My strategy for learning Russian through Duolingo!

My strategy for learning Russian through Duolingo! Goal: finish Duolingo course in 6 months, be able to read/listen to Harry Potter books Native language: English (Bostonian with some Southerner influence) Other Languages: knows a little bit of Spanish (high school, uni) and Japanese (work), some French (elementary school) Why Russian: In my field of work, I have a lot of Russian colleagues doing similar work that I need to communicate with (Japanese will probably be next on my list). Current Status: 21 days, Level 10, Skill 13 (Verbs in the present tense 1) Age: 51

TLDR Version Duolingo: 2 lessons per day and 12 strength reviews per day Supplement with - Daily – Memrise, Radio Sputnik, Anki - A different TV program/poetry/podcast per day - Record video storytelling and poetry - Michel Thomas Russian audio course

Long Version - Duolingo will be used as the base course study for pace (I’ve been looking for something like this for quite some time). 2 lessons and 12 strength reviews will be conducted per day.

Memrise and Anki will supplement studies with flashback memorization. Memrise - two Duolingo Russian courses matching pace with Duolingo (I am playing catch up right now in both) - Memrise Russian cooking terms

Daily Radio – Radio Sputnik (they talk a bit slower on it and very clearly) - the radio is usually playing in the background, but I try to spend at least 30 min/day doing strictly focused listening.

Daily story telling with video recording – I’m still working on this idea having recorded only one short poem (мячик) but the idea is to tell a story either based on a picture or a fairytale using currently known vocabulary. I think the 3 Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf will be my first story and Goldilocks and the 3 Bears the second. I might do a Youtube channel to upload to and monitor my progress.

Daily Michel Thomas Russian audio lessons (about 15 min/day)

Daily activity – each day will have a special activity Monday – Youtube/Rutube Podcast (still looking for one I like) Tuesday – Russian food channel EDA HDTV (Youtube) (currently watching XXS episodes) (Memrise Russian Cooking courses help support understanding this) Wednesday – TV series кухня (Kitchen) episodes (comedy, fun to watch, a bit easy to understand some things, more kitchen, cooking stuff) (ps, I don’t cook much, just see it as a good language source) Thursday – poetry (now working on children poems by Agnes Barto (Агния Барто)) Friday – TV series физрук (Gym Teacher) (hard to understand anything right now, we’ll see how it goes) Saturday – freebie/choice Sunday – TV series интерны (Interns)

I am putting a lot of emphasis on audio/listening skill building. It served me pretty well learning English when I was a 2-year old.

PS – Challenges - I’m going on vacation for a week in a few days and also have a week+ business trip in late September, then Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to consider. I will try to maintain the Duolingo and Memrise learning during these periods, but obviously scale back on the rest during these periods.

August 9, 2016


Wow! It really sounds like you have a plan.

I am currently near the end of a similar, although not as well-planned and certainly not as diligent, course of study: I started the Russian course when it came out in November last year, and did two new lessons and maybe one or two rounds of general practice per day in the beginning. Pretty soon I was a bit overwhelmed by the new stuff, and dropped down to one new lesson a day. I also had to raise the total number of XP per day from 30 to 40 to 50 to feel like I was keeping on top of things, but now (with six skills left to go) I've been able to do two new lessons a day for the past few months and still keep my tree golden and my sanity somewhat intact.

I've worked through the Memrise course called Duolingo Russian as I've gone along, so that I've always learned the words just before I encounter them on Duolingo. This has been invaluable in terms of staying sane, although there's a big difference in only going through the words in their basic forms and then having to juggle all the inflections in the Duolingo sentences. I've also gotten pretty far (1400+ words) into the Top 10,000 Words Part 1 course on Memrise, which seemed way too hard when I started it before Duolingo but now is a nice counterbalance to all the Duolingo-related stuff. I try to learn 10 new words a day there, but have a lot of words that need review... I also went through half of the Total Russian Michel Thomas course, which I did enjoy but then for some reason dropped and didn't get around to get back to yet.

Your list of audio and YouTube resources is impressive! I'm personally more into just learning to read, but I should probably step out of my (relative) comfort zone and try a few of the ones you mention! Could you link to the Radio Sputnik you mean -- it seems there are several ones around the world, and I'd be interested in the one you've already found to be good.

I can't say I feel like I've mastered what's being taught in the tree yet -- my skills are gold but some things (like motion verbs, and adjective endings) are still very hazy in my mind. I started going through the grammar properly using a book that's been recommended by many users here ( The book is indeed very good and straightens out a lot of stuff in my head, but it's a hard slog to read grammar rules from a page and then do written exercises that you check from the back of the book, when you're used to the flashing lights and addictive properties of Duolingo and Memrise... I also like to just play around on Babadum once in a while -- you learn some new words there and get good at guessing what kind of word class a random word belongs to. I'm planning to read a couple of children's books when I'm done with tree -- I've had a look at the ones I have in mind, and it will still be very hard work, but I'll give it a go.

I think you should enjoy the relative rest when you go on your trips etc., I've always found that giving your brain a breather every now and then helps both solidify what you've learned and stop you from having a burnout. But you're a braver learner than I am (re: the video recordings...), and I think you'll make amazing progress during the next 6 months! Удачи!

