How Babbel Gets You Speaking Russian This Summer In 4 Simple Steps

Traveling to Russia this summer for soccer festivities? Babbel is releasing new lessons to help you learn Russian for your trip!
Learn Russian this summer with Babbel

Russia is one of the globe’s top tourism destinations — and has recently become a hub for some of the most prestigious sports competitions. At the same time, Russia has some of the lowest rates of English proficiency around. Only about 5% of Russians have a command of English, and in the majority of Russian cities, you’ll find almost no signs written in the Latin alphabet. Not exactly a tourist’s dream. So what’s a well-intentioned traveler to do?

Turns out there’s never been a better time — or reason — to learn Russian. To prove it’s possible, we at Babbel challenged eight complete beginners to start speaking Russian in three weeks — and we made them compete against each other to see who could learn the most. Equipped with only the Babbel app and our new soccer-centered course content, we had no idea how far we’d get. Keep reading to find out how we started speaking Russian in three weeks (and who won our competition!).

Step 1: Understand The Alphabet

The moment you’ve decided to learn a new language is filled with enthusiasm and passion, and you’ll undoubtedly want to dive into the thick of things. Speaking sentences! Understanding powerful literature! Learning cool swear words! We admire your passion — we definitely had it too — but learning Russian has one small speed bump in this grand quest: it uses a different alphabet.

Don’t fret, the Cyrillic alphabet is not nearly as scary as it looks. Most of the shapes of letters are the same or similar, so you’ll just need to readjust how your brain associates letters with certain sounds. And yes, you absolutely must learn the alphabet before you really start to tackle anything else. On the upside, all of our participants noted that being able to read the alphabet felt like a huge accomplishment, so it’s a satisfying way to start your quest. Watch how we did here:

The course you need:

  • The Russian Alphabet — 12 lessons in total to cover all 33 letters. 

Ready to start learning Russian? Try a Babbel lesson for free!

Step 2: Learn Russian Soccer Lingo

If you’re headed to Russia this summer, chances are that you’re going for the soccer. This means that you’ll need to have a grasp of the Russian sports and soccer lingo if you want to keep up with the matches or gripe about calls with your fellow fans. The good news is that many Russian words related to sports — and soccer in particular — are cognates of English terms.

Take the word “goal,” for example. While the word looks quite different in Cyrillic lettering (гол), it’s pronounced the same way in English. Not bad, huh? What about the word for “soccer?” (If you learn nothing else, this should be your top priority.) It’s футбол in Russian — which looks scary at first but is pronounced almost identically to “football” in English. Much of the soccer vocabulary follows this pattern, so it’ll be easy for you to pick up. 

After learning the specific terms, you should also learn how to do some basic counting in Russian, as well as country names. These words will come up repeatedly during your trip if you attend games, especially if you want to ask your neighbor for the score. For our Babbel challengers, they had to not only understand the lingo but prove their writing skills. Check out how we did:

The course you need:

  • Soccer for Beginners — 6 courses to help you understand the specific soccer terminology in Russian, as well as basic numbers and country names. Your knowledge of soccer rules will also be put to the test!

Step 3: Master The Country

Russia is a mind-bogglingly large country. Fun fact: It’s actually the biggest country in the world by area, and is significantly larger than the runner-up country, Canada (Russia has 6.6 million square miles, compared to Canada’s 3.8 million). The country crosses 11 time zones, and there are 11 different cities holding matches this year. If you’re traveling around Russia this summer and planning to attend multiple matches, it means that you’ll be encountering this behemoth head-on.

Worry not, world traveler — we have a course for that. In these lessons, you’ll learn what each of the host cities is best known for and how to pronounce their names in Russian. Because you’ll likely also partake in some cultural exploration, we’ve also added entire lessons for Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Already know some Russian? Why not jump into a lesson for intermediate learners?

The course you need:

  • Across Russia — 4 lessons to help you feel more at home in the biggest country on Earth.

Step 4: Bond With The Locals

In many ways, it’s hard to think of something more unifying on a global scale than soccer. People from all over the world know and love the sport — and cheering a team to victory can (temporarily) transcend the language barrier.  But what about after the game ends?

We at Babbel believe that one of the best aspects of language is its ability to draw people together and foster genuine connection — that’s why we build our courses with real conversations in mind! Now that you can read the Cyrillic alphabet, talk about the big games, and better understand the host cities, it’s time to bond with your fellow soccer fans. One of the best ways to do this in Russia is over food and drinks. Our experts have designed courses to teach you everything you need to know about Russian food culture, right down to the traditional toasts, so you can fit right in after the big game. You can see how much our final two competitors learned in the last video here:

The course you need:

  • Friendship and Love — Because sports are about more than just competition! In these 4 lessons, you’ll learn how to say you love someone and how to give a toast, as well as learn about a few types of beer.
So what are you waiting for? A whole other side of Russia awaits you! And if we could start speaking Russian in 3 weeks, so can you!
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