Multitran is an online crowdsourced dictionary. It’s a fantastic resource for those hard-to-find translations of abbreviations and technical terms as well as good general dictionary. Search online in Russian or English or download the program for free. However, it sometimes strives to be too large, inserting strange, highly regional, and/or dated translations.
Gramota.ru has an amazing Russian-Russian dictionary that has one feature many online dictionaries don’t – the stress vowel is clearly marked in every word!
Linguee gives translations of words and shows how certain words, phrases or even sentences have already been translated by other people by using several professionally-produced bi-lingual sites.
Translate.academic.ru gives not only translations but also background info about words and phrases.
Abbyy Lingvo offers both a downloadable and an online dictionary (which requires an account). Stress is marked voice recordings will also give you the proper pronunciation. This was developed by a Russian software company that developed one of the world’s first electronic dictionaries!
Bab.la is a user-participatory dictionary with a fairly extensive phrase book and verb conjugation resources.
Russian Grammatical Dictionary gives translation and the grammatical forms of Russian words.
Specialty Dictionaries and Resources
Vasmer’s Etymological Dictionary is useful for more advanced speakers.
Slovar Dalya is from the 19th century, but still very commonly used in Russia.
Idioms.chat.ru offers a massive collection of Russian idioms with pictures and translations.
CoolJugator specializes in verbs – see how they conjugate and translate with their intuitive interface.
Slovar.lib is a collection of literary terms in Russian.
Gramota.ru is a Russian language site aimed at improving the Russian spoken within Russia. Obviously its materials are intended for native speakers, but advanced students will find the games, dictionaries, and information listed here great!
Slovopedia is a great resource, as it has an impressive list of Russian-Russian online dictionaries.
SOKR.ru is a Russian-only database of Russian acronyms.
The National Corpus is a resource that allows users to search for words, morphology, and more.
GAAP.ru provides a helpful English-Russian glossary of accounting terms.
The Museum of Russian Icons hosts two free, downloadable dictionaries. One is a Russian-English dictionary of over 1400 saints’ names. The other is a dictionary of words commonly found in the field of icon studies.
Online Russian Lessons
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Categories in this section are very loosely defined and there is a substantial amount of cross-over. Beginners are likely to find good material in the advanced section and teachers will likely be interested in all sections. These categories have been created only to allow users to find what will likely be the most helpful resources for their purposes the fastest.
For Teachers & Adv. Students
Full Courses can be found at SRAS Online, which has a wide selection of language and other classes in short, online, affordable classes. Heritage Russian is for heritage speakers. Beginning Russian Through Film uses Russian classic films and accompanying study materials to build language skills. Paid experiences, with tutors/teachers, can be found at Tips4Russian, with a course on verbs of motion, as well as Pushkin Institute, Pa-russki.com, LiveLingua, and Linguisticator.
Authentic Materials! Olga’s Blog and Моя Россия offer short texts in simplified Russian written by young Russians about their lives and views and glossed for vocabulary and (often) grammar. Один день из моей жизни is a LiveJournal page devoted to documenting average days lived by ordinary folks.
More online lessons and course materials: see Cornell University, Russificate, Business Russian IC, or Quia. Try Russian in 7 Minutes from SRAS partner Novamova for concise descriptions of Russian grammar in clear, slow Russian. For still more lessons, that you will need at least an account to access, but which often offer more lessons with more structure, see Russnet.org, Molodets!, MERLOT, TeachRussian.org, or GLOSS. On YouTube, try Amazing Russian and Russian Grammar for short lectures on pronunciation, vocab, and grammar.
Literature based: Try Russian Language Learning on the Web (lessons drawn from Golden and Silver Age classics), Reading Russian Short Stories (presents very short stories from Pelevin to Gorky), University of Kansas (literature, history, and more), Russian Literature Podcasts (classic stories with transcripts with stress marked), The Annotated Afanas’ev Library (folklore), Uchites (literature and social issues), and Lingro.com (turn any webpage into a language lesson and build vocab flashcards).
