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Maintaining Russian On Your Own: Reading

Current and Historical Events

Maps and short texts, some only a sentence long, are a good way to start reading on your own. It's like going to Curves: you get a workout but then you're done. Familiar names of prominent people, geographical names, and cognates/loan words (президент, реформа, кандидат, оппозиция) often repeat across articles.

News and "today in history" sites often cover world events that you know from English-language sources. Use your background knowledge to help understand the Russian texts; alternatively, look up a topic in English after you've read about it in Russian, then return to the Russian text.

Sites, Starting from the easiest:

Russian Literature

For beginners it's often easier to read news items or other simple texts than literature, but some texts are easier to read than others and some people find literature to be more engaging. If you're looking for something especially short, you could try looking into poetry.

  • Poetry: From the Ends to the Beginning: A Bilingual Anthology of Russian Verse (includes some audio files, including some read by the authors). You can also google the names of authors you're interested in.
  • Prose: Try reading short stories by Chekhov, Petrushevskaia or others, with a parallel English translation to help you with unfamiliar vocabulary. These are often published as books, but there may be some online. Try googling the title or author of the work you're interested interested in. Material can be found for free on digital library archive sites like Lib.ru.
  • Googling authors' names allows you to read about authors in Russian, sometimes with more ease than you can read their works.
  • Tip: If you don't know the title of a work, try finding it on Wikipedia in English, and then checking in the left-hand column to see if the article is available in Russian. If it is, the title is likely to be written by Russian users.

Strategies:

  • If you see words you don't know the meaning of, think of what you know that's similar. For example, if you don't know снежная погода, you may know снег, and may be able to figure it out from there. If you're an aural learner, read it out loud. Try to grasp the overall point, or some point. Ask yourself: кто, где, когда, что?
  • Don't worry about understanding every word.
  • Pay attention to word order: a Russian sentence doesn't always start with the subject.
  • If you can't understand the sentence, try to identify and understand the verb first.
  • When you see whether the verb is singular or plural, look for the subject.
  • Try translating some texts or sentences into English. 
  • Once you've done those things, look up as few words as possible to understand.
  • If you're overwhelmed or distracted by other material on a web page, copy what you want to read and paste it into a word file. It may help to enlarge the text.
  • As your vocabulary and ability to decode grow, try to vary the type of text you read; choose something longer or from another genre or source.
  • Look up words on line. Two dictionaries are Multitran (crowd-sourced) and the Словари section of Яндекс. Академик has a whole collection of dictionaries. The process of getting to the word also forces you to use Russian.
  • Work with someone: ask questions of a peer, tutor, or instructor; take on a project with a classmate.