Tower of Babelfish

the languages


© 2012

Gabriel Wyner


To learn Russian, you’re going need a way to learn correct pronunciation, a frequency dictionary to form your base vocabulary, and a good grammar book.  You’ll also benefit from a thematic vocabulary book for specialized vocabulary and maybe a book or two, once you learn your first 1000 words.  Make sure you read the Method sections of the website, then check out some of these resources (I’m currently using these. Pictures are links):

  1. 1.Pronunciation and Alphabet

First off, get a feel for how pronunciation works in English.  The video tutorials here should help.

Once you understand that, start working on Russian.

The Pronounce it Perfectly series comes with audio

examples, all the pronunciation rules, and I’ve yet to

see one that wasn’t excellent.  The Russian version

needs an update, since it comes with cassette tapes.

However(!), Prof. Beyer has made mp3s available here

to go along with the book (and all his other books, too)

If you want to jump to free internet resources, check out Wikipedia’s Russian Phonology page, as well as the Foreign Service Institute’s free FAST Russian course.  The first hour or so of this course is 100% alphabet and pronunciation, and it has a nice progression from familiar letters to the new ones, as well as a great set of recordings to help with pronunciation.  Nicholas Brown’s grammar book also has an alphabet section, but I like the FAST recordings.

  1. 2. Your base vocabulary

I’ve made a base vocabulary list of 400 words to start you off!  After that, try some of these resources:

If I had some extra $$, I’d definitely get Nicholas

Brown’s Frequency Dictionary, which looks

amazing, but is somewhat expensive.

Right now, I’m using the list at Master Russian: The 1000 Most Common Russian Words. It’s lovely for a free resource, though there are a few mistakes.  If you pay them a very reasonable $2, they’ll send you a nicely formatted PDF to print out.

  1. 3. Grammar book

I’m using The New Penguin Russian Course

by Nicholas Brown

This book is wonderful, and pretty uniformly

recommended by almost everyone learning Russian.

  1. 4. Book-type book

You can read anything that you enjoy.  I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter series in translation, especially if you can find an audiobook version to listen to at the same time as reading.  I’ve linked the first three books; the first one’s translation is not as good as the later books, so if you’re already familiar with the series, skip to books 2 or 3.


5.  Other Resources

I’m making my personal Anki deck available here.  Please read the notes!

In terms of monolingual Russian dictionaries, so far I’m using Wiktionary’s Бикисловарь.  It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, and the definitions are easier to understand than other monolingual dictionaries I’ve tried so far.

In terms of typing in Russian, for PC users, go here.  Mac users, go to System Preferences --> Language and Text --> Input Sources and check “Russian - Phonetic” and “Show Input menu in Menu Bar”.  Now you can touch type in Russian.  The keys roughly correspond to their Russian equivalents, and the ones that don’t take about 5 minutes to learn.

The morphological analysis tool over at is extremely useful; you type in any word, even declined, and it will tell you all the forms of that word and where the stress lies in every declined form.


The Assimil series is a sort of special language learning

resource that I discuss in a blog post here.  It doesn’t

quite fit into any of the categories above, and I think

it works best as a sort of supplemental source of Russian

input.  I cannot seem to find an English copy, even

though the Assimil company seems to claim that they

publish one, so I’m stuck with linking the French version,

because I’m using it now and the Russian texts are just

so good that I can’t not recommend it. 


Learn Russian with these Resources

How to learn Russian