pimsleur russian lesson reviewNearly one in twelve Americans have heard of Russia, mysterious land of cold wars, vodka and crazy dashcam videos. However, you may not know that Russia is actually the largest country in the world! So large, in fact, that you couldn’t walk across it in a day because you would get eaten by a bear. A few months ago I started dating a girl from a former Soviet satellite state. She found herself repeatedly frustrated when attempting to communicate with a foreign devil such as myself, so I decided I need to learn some Russian. One of the tools I use in my quest is Pimsleur’s “Speak and Read Essential Russian I” course.

A hippie traveler friend had the first Pimsleur course on an old iPod, so I borrowed it from him in order to learn Russian in the car on the way to the gym. He sent me off with a warning:

“Russian is hella hard brah.”

Wise words from a very stoned wise man. However, I’m not easily deterred, especially when I could do cool stuff like join the KGB or get all my money stolen in a mail-order bride scam like my uncle did on two separate occasions. Disregarding potential effort, I plugged the iPod into the stereo and began my Russian lessons. Here’s what I decided after completing all 30 lessons:

The Good

  • It’s an effective starting point. The Pimsleur method taught me quite a few useful basic Russian words and phrases. By lesson 9, I had a small conversation in Russian with an elderly couple who asked me for directions. I met my Russian girl’s parents around roughly lesson 25, and they were fairly impressed at how well I was able to communicate with them in their native language.
  • It’s easy to fit into your schedule. I have roughly 40 minutes worth of commute time per day, so I listen to lessons in the car. Instead of cranking death metal, I have a solid starting point on a new language.
  • It’s interactive. Lessons begin with a conversation, then an explanation of new words. You’ll be challenged to ask or answer questions, mimicking potential conversations.
  • You’ll learn pronunciation. You’ll need to do a lot of repetition in order to learn, and that means plenty of practice pronouncing difficult words.
  • You’ll be able to annoy the shit out of your friends by speaking a foreign language they can’t understand. That’s always fun.

The Bad

  • There’s no “reading” element when you’re learning in your car. My borrowed MP3s didn’t come with a book. Pimsleur was no help in the reading department, so I taught myself how to read Russian through other methods. Without any reading aspect to the lessons, I find myself occasionally pronouncing words incorrectly or missing hard-to-hear sounds.
  • You won’t become fluent. As far as I’m aware, there are only three Pimsleur courses. I can communicate at a very basic, touristy level after completing Level I. It’s nice to be able to say hello, ask for directions, etc but even tripling my current level of knowledge leaves me a hell of a long way away from becoming a core member of the Russian mafia.
  • You won’t learn much about grammar. Pimsleur does a poor job explaining the “why” part of the Russian language. You’ll need above-average pattern recognition skills in order to pick up on grammar, but even then you won’t learn the “why” part of grammar.
  • It’s kinda dated. I’m not sure if I have an old version or what, but every now and again Pimsleur teaches dated material. For example, “госпожа” is supposed to be “miss” but is really something more like “m’lady”.
  • Holy freaking crap it’s expensive! Amazon is charging at least $100, so you’d better be ready to pony up some cash. Either that or find your own hippie friend who will hook you up for free.

The Bottom Line

If you’re dedicated and willing to put in a fair amount of work, Pimsleur will give you a solid foundation with the Russian language. You won’t learn how to read, but your pronunciation will improve and you’ll be able to communicate at a basic level. Pimsleur’s “Speak and Read Essential Russian I” gets:

Stalin Mustaches

Want to get started on your own crazy adventure into the wide world of the Russian language? Click on the picture of Vladimir Putin giving a topless protester the thumbs up to order your copy!

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Two thumbs up!

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