How to Improve Your Russian Listening Skills?

Posted on August 16th, 2011

Russian language listening skillsDoes this sound familiar to you? You are getting an even better grasp of Russian grammar, and you feel more comfortable speaking Russian, however, it is still very difficult for you to understand a native Russian language speaker? Please don’t be frustrated. You are not alone. I will tell you exactly why this happens and how to deal with it… but let me start with my own story.

It was my second day in London, where I arrived to improve my English skills at an English language school. This was my first time traveling to an English speaking country. That day I woke up early, excited, I started getting ready for my first English class. I probably should mention, that at that point my English was at an upper-intermediate level. However, that morning I turned the TV on to listen to the weather forecast in capricious London and was surprised… I could not understand a single thing that the weather girl was saying! I am sure you understand my frustration at that moment!

The thing is, that it takes some time to get used to a foreign language, and it took me a few months to get to the level where I could understand a British person speaking English fast.

The key is to not give up practicing, even if you feel frustrated by not being able to understand everything a native Russian speaker says. You have gotten so far, you cannot give up now. What you really need to do is: take a deep breath and think about how you can improve your Russian listening skills.

How to Improve Your Russian Listening Skills

The best way to improve your Russian listening skills is to practice by listening to a native Russian speaker 10-15 minutes a day every day or, at least most days. Practicing only short periods of time each day will help you to not get overwhelmed, and stay focused on the conversation. When you feel more confident about your Russian listening skills, you can increase your listening time to longer periods or even try to watch a whole movie in Russian.

A few tips to help you to succeed:

Listen to something you like. It could be your favorite Russian radio station, or your textbook recordings, or something interesting you found on YouTube. If you are enjoying the process, the task of practicing your Russian listening skills will seem as a piece of cake to you.

Listen for keywords. It’s most likely that you will not be able to understand everything the speaker says in Russian, at least at first. However, you need to listen for keywords, that would help you to understand the gist of the conversation.

Listen for the gist. The keywords will help you to understand the gist of the Russian dialogue. For now, your task is to stay cool, even if you feel you cannot understand everything that is being said. If you start panicking because of not being able to understand every single word in Russian, you are more likely to experience mental block and tune out while trying to concentrate on the meaning of a single word and not the whole context of the conversation. Try to relax, enjoy listening to Russian speech, and make sure to understand the gist of what is being said.

What Should You Listen to?

Certainly to a native Russian speaker. Luckily, we live in a digital age, and there is plenty of free information available online. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Russian movies, songs or any other videos on or any other online resource
  • Textbook with recordings in Russian
  • Watch a movie in Russian, here are a few Russian famous titles from Amazon
  • Watch TV channels in Russian, most cable companies offer subscriptions to Russian channels, for example, DIRECTV , and DISH Network
  • Listen to Russian songs that you can download from the Internet, or find on YouTube. Read my advice on how to improve your Russian skills by singing songs – Learn Russian by Singing Songs
  • Find a Russian speaker to practice your Russian on Skype. You can teach them English or any other language in exchange for the Russian lessons. Try, for example.
  • Russian radio online. Below are some of the Russian radio stations I recommend:

Русское Радио  - is a fun radio station where you will hear music in Russian only! So, if you are a big fan of music in Russian then “Русское Радио” is your first choice!

Эхо Москвы  – mainly this station broadcasts news and talk shows on different social and political issues. If you like to be mentally stimulated and enjoy being a part of a discussion on serious issues, then this is the right radio station for you!

Европа Плюс  – is one of the most popular radio stations as well. It plays a mix of music in Russian and in English.

You can find more Russian radio stations here.

What helped you to improve your Russian language skills? What tips can you give to other Russian language learners? You can share your experience by leaving a comment below.

I’ll talk to you soon! :-))


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The courses of Russian as a foreign language with Russian4real take place online via Skype. The teacher works with adults individually since he is convinced that each person must receive maximum time for practice and professional attention while learning a foreign language.