Tips for Working Online
- Configure your browser to open to a Russian site. (If you don't know where to start, try the BBC Russian Service, the Russian Wikipedia front page, or a radio or television station). You'll get practice every day.
- Use online dictionaries. Two good ones are: Мультитран (a crowd-sourced dictionary) and the Словари section on Яндекс. There are many others, including Академик's gigantic collection.
- If you see words you don't know the meaning of, think of words you may know that are similar. For example, if you don't know снежная погода, you may know снег, and may be able to figure it out from there. Think about how погода may help you.
- You can learn a lot of Russian by seeing how English is presented to native speakers of Russian. The BBC's Russian Service has a section on Learning English; it offers a wealth of material, including English for special purposes and slang.
- Ask your Russian and Russian-speaking friends for their recommendations of favorite websites, movies, cartoons, etc.
The Search Engine is your Friend: Finding Content
- Enter search terms in Russian on Google, Bing, or Яндекс. If you don't know how to type at first, copy and paste from digital sources.
- Teach yourself to type in Russian. Here are some resources:
- You can use a phonetic keyboard (e.g., type a as usual to get a Russian a, etc.) online, such as the Branah Virtual Phonetic Keyboard; if you want to use the Russian layout, use the Branah Virtual Russian Keyboard. These allow you to type with your mouse into a virtual keyboard and then copy and paste the text wherever you want it. For example, there's Alternatively, you can download a phonetic keyboard for your computer.
- Practice typing on the Russian layout with Keybr.com. (Change the keyboard to Russian in "Language/Layout" on the top, left-hand corner.) The site allows you to practice by typing random texts that measure speed and accuracy.
- Note that when you're in Russia, a phonetic keyboard will not be easily available, unless it's on your own computer, and we recommend learning the Russian layout.
- You can search for almost anything: the names of cities or regions, well-known people, verb forms, the lyrics of songs (type in the title or listen to a song enough to get a few contiguous words), titles of movies, actors, singers, sports, anything that you'd like to know about. You'll often be directed to a Russian-language article in Википедия. Even if you can't understand much at first, searching will expose you to a great deal of language which, in time, will become increasingly accessible. You can read the English version for support.
- When you search for music on YouTube, add "+ lyrics" or "+ текст;" and you may find a video of the song that shows the lyrics, too.
- A search engine can be a grammar and usage tool. You can test a construction you want to use and see if an alternative comes up or if the phrase seems to be used in a particular context (recommended: confirm what you find with a reference work or a real person). You can also check your spelling, find out how a word or form is used, or try to formulate a question or phrase for your search in standard Russian.
- Turn Google into a picture dictionary: type a Russian word, phrase, or name, and choose "Images" instead of "Web." This tool has its limits, e.g., abstract words or terms will yield weird results, but otherwise it's useful, especially for visual learners.
- Practice sending emails to friends or classmates. You may want to send a test email first and make sure that the Cyrillic is not garbled at the other end. If typing directly into email doesn't work, you can send a message as an attachment in Cyrillic.
- You can write posts or chat in Russian with your Russian-speaking friends on Facebook. If you're in Russia, you can join vKontakte, a Russian Facebook-type social network. You can also subscribe to Russian Facebook pages, read posts, and often post comments of your own.
Shopping and Eavesdropping
Many American cities have Russian neighborhoods or, at the very least, Russian grocery stores that you can visit. (Sometimes stores that carry Russian food will be called European stores, and Armenian stores often have Russian food. In any case, a quick Google search for Russian food/stores in your area can help clear that up).
If you live in the Los Angeles area, for example, Russian is spoken and Russian products are sold in areas including West Hollywood, particularly east of Fairfax and Santa Monica Boulevards, and parts of the San Fernando Valley. Go and hang out there, step into a grocery store and eavesdrop a little, read the signs, buy something, and, if you're up to it, try to speak Russian with the salesclerk when making your purchase.
If you're from Los Angeles, Russian community websites such as Rosconcert.com announce concerts and other events in the Los Angeles area that might interest you. Large cities outside of Los Angeles have similar counterparts, and can be found with a Google search. These events can be entertaining and educational. You'll hear a lot of Russian spoken, but because the events are in the U.S., many speakers will be bilingual.