons

  • The free courses are of varying quality
  • You may need to supplement your study with other resources
3.8/5
Price: $69 or $99
BITE-SIZE-LANGUAGES-01-1
A decent course for beginners

Something that might stand out about this course is that, although it’s targeted toward beginners, the accompanying materials are written entirely in Russian. The course also doesn’t attempt to teach the Russian alphabet, instead emphasizing that understanding the dialogues at the heart of the course is what’s most important.

We haven’t had the chance to fully test the Bite Size Languages courses, but they utilize comprehensible input in the form of dialogues with additional supportive materials such as transcripts, translations, and vocabulary and grammar sections. 

If you’re looking for a beginner course and aren’t interested in signing up for a recurring subscription, Bite Size Languages could be worth checking out.

Pros

  • Lessons utilize comprehensible input
  • There’s no recurring subscription
  • The course is designed specifically for beginners

Cons

  • The course doesn’t teach the Russian alphabet
  • The dialogues can become slightly boring
3.5/5
Price: $7.99/month for one language, $17.99 for all languages
Mango-languages-Logo
A beginner course with an attractive design

If you’re beyond the beginner level with Russian, Mango Languages won’t be what you’re after. There just aren’t a lot of advanced learning opportunities with this course. That said, beginners will certainly find material that’s appropriate for their level. This is because you’ll start learning usable words and phrases right away.

A slick and easy-to-use platform makes practice enjoyable, and the lessons build on each other in a practical order. Other features of the Mango Languages course are grammar and culture notes, along with drilling — lots of drilling. The frequent drilling of phrases can get you to a comfortable level with them quickly, but it can also become monotonous.

If this is a course you’re interested in, be sure to check whether you can get free access through your local library.

Pros

  • The app has a nice design and is easy to use
  • Beginners will be able to produce useful phrases quickly
  • Cultural notes are presented well

Cons

  • There isn’t much content for learners beyond the beginner level
  • Frequent drilling can become overly repetitive
  • Grammar explanations are sometimes lacking
3.3/5
Price: $9.99/month for Premium, $13.99/month for Premium Plus
A decent course with a useful social feature

Busuu is a major player in the language-learning world. It’s been around since 2008 and has helped millions of people learn languages. The Russian course on this platform contains well-structured lessons that progress in a logical order and could theoretically lead you from absolute beginner to upper intermediate.

Busuu is more affordable than many other resources, but it also doesn’t deliver in some areas like others do. Grammar explanations, for example, don’t go into great detail and can leave out some useful information.

A unique feature of the Busuu platform is the built-in social feature. With it, learners can submit and correct each other’s writing and speech. This is free to use and fills in a gap where plenty of other resources fall short.

We rated this course a 3.3/5, but this score takes into account Busuu’s Mandarin Chinese course, which is of a lower quality. The score would likely be higher if we had only rated its Russian course.

Pros

  • The design is engaging and the interface is easy to use
  • Conversation lessons are especially useful
  • The social feature is free

Cons

  • Some exercises don’t include translations
  • Grammar explanations aren’t the best

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