Current events based: Try GeoHistory’s or MuseumStudiesAbroad’s semi-regular side-by-side translations of current news. LuchSveta.org follows a similar format but is no longer updated. With an account, you can try Foreigncy.us for lessons based on current news articles.
Bilingual recipes: Take a look at Folkway’s Cookbook for Eurasian foods, with histories, bilingual recipes, and cooking videos.
Writing practice: Lang-8 allows you to keep a journal in a foreign language – which native speakers correct for you (an account is required, though free). InterPals runs a similar pen pal matching service. (Account creation required.)
Speaking practice: Scrabbin is a social networking site for online language exchanges. Similar services are offered by RosettaStone, LiveMocha, MyLanguageExchange, Verbling, iTalki, Tandem, and Mixxer. You can work on your pronunciation privately with Forvo.
Listening practice: Ruslan, RAILS, and Golosa provide free material that can be used independently of the books that most are connected to. For a podcast experience, with transcripts available, try Ochen po-Russki, 3ears, Raketa, Shkola Zhizni, Russian Popcorn, and Spoonful of Russian (a good resource, though no longer updated). RussianPodcast.eu also offers similar, but the transcripts and accompanying lessons are paid services. To learn through music (with written lyrics), try PopKult, Russian via Songs, SovMusic.ru,
Vocab building: Russian MiniLessons offer a wide variety of short texts in English/Russian meant to build vocabulary skills. Russian.Word and Kto_Smeli are Instagram accounts giving Russian vocabulary lessons.
CCPCR Database of Russian Texts is an extensive list of recommended books for use in Russian college programs.
Especially for Beginners
Beginners’ full courses online: SemesterRus, Russian for Everyone, Alpha Dictionary, Russian from Scratch, Beginner’s Russian, Между нами, for free and independent experiences. Paid courses with tutors/teachers can be found from SRAS (Начинаем!), Pushkin Institute, Pa-russki.com, LiveLingua, and Linguisticator.
Flashcards! Interlex offers a free, downloadable flashcard program. AccelaStudy is a talking flashcard iPhone app. Quizlet, WordSteps and Memrise are apps for building and scheduling custom vocabulary exercises.
Basics: for those looking for some light exercises, try Russian with Anastasia, a YouTube channel that gives a lot of basic Russian language in authentic situations. Russian Step by Step, which is a site developed for children, but is fun for anyone. Language Guide offers a few picture-based vocabulary lessons. Digital Dialects has several games for beginner language learners. Russian Word of the Day is a blog aimed at first- and second-year students of Russian.
Note that some of these categories are also covered in the “Online Lessons” section above. The below gives ADDITIONAL options, but generally without glossing, accompanying materials, etc.
Television and Video
SPBTV is an Apple app that lets you watch Russian TV for free on your Apple products.
Dozhd (Rain) is a cable and Internet station that provides news and cultural programming with a liberal tint. Its main site hosts many programs and their transcripts, although most of it is now is now available only as a paid service.
TVCenter, owned by the Moscow City Administration, gives partial or full transcripts for most of its news videos online.
Carousel is Russia’s main kid’s channel. Several of its programs are online and most feature hosts speaking slowly and carefully about sport, art, and other subjects.
Roscosmos, Russia’s space program, has a series of interesting short films online.
TV For All provides a handful of online television stations, mostly education and news oriented. Not all are always available.
Movies, Music, and Radio
PopKult offers loads of information on musicians, TV shows, movies, and more from the late Soviet era to the current day. Most have YouTube clips provided, along with descriptions and, where possible, lyrics in the original language. PopKult is a part of the SRAS family of sites.
Where to Find Russian Movies and Music Online is a directory of YouTube Channels and other resources that provide access to legal sources of movies, music, and even food.
Staroe Radio offers thousands of old Soviet/Russian radio programs including plays, songs, interviews, and more. Some of the files are not great quality (they are old) but the site is very interesting (something to note: Google may give you some issues with Adobe Flash Player).
