This RussianPod101 Review is up-to-date as of January 16th, 2021.
Russian belongs to the Slavic language family and is the most widely spoken language of Europe. It is the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and is also widely spoken in Latvia, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania.
If you are interested in becoming fluent in Russian, one place a lot of learners start is the RussianPod101. Read our review below to find out if this is the right course for you.
- RussianPod101 Review: Summary
- What is RussianPod101?
- Signing up for RussianPod101
- Pros of RussianPod101
- Cons of RussianPod101
- Learning Method
- Features of RussianPod101
- What are the Lessons Like?
- Who Should Use RussianPod101
- Who Should NOT Use RussianPod101?
- RussianPod101 vs. Competitors
- What Do Learners Say?
- RussianPod101 Price
- RussianPod101 Review: Conclusion
RussianPod101 Review: Summary
RussianPod101 is a language learning program brought to you by Innovative Languages. It promises a fast, fun and flexible way to learn how to speak Russian, and in our opinion it mostly delivers. It has one of the most extensive library of lessons out of the self-directed courses, and the lesson content quality is high.
All in all, we recommend it as a good course for beginner to intermediate students of Russian.
What is RussianPod101?
RussianPod101 is a Russian language learning podcast created by Innovative Language, who offer free and paid courses on over 30 languages. Chances are you’ll have heard of the Pod101 programs, which are growing popular for its focus on everyday context and large content catalogue. You get a 7 day free trial and can access the app via desktop, Android and iOS.
The LanguagePod101 platform emphasizes the importance of hearing native speakers converse and each episode is structured with conversation in mind. It includes both audio and video lessons, and 1-on-1 instruction if you’re on the right subscription plan. All lessons are downloadable and come with transcripts. Creators Innovative Labs describes the whole methodology as follows:
“Innovative Language Learning holds that the ultimate purpose of language learning is communication, and that topics like grammar and vocabulary are only aids to this ultimate goal.”
Like all podcasts in the series, you’ll be able to access all basic lessons and features for. Subscription tiers are divided into basic, premium and premium plus, which are priced widely apart (but premium membership comes with several benefits!). More on this later.
Signing up for RussianPod101
Once you sign up for RussianPod101, you automatically get a free 7-day premium trial and a lifetime account. After the trial period, you can decide between three different monthly subscriptions.
During your trial period, you are granted access to all RussianPod101 has to offer in its Premium Subscription. This includes:
Pros of RussianPod101
Pro #1: Self-Paced Learning
RussianPod101 provides all the tools you need to learn at the speed that is right for you and on your own time. You have the ability to repeat lessons as often as necessary until you are comfortable with the content. Since there is no dedicated schedule, you are free to complete lessons and study when it suits you. For example, you can easily listen to a Russian podcast while sitting in traffic, on the subway or over your lunch hour.
Pro #2: Extensive Lesson Library
RussianPod101 offers four levels of expertise including Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Each level contains hundreds of videos and audio lessons in their lesson libraries. On top of that, you will find vocabulary lists, common phrases, news, updates and more. There are even quick lessons you can complete if you need a fast refresher course or simply want to know how to order food in Russian.
Pro #3: Relevant Content
Forget about lessons covering outdated issues like sending telegrams. The lessons presented in RussianPod101 are useful and relevant in today’s modern world. Learn how to ask for the WiFi password or if a restaurant takes a credit card instead of learning phrases you will never use in real life.
Pro #4: Focus on Listening to Native Speakers
The defining feature of the platform, RussianPod101’s use of trained voice actors and certified Russian language instructors works strongly in its favor. Russian grammar can be daunting and the more natural approach to learning the language, via conversation, is served well by the native speakers. If there’s one thing that can be said about RussianPod101, it’s that it hits the mark when it comes to immersion.
Pro #5: Grammar Bank
In response to previous complaints about the lack of instruction on grammar, RussianPod101 has introduced a “Grammar Bank” section, a repository of explanations on grammar. These won’t be all the grammar resources you need to master Russian, but it succeeds in giving you a good grounding.
Cons of RussianPod101
Con #1: Little Feedback
You will be able to figure out how well you understand Russian based on the completion and scoring of your assessments. However, unless you spring for the Premium PLUS upgrade, there is no way to have individual questions answered or to receive feedback on your pronunciation.
