If you don't use it, you lose it!
If you already spend a semester, two, or even more learning Russian, it's time to think about how you’re going to keep all that knowledge fresh in your mind. There’s a saying that you’ll often hear about languages: “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” The good news is that once you’ve really learned something and understand it, you do not forget it. Knowledge may slip into a deeper part of your memory if you don’t use it on a daily basis, but it won’t just go away. The challenge is to keep your Russian language skills as fresh as possible and try to stop them fading. It may take a little effort to find some opportunities to practice your skills, but this little effort will pay back.
Here is a list of things that you can do to keep your Russian language fresh, improve your vocabulary and even gain more understanding of the language when you are not in the classroom.
If you can find subtitled versions, watching movies is a great way of keeping your skills fresh. Check out this Mosfilm site with numerous popular Russian movies. It's free. The MosFilm Channel on YouTube is great too. You can find some films that already have English subtitles hard-coded. Otherwise you’ll have to do some searching around YouTube to find versions with English subs. Save yourself some time and check out this playlist Russian movies with English subtitles made by AmazingRussian on YouTube.
Read books (or anything readable)
If you have a good standard of the language that you want to practice, reading novels is an excellent way of practicing. You may find yourself focusing more on the language and words than the story itself. In fact, it’s a very different experience from reading in your mother tongue, but a great way to improve your vocabulary and reading skills.
LoveRead is a fee online library of all genres and for-all-ages Russian books.
If you think some serious classical literature is not for you yet, it's always a good idea to start with easy reading - children's books. The online library БАРИЮС - Библиоте́ка де́тской литерату́ры offers a range of books for younger readers (perfectly suitable for learners of Russian).
One of my favorite books I remember from my childhood is Аля, Кля́ксич и бу́ква А by Ири́на Токмако́ва. You will certainly like all the colorful illustrations in the book that helps follow the story.
You can try Russian audio books that are an excellent tool for learners. They present a perfect literary style mixed with exemplary pronunciation.
Listen to music
Music crosses borders like nothing else. Learn the language of love from ballads or a dozen of new words from rap or rock music. For many people, songs are a major motivation for learning a language, and they can also be a big help in doing just that. You can often find lyrics on the Internet.
Russkoye Radio (Ру́сское Ра́дио) is one of the most popular national radio stations of Russia that broadcasts music only in Russian. The most popular singers and the latest hits are here. It also includes some substations covering movie music - Ру́сское Кино́, Russian rock - Ру́сский Рок, children’s music - Де́тский Радиокана́л, and the Russian music award Golden Gramophone - Золото́й Грамофо́н.
Also, try RBTH on Music (“Balalike it!”) podcast series available for free download on iTunes: .
“Balalike it!” is a podcast that introduces listeners to the world of Russian contemporary music. The podcast features episodes of different musical genres from jazz to experimental trip-hop. It showcases the great diversity of Russian musicians. You could subscribe to ‘Balalike it!’ and listen to fascinating Russian music on your iPhones and iPads.
Check out Far From Moscow. The site hosts electronic, rock, pop, and dance music from Russia, most of which is free to stream and download. The site is in English for easy navigation, but if you want to challenge yourself, you can switch to Russian.
This site will help you develop your language skills, but it will also provide you with conversation starters if you meet your friends. In addition, check out MTV Russia, which is also a good place for a fun audio-visual learning experience.
Read newspapers online
All major newspapers have websites and most of them are available free. While this may be a headache for advertisers, media oligarchs and the future of journalism as a profession, it is great news for you as a language learner. One of the great things about reading the news in a foreign language is that you will already have some background to international stories either from your own knowledge or from media in your first language. National and local stories will give you a unique cultural insight. By reading in a different language, you may get a different point of view on a story and will probably pick up some interesting vocabulary. Opinion pieces, for example, are often great for learning idioms.
Find a study-buddy
Wherever you are, find a conversation partner. There is no substitute for practice with a native speaker. Many universities have foreign students who came to study English in an English-speaking country. Check your University ESL departments for their clubs, activities, or events. For example, you can sign up for Conversation Club and meet up with native Russian speakers who want to improve their English. During a study session, you divide your time between teaching and learning.
Interact with friends on Vkontakte
Vkontakte, which literally means “In Contact,” is Eastern Europe’s answer to Facebook, dominating Russia and Ukraine as well as the other former Soviet-ruled countries. Ukrainians and Russians are quick to add English-speaking friends, and can be very helpful in providing conversational practice. You could learn a lot of the slang and colloquialisms from your interactions with acquaintances online.