Echo Moskvy is one of Russia’s most famous and respected talk-radio stations. Shows are available in mp3 format for easy download and often come with written transcripts.
Radio Kul’tura is essentially Russia’s NPR with music, news, and other programming.
Voice of Russia Radio provides music, news, and literature from Russia in sound and print.
Far From Moscow is a resource for genres you don’t hear on most radio stations (think folktronica)
Radiooooo is an online collaborative archive of popular radio music, spanning from the birth of mass radio to today. In the simplest of terms, the site is a radio time machine, allowing you to pick any country, and any decade since 1900. Similar to Radiooooo, Radio Garden is an online radio service, which gives users access to a variety of international radio stations.
For lovers of Russian Folk music, wysotsky.com is a community translation project of the works of Vladimir Vysotsky, one of Russia’s most prolific musicians. Over 200 languages are supported, each language host to a number of interpretations. An added bonus for musicians: many of the translated songs come with written notation.
Перевод жив is YouTube channel with video lectures, running between 8 and 20 minutes, which talk about specific aspects of translation, interpretation, TI theory, and the training of translators and interpreters in an accessible and mildly entertaining manner.
Russian with Max is a free podcast for intermediate learners that focuses on stories, dialogues, and other practical listening skills.
Learn Russian With Kira focuses mostly on vocabulary and pronunciation. She offers podcasts but also live streamed classes and a video course as well.
Slow Russian presents mostly cultural information in very slowly delivered recording.
PlayerFM has a number of podcasts on a number of topics.
PodFM is a list of mostly amateur Russian podcasts.
Business Podcasts offers Russian-language podcasts describing issues surrounding doing business in Russia.
Russian Texts and Literature
Note that some of these categories are also covered in the “Online Lessons” section above. The below gives ADDITIONAL options, but generally without glossing, accompanying materials, etc.
Theater Library of Sergei Efrimov offers several modern plays and monologues online in the original Russian.
Russian State Library offers many texts online.
Diafilm was a cultural icon of the Soviet Union – a series of children’s books produced as slide shows. This site reproduces some of those slideshows in html.
Solzhenitsyn.ru offers a complete Solzhenitsyn library with the author’s final versions of his texts and his notes and comments on them.
Lib.ru offers a staggering selection of materials on subjects ranging from computers to history to biology to literature. The site is all in Russian and a bit rag-tag in its appearance and organization, but it is the most comprehensive. Library.ru is a similar site that offers a sleeker appearance, but a much more limited selection.
Russkaya Fantastika is devoted to Russian fantasy and science fiction writers and their work.
Blogs are becoming a very popular way to practice language skills because of their modern language usage and often opinionated, interesting subject matter. Find Russian blogs at Yandex and LiveJournal. See Моя Россия on this site for an advanced, annotated language blog on modern life, history, sociology, and politics with the purpose of teaching the Russian language: not only its grammar and vocabulary but also its cultural meanings.
Comics from Russia offers comics based on Russian proverbs, fairy tales, and even Armenian history, as well as some popular comics from Russian periodicals. They even have a service specifically for students of Russian. However, be warned that the site can get a bit racy.
Electronic Library of Russian Literature and Folklore is a very good resource for those subjects.
Also see: F. Dostoevsky, L. Tolstoy, A. Chekhov, and A. Pushkin, these authors for young readers and these children’s authors. To see many of these authors in English translation, try searching for them on Gutenberg.org.
Local Russian Near You
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There are several newspapers focused on the Russian immigrants who live in English-speaking countries. Intermediate and advanced students will likely find these useful as practice to read local news – stories whose content they are likely already familiar with – in Russian. They also sometimes carry notification of local Russian-language and cultural events (which are likely more plentiful than you think).
Поболтаем! is a resource that places 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year students in groups to chat with a native Russian speaker online (no longer updated).
BBCRussian.com presents interesting international news stories in simplified Russian.
RUHerald.com covers nine major American cities from New York to Los Angeles.
Rustrek covers a number of issues from immigration to the US, local NY news, and more.