Con #2: Best Suited for Beginner to Intermediate Learners
The lessons move slowly to fully explain what you need to know. This is great for beginners to intermediate learners, but advanced learners may find the content lacking. If you are simply refreshing your Russian, this program should work well for you. However, for those seeking to further enhance fluency, an immersion class may be a better way to go.
Con #3: Writing and Speaking Lessons Have Their Limitations
If you want to learn how to write Cyrillic and speak fluently, you’ll have to look elsewhere. There are hardly any lessons on writing, while speaking is limited by the lack of a review system. Serious learners will find better use in the course as a supplementary tool and should look to other resources for a more rounded learning experience.
Con #4: Lesson Quality Can Vary
We’ll be clear here, the beginner to intermediate lessons are generally quite good, and you’ll find yourself knowing basic Russian if you’re consistent with your lessons. However, you’ll notice that lessons after a certain level of difficulty can vary in quality and purpose. Some are genuinely engaging lessons about culture and utility (“Russian films” and “Conversation starters”), while others feel redundant and uninspired.
You’ll find this is the case on many platforms of this nature – it’s unavoidable as the more complex topics, the more the resources required to present it. More recent updates suggest that this problem is being and it’s no deal-killer to begin with, but it’s worth noting.
Complex grammar and vocabulary take a backseat to basic communication in RussianPod101, with grammar taking a backseat. Lessons often revolve around certain phrases that can be modified to give rise to new expressions and ideas, which does impart a sense of organic learning. They are also grouped by tags.
Consequently, the instructional method is highly conversational, featuring an individual(s) who begins the lesson by explaining the goal. Subject matter is often focused on Russian history, culture and day-to-day life, making it ideal for someone planning to visit Russia. The “useful phrases” module teaches you how to introduce yourself, making a purchase and speaking on the phone.
This is a bit of a hit and miss, as there is a difference in quality depending on the lesson, and advanced lessons can be a bit lacking. That’s the nature of a platform that doesn’t offer a traditional, academic structure. To be fair though, RussianPod101 doesn’t aim to make you a Tolstoy, it’s more focused on teaching you enough so you can handle yourself independently.
Advanced lessons focus more on cultural learning and reading, and that’s where RussianPod101’s limitations as a speaking-first course begin to show. If you prefer an immersive approach, you’ll likely enjoy the teaching, but you’ll have to seek out other courses if you’re aiming for mastery.
Features of RussianPod101
Dashboard and Learning Pathways
Your dashboard serves as the main page that leads you to all aspects of RussianPod101. From here, you can access and save your learning pathways, access learning tools, keep track of your progress and study time and change your level of expertise.
There are a variety of learning pathways including the curated and guided pathway designed to lead you to fluency. You will also find pathways with 3-minute lessons, Culture Class, and Essential Russian for Emergencies. Add as many as you like to your dashboard for quick access whenever you study.
Audio Lessons and Russian Podcasts
Audio lessons are a great way to hear the way the language should be pronounced. They move slowly so you can follow along and English translations quickly follow Russian phrases. There are transcripts included with the lessons, so you can see what you are learning. Explanations are clearly given to explain the differences in tone or word choices for formal and informal settings.
Video Lessons are helpful in allowing you to see the way words are spoken along with hearing their pronunciations. Words are displayed on-screen for you to follow along as the speaker talks. All teachers are native Russian speakers so you are given a true version of the language. Like audio lessons and podcasts, you are also given explanations about cultural norms and behaviors to enhance your learning.
Other Learning Tools
Flashcards are a fun way to test your vocabulary knowledge. A Russian word is spoken aloud, and you have to try to figure out its English translation. You can click on “Show Answer” to see if you were successful. You can then choose whether you were correct or incorrect. Incorrect flashcards return to the stack for more practice.
You can review pronunciation at the end of all lessons and mixed within learning tools. Vocabulary lists often pronounce the words for you and then use them in sentences. This gives you a better idea of how the word sounds surrounded by other words.
Lesson transcripts can be found accompanying most lessons within RussianPod101. This allows you to follow along or to review what you have just learned. Often, you will find extra explanations about etiquette or social norms to further enhance your understanding.
What are the Lessons Like?