August 9, 2016

Hi annika,

Here's the Radio Sputnik feed:

You can put it directly into VLC or other player as a stream and record it which is nice. It comes from the main Sputnik site:

I do worry about burnout, so I am trying to keep jumping around to do different things. I'm working both Memrise Duolingo courses. The format/phrases of the old one I like a lot better than the newer one (too much philology stuff in it), but the newer one follows (mostly) the current Russian tree version. I am very interested to see what the tinycards format will be like, but it is not out in android format yet. I've worked the Penguin book and some others previously, but it felt more like being in school (several chapters before reaching burnout). I want to learn Russian, not study it. I will probably look at that stuff later, though as my proficiency improves. The strategy I tried to set up is to make it as fun as possible, thus lot of video and audio, plus the gamefication learning of Memrise and Duolingo. I am only learning Duolingo and Memrise on my smartphone, also, which seems a lot easier and keeps me consistent. I'll check out the BaBaDum website too. Thanks.

It looks like you are within just a couple of weeks to finish the tree. That's great. Good luck. I'll look for your announcement when you finish.

August 9, 2016

Thanks a lot for the link! I tried it a few days ago, but got mostly music, so I'll have to try it at different times of the day (music doesn't do much for me language-wise). While playing around with it, I found another one called WRN Russkij, which seems to be based in the UK, and has a lot of talking -- I'm not quite sure about what, though, since I've so far been listening and recognizing words but not quite being able to translate them in my head before the next one I recognize comes along... X-)

Oh, and regarding Duolingo on the app vs. on the website -- do try the website as well! I quite often do the initial completion of a skill on the app just because it's handy, and it's not like you learn a lot anyway, just being presented with the material, but I do make a point of doing as much as possible of my practice of previously learned stuff on the website. The website is indeed so much more challenging than (at least the Android) app! I know of people who have completed other trees here on their phones, then discovered the website version, and almost felt like they've had to relearn all the material, because the website requires so much more of you than the silly "put these words in order, and oh, often we don't even give you any extra words to leave out" exercises. The website version raises my blood pressure, but I learn a lot more/better with it.

I've been babbling on about doing the Russian tree so much here (including in this thread), because it's felt like so much more of a slog than the other ones I've done, that I think I shall spare the community my sighs of relief when I'm done... :-)

August 16, 2016

I ran into a bunch of music radio sputniks until I found the above listed link. I've never gotten any music from it except when they were talking about composers. But you found one that seems to do the same job, so that's great. I plan on doing some work on the desktop version of duolingo, but probably mainly taking some progress tests. I make using the app a lot harder than it is by keeping my eyes closed and trying to guess what the voice is saying and some other stuff, but I'm sure you're right on the desktop. If I can manage to find a good virtual keyboard, I might work with it a bit more.

August 27, 2016

The resources you have here sound great! How is Radio Sputnik for you? Wikipedia says it's mostly global politics, but annika_a said she got mostly music. I'm really curious to find resources such as short stories, podcasts, radio programs, YouTube channels, etc. to supplement my learning. Maybe I'll make a post asking for people's suggestions, what they like, and what works for them.

August 23, 2016

The link I listed above has always been a talk/news station for me. I like the pace even though I can't figure out most of what they are saying. Still, just hearing a few words that I know in a real world context seems to really help reinforce remembering them. I have a 2 hr recording of it which I have played several times while driving and seem to understand and ID words more often each time I play it. The internet really is a great resource to find multiple ways to achieve immersion. I hope my strategy has given you a few good ideas.

August 27, 2016

PPS - How I study Duolingo 2 strength reviews then 1 lesson in morning 2 strength reviews then 1 lesson around lunch 2 strength reviews mid/late afternoon 2 strength reviews before dinner 2 strength reviews after dinner 2 strength reviews before bed

August 9, 2016

The good approach! Listen to radio is a very useful exercise.

August 9, 2016

[Native Speaker] It's cool, it will work well. So I have a few advices. 1. If someone has problems, Rus is too hard for you, you can start with Deutsch. It's in the middle between Eng and Rus. 4 cases (Rus has 6), 3 genders, articles, pronouncing is in the middle. 2. Youtubers. They have simple language. For Russians-learning-English it is the main advice because we have a lot of translators (At least channel TheSpoonyRus), so you can find russian youtubers that you like (BadComedian, Руслан Усачев, Sokol[Off], Chuck_review, Dominika - Nostalgia Critic analogues, ТимТим - Long Story Short, This is хорошо и +100500 - "=3", KinoKos, CinemaSins Россия, Kinomiraru, KinoDro - CinemaSins, SmashTrash - stupid myth buster (борец с мракобесием), ТОПЛЕС - VSause; Translators: RusVendettAVoice - PewDiePie, Anna Akana, Spoony (partically), all episodes of AVGN, ProJared, AngryJoe; ДжоШизо - all new Nostalgia Critic, little part of Spoony; Альмадерн - Todd in the Shadows; AlexTranslations - Veritasium, Kurzgesägt, some science videos; Vert Dider - Science, Ted; TV Shows: Галилео (so there is a Deutsch original Galileo), Уральские Пельмени (Humourous show), CrashZone + Наука 2.0)

August 9, 2016

I like to plan what I'm going to study and I like different sources and exposures to the language, that way you can be fluent with no problem. I'm currently studying Russian, Italian, Esperanto and LIBRAS(Brazilian Sign Language). Good luck for us!