Plainnews.ru is a news aggregator that can search by city (you’ll have to put the city name in in Russian, however).
There are also many print-only papers that serve local areas – there are several, for instance, around the Detroit, New York, Washington State, and Chicago areas. Try contacting the Russian Orthodox Church or local university Russian department to see if there is one near you.
RosConcert.com lists Russian cultural events taking place in the US and even offers online ticket purchase. Only downside is that the site is a strange mix of English and Russian…
Meetup.com is a free service connecting, among others, speakers and students of Russian in local communities. The groups have grown to more than a few hundred in some cities.
Russian-American Cultural Center is a new organization in New York that regularly hosts events and offers an attractive, informative website (mostly devoted to art). San Francisco also has a cultural center.
Computers and Language
A. Computer Assisted Translation
There are many, many online translators out there. Google Translate offers one of the best services in terms of quality and convenience. You can use the web page to insert text or, if you use Google Chrome, you should be able to right-click any web page and choose an option to translate that page to English. Google is most useful as it draws its data from a massive database of collected bilingual texts from translations online to deliver machine translation based off of human translations. There are many other translators, such as IMTraslator, Promt, and Babelfish. However, none have kept pace with Google’s growing sophistication. Google is not yet a human translator, and you should not trust it to give you complete comprehension of a text nor should you use it to, for instance, translate your resume. However, it is a helpful tool.
Human translators often use specialized computer programs that work similarly to Google’s – comparing a text against a database of preferred translations. These programs can be customized by the translator to recognize specific words, phrases, terms, etc. The end result is not a completed translation and still requires careful examination, proofreading, and rewriting in many parts, but they are useful professional tools and can speed the translator’s work. The most popular program for this is the long-standing Trados suite. It’s a professional program and a paid service. Similar programs include memoQ, Wordfast, Déjà Vu, and others. There are also a number of free programs now – such as OmegaT, Wordfast Anywhere, MateCat, and CafeTran, to name a very few.
That all said, again, while the technology is impressive and useful, we suggest you use it only as a tool – and not an actual translator! Computers still can’t speak human, and likely won’t be able to for some time.
B. Language Analysis and Corpora
Analyzing language can be a helpful tool in knowing how to translate a particular phrase, or knowing what words one should study to be able to read and understand a text.
Visualizing Russian, from researchers at Harvard, gives free tools for visualizing the frequency and difficulty of words with a text as well as a tool for creating texts that use specific vocabulary words.
C. Transliterated Keyboards and Typing in Cyrillic
For those who would like to type in Cyrillic without learning the Cyrillic keyboard, try Russian Transliterated Keyboards or Russian for Gringos. Both will allow you to type with keys matched to roughly similar English letters, cutting your learning curve. However, you’ll only be able to type on such homophonic keyboards. If you would like to try homophonic typing without downloading or installing anything, try Translit.cc, a very handy online transliteration tool that allows you to do it online.
For those who would like to learn to type properly in Cyrillic, try Sense-lang.org, Typingstudy.com, Ratatype.com, or Keybr.com (change the keyboard layout to Russian under “Settings”). Mydiv.net gives a compendium of lots more options for learning how to type in Cyrillic, but does it completely in Russian.
D. Cyrillicizing Your Computer
Of course, to type in Cyrillic, you’ll first need to activate the function on your computer. AATSEEL offers advice on enabling Cyrillic on your computer and lists of fonts and drivers for Windows and Macintosh should you need them. George Washington University also offers advice on cyrillicizing computers, should you run into trouble – including in viewing Cyrillic webpages, etc. Russification of Macintosh offers more troubleshooting solutions for Macs.
E. Adding Stress
Russiangram.com is a free resource that will automatically add stress to any Russian text. They also offer an app and a chrome extension that will add them to whole webpages.
AATSEEL offers several medieval Slavic fonts. The Non-Roman Script Initiative strives to provide fonts for minority language groups and includes resources for Cyrillic. Allfont.ru offers a few thousand more, in case you need them.