Take a look at the “Introduction to Russian” lesson here. It’s fairly neat in its presentation with the lesson’s key vocabulary and transcript displayed below. You also have the option to add it to the word bank and take a quiz.
So you’ll find yourself watching the video, following the instructions, reviewing the vocabulary and lesson notes section, and taking the quiz. Fairly standard stuff, but you’ll have a more thorough experience if you take the premium plus plan, which assigns you a teacher.
You can ask your teacher an unlimited amount of questions (which will help with the aforementioned writing and speaking limitations) and they will customize a learning plan for you. You’ll also be granted CEFR certificates, which may appeal to more serious learners.
To sum up, lessons are easy to navigate and engaging, offering you contextual bite-size learnings. Premium plans are best suited for those looking for that full language learning experience. Free users may find that they will have to do some of the heavy lifting themselves, especially after they proceed to the intermediate stage.
Who Should Use RussianPod101
People who would most benefit from RussianPod101 include those who:
Who Should NOT Use RussianPod101?
RussianPod101, like most other language learning programs, is not a one-size-fits-all. People who might not benefit from RussianPod101 include those who:
RussianPod101 vs. Competitors
There are a few programs out there designed to teach you the basics of the Russian language. Next, we will cover some of our top competitors and their methods of teaching.
RussianPod101 vs. Pimsleur
If you haven’t heard of the Pimsleur Method, it claims to teach you another language the same way you learned your mother language; simply by listening. It focuses not on grammar, but on listening and mimicking others speaking in their native tongue. There is a monthly fee of $14.95 and you can listen to these podcasts of everyday conversations in Russian as much as you like. Pimsleur promises to have you speaking at an intermediate level within 30 days with just 30-minutes of studying per day.
RussianPod101 vs. Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is still available in a book and CD format or a monthly subscription plan. Three months of access is $79. Most lessons are 10-minutes in length or less, and like RussianPod101, you can access them over multiple devices. It claims to advance you further in Russian by offering contextual lessons and interactive activities. It also offers voice recognition to assist with pronunciation.
RussianPod101 vs. Rocket Russian
Rocket Russian has a bit more structure than RussianPod101, though on the other hand the lessons are a little more dry and there’s less content. That said, it’s a great option for audio learners who like to have a set structure to follow — and don’t like monthly payments. Read our full review of Rocket Russian.
What Do Learners Say?
User feedback has largely been positive, with praise going towards the well-produced lessons that involve native speakers.
There has also been a lot of praise for its focus on cultural learnings. Several users on Reddit, for example, have said that it has helped greatly with listening — even allowing them to watch Russian movies without subtitles, as mentioned by u/Appelekop,
“It’s a great program to just get a ton of exposure to listening Russian. You get a ton of content and if you can make it into a habit to listen to 1 episode per day you’ll get far. I’ve been to Russia now for 5 times and I’m at the point where I can understand Russian movies without subs at all.”
As for shortcomings, users have referred to its unsuitability for advanced learners and knowledge gaps, with u/macishman saying,
“Their lessons are entertaining and cover a lot of culture, but they don’t have a comprehensive program to get you from point A to point B. There are real gaps between their Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels that their own courses will never lift you through. “
$4/month $2.80/month (using this link)
- Access to audio lessons archive
- Access on smartphones, tablets and computers
- PDF downloads you can print
$10/month $7/month (using this link)
The Premium Subscription includes all the Basic Subscription features plus:
- Lesson quizzes
- Audio transcripts
- Interactive flashcards
- Extensive word lists and word bank
- Bonus content
- Russian podcasts
Premium PLUS Subscription
$23/month $16/month (using this link)
The Premium PLUS Subscription includes all the Basic and Premium Subscription features plus:
- Access to a native Russian-speaking teacher
- Personalized learning pathway
RussianPod101 Review: Conclusion
RussianPod101 is a good option for those who want to learn how to speak Russian. With its comprehensive library of lessons and learning tools, it is a great stepping stone for beginner to intermediate Russian speakers seeking fluency.
We feel confident in recommending the program to people wanting to learn Russian on their own, however more advanced students may find the higher levels lacking.
Michael has been an avid language learner and traveler for many years. His goal with LanguageTsar is to discover the most fun and effective ways to learn a language. He is currently learning Japanese, French and Indonesian.