August 9, 2016

I used Michel Thomas for my trip to Japan and found it extremely useful. I was hesitant to try the Russian audios are you finding them beneficial?

August 10, 2016

It's (hesitates) Okay. I've learned a bit from it and it is nice to listen to an instructor talking about the language and pronunciation. I've listened to 3 discs so far but haven't tried any of the practice tests yet. Try just one audiobook ($20 USD) to see if you like it first rather than plunk down the full $120 USD. To me (personal opinion, your mileage may vary) the instructor is a bit too bossy for me and one of the students answers way too fast. I don't want to bad mouth the Michel Thomas method overall, though, since I had a great experience learning some Icelandic with it before going to Iceland last year.

PS - The Icelandic audio tapes are free and NOT official Michel Thomas tapes. They are, though, a lot of fun to listen to and I recommend them to anyone interested: Side note: I wish duolingo offered Icelandic. Memrise doesn't offer it either.

August 11, 2016

Wish you every success

August 9, 2016

Wow, that's some schedule! Best of success.

Maybe prepare in advance an easier but "sufficient" regimen for days/weeks when you cannot do the whole nine yards, so that you won't feel that you've fallen off the wagon.

Russian is a totally fascinating language. You will love it. And there is so much to read in it--in book form or online. In my line of work (programming) there is an enormous amount of good material, which makes it all the easier and more interesting (although none of my co-workers spoke Russian, unfortunately).

These are good beginning listening, and when they seem pretty easy, try these. There is plenty of good audio material w/ text on lingq.

You can find many well-dubbed movies here. Search in English or Russian for movie titles in the text box marked with " ძებნა" on the right. Or, more legitimately look here, for rather older films.

When you get to writing, post your attempts on lang-8.

[Added] Harry Potter is not the easiest Russian to start with. You may want to choose something simpler for a first book. Also, there are two sanctioned versions published, as well as several amateur translations. Be sure you find matching books and audio.

August 9, 2016

Yeah, I've given a lot of thought on how to get through vacation, business travel, etc., without losing too much. My strategy over vacation was to try to get 100 xp on duolingo and do a lot of listening while traveling. I was able to get about 70 xp per day which was OK, but I definitely felt like I fell behind a bit. The listening while traveling, though, worked great. I listened to a 2 hr recording of Radio Sputnik several times over and got better with it each time. I also decided to start listening to Harry Potter just to see how it would go. It actually went surprisingly well considering. I accidentally had my player on shuffle, so I had to guess where in the book each recording was from. I found it an interesting way to focus on my listening skills. I know the book so well in English that sometimes I was able to look for certain words that I knew where coming up which was very satisfying when I heard them. It was an interesting way to play a listening game with the book. I also listened to the entire book from start to finish, too, in the end. I'm looking forward to being able to comprehend a lot more of it. Thanks for the links. I'll check them out.

August 27, 2016

Sounds like you've developed a really good way of working.

It also sounds like the first link I gave will be too easy for you. The second one you'll probably like. It appears that the site owner is changing around her site some, however, so who knows how long it will stay as it is? BTW, I corrected that link (the second one). The site is sometimes slow, and this link may work better. Note that it's a link to only the first 40 or so of her podcasts, and the others are elsewhere on the site.

The pirate movie site (the Georgian one) probably has the Harry Potter movies dubbed, if you're interested. Most of the modern Russian dubbing I've seen is very good, not like the old Soviet style where one male voice is used for everyone. However, to match the words to the mouth movement (it seems), sometimes the translations wander a bit far afield.

I've heard two readers for Harry Potter (you mean the first book, right?), Юрий Заборовский, and А. В. Клюквин. Do you have a recording by one of them, or a different one?

It may be different for you, but for me listening is much harder than reading, no matter how much I practice. But I do slowly improve (FWIW).

That "randomizing" you do is a really cool way to listen.

You're welcome for the links. Thanks for your note and, I assume, the lingot.

August 27, 2016

Hello! I am from Russia and I wish good luck to the study of our language =)

August 10, 2016

Thank you and good luck to you and your English learning, you are already way ahead of my Russian. :-))

August 11, 2016

Thanks, and good luck to you too!

August 27, 2016

In one week i was able to read Russian words and l can understand some of the words Wonderful teaching you are the best thank you

May 30, 2017

Hey! How is your Russian now? :)

February 1, 2018

Hi! Few weeks ago I have started a podcast on Russian poetry for the learners of Russian. It is on iTunes and it is free. I d be very happy if someone finds it useful. It is called: "Russian poetry for the learners of Russian". I have three episodes published as of now, and I try to keep adding new ones daily.

March 19, 2018
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