Hieroglyph is a spellcheck program that can check several languages including Russian. The site is all in Russian.
Want to make subtitles for Russian films? Submerge is great (and very cheap) for Mac users. Kapwing.com allows you to add basic subtitles online. You can also check out this list of freeware for making subtitles – for users of all types of computers.
Putting your Russian to the Test
The TORFL test was developed by the Russian government as a means of objectively assessing a person’s Russian language skills. This test is required of foreigners applying to degree programs in Russia. Generally, employers in Russia do not require the test, but seeing the test results on a resume can certainly help them make a decision about an applicant’s ability to fill a post.
Where can I take TORFL / ТРКИ?
SRAS can assist students in arranging to take this test as part of our study abroad programs. The test can also be taken in the US by universities accredited to do so by the Russian government. These include Bowling Green State University (contact the Language Service Group) and Duke University (contact them for more information). SRAS cannot assist in taking this test in the US.
How much does TORFL / ТРКИ cost?
The average cost of taking the test in Russia is ~$225. Actual charge may vary by university, date, and the level of test you chose to take. Payment is made directly to the university (or as directed by the university). SRAS can assist in arranging the test (not available at all times or in all locations) for any of regular program students abroad.
What is TORFL / ТРКИ?
There are six levels of TORFL testing, each measuring language skills in a different area of activity (e.g. basic conversation, professional, academic). The standardized tests take into consideration the each communicative situation and the factors affecting each, the communicative objectives and how to achieve them via different communicative strategies and tactics, and corresponding grammatical systems and vocabularies.
Students must score a minimum of 66% overall to have “passed” the exam.
The test consists of 5 sections. Each section tests a different area of language proficiency:
Section 1. Vocabulary and Grammar.
Section 2. Reading.
Section 3. Writing.
Section 4. Listening Comprehension.
Section 5. Speaking.
There are elementary and intermediate levels to the tests as well as four certification levels:
ТЭУ. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. Elementary level.
ТБУ. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. Basic level.
TPKИ-1. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. First level.
TPKИ-2. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. Second level.
TPKИ-3. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. Third level.
TPKИ-4. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language. Fourth level.
The Certificates of the Elementary & Basic Level confirm that the student is able to generally achieve his or her basic communication objectives in everyday communication in basic conversations. The Ministry of Education estimates that a student would need 100-120 hours of study to achieve the Elementry Level and an additional 180-200 hours of study to advance from Elementry Level to the Basic Level.
The TORFL 1 Certificate confirms that the student is able to achieve his or her basic communicative objectives in everyday communication on a variety of social and cultural topics. In addition, the TORFL 1 Certificate allows its holder to enroll in a Russian university as an undergraduate. If the student chooses to continue his or her education in college, he or she has to complete an additional section to test the student’s abilities to achieve minimum communicative objectives in the student’s area of professional/academic communication. The Ministry of Education estimates that a student would need an additional 160-180 hours of study to advance from the Basic Level to TORFL 1.
The TORFL 2 Certificate confirms a relatively high level of communicative competency in all communicative contexts. At this level, the speaker is able to conduct professional activity in Russian in different areas (such as Humanities, Engineering, technology, and Natural Sciences) and can enter graduate studies in Russia. The Ministry of Education estimates that a student would need an additional 380 hours of study to advance from TORFL 1 to TORFL 2.
The 3rd Level Certificate indicates that the candidate has a high level of language command in all communicative contexts, which allows him/her to conduct language-related professional activity in Russian (e.g. Linguistics, Translation, Editing, Journalism, International Relations, business management). The Ministry of Education estimates that a student would need an additional 280 hours of study to advance from TORFL 2 to TORFL 3.
The 4th Level means that the speaker can speak as well as an educated native speaker. This level allows its holder to work as a philologist and a teacher of Russian as a Foreign language.
The Russian state testing system is included in the ALTE (Association of Language Testers Europe). Levels of competency in Russian as a foreign language have been standardized with those used in other countries for other languages (see table):