I’m currently on sabbatical from learning Russian; when I return I’ll update this page with useful vocabulary and phrases for navigating your way around Central Asia.
If you’re traveling in Russia or Central Asia, definitely try to pick up some Russian before you head out the door. I know Russian is intimidating. And the case system still gives me nightmares. But considering how few people speak English outside of major cities, I can’t imagine how you could get anywhere without a few phrases and the ability to read cyrillic (which really isn’t that hard!). If you’re still on the fence, read this post over at Eurolinguiste covering 5 reasons why you should pick up a little language before you go.
Russian Language Learning Resources
For those of you learning to pick up a bit of Russian before you start traveling, Living Language: Russian to Go is a great compact PDF covering most everything you’ll need for your journey, minus a Central Asian menu.
Free PDF here: RussianToGo
Living Languages also has an In Flight Russian PDF which has romanized pronunciation (helpful) but no cyrillic (not helpful when your pronounciation is way off and nobody has any idea what you’re trying to say). I’d recommend using it with the Russian to Go above.
If you’re looking for something more complete, you can download the PeaceCorps Russian textbook here: Russian Language Course for Peace Corps Trainees, Survival Russian: A course in conversational Russian (PDF + MP3), or the 17-page Peace Corps RussianCourse written just for Kyrgyzstan PC Russian Course – Kyrgyzstan.
Online Material I really like Learn Russian. The online lessons, corrected quizzes and complete vocabulary lists are basically a substitute for a good textbook (better than any textbook I’ve found in Bishkek…), and it’s free.
Russian for Everyone has an interesting pilot program: Visit a Virtual City to Learn Russian. For $39 you get access to “Language Metropolis”, a virtual city where you use your budding language skills to navigate through real-life situations. I have not tried it out, but for those with limited access to a Russian-speaking population or fear of practicing on the streets for the first time, it might be a worthwhile investment. Their “Sputnik” Russian textbook also looks promising.
Find a video demo of the program here:
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Find 100 Resources for Learning Russian at LinguaLift’s blog.