Covering approximately one-eighth of the planet’s inhabited area, Russia is the largest country on Earth. With a remarkable cultural diversity and geographical variation all condensed into one country, Russia boasts scintillating palaces and walled fortresses that hint at the magnificence of its imperial past. Learning Russian, the sixth most spoken language in the world, will most definitely be an amazing adventure.
Russia is home to a myriad of language schools and programs located across the country. The majority of options for language study in Russia lie in the nation’s two most well-known cities.
Moscow, the 860 year-old capital of the Russian Federation, offers a majestic combination of ancient relics and modern tones. This iconic city is the country’s business, architectural, historical, scientific, and political center. The largest city in Europe, Moscow is home to one-tenth of all Russia’s citizens. The city is renowned for its distinctive architecture, the most remarkable of which are the nine domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, the Red Square, and the Kremlin. Moscow is also remarkable for its park life, characterized by summer cafes, outdoor dance parties and theaters, ping pong clubs, and bike paths. One of the greenest capitals in the world, forty percent of the city’s territory is covered by greenery. However, remnants of the defunct Soviet state are still very much visible in the Russian capital city.
St. Petersburg, formerly the imperial capital of Russia, continues to project a powerful presence and majestic splendor, with structures like the Winter Palace, Church on the Spilled Blood, and the Peter and Paul Fortress visibly standing mighty and proud along its horizon. St Petersburg’s vast historic center, with over 400 bridges and innumerable canals, has been dubbed the “Venice of the North” and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. As Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg is also the nation’s cultural heart, home to the best collection of Russian art, classical concerts at the Shostakovich Philharmonia, world-class opera and ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre, and renowned music festivals.
Kazan. The third capital of Russia, Kazan ranks among Russia’s cities with the highest standards of living, following only Moscow and St. Petersburg. One hundred and fifty years older than Moscow, Kazan boasts a cityscape that is as whimsical as it is severe. Located between Europe and Asia, Kazan is the Istanbul of the Volga. It is the capital city of the Tatarstan Republic, the land of the Turkic people called Volga Tatars. Kazan has Russian and Tatar populations, and boasts a peaceful coexistence between Christian and Muslim cultures. A dynamic city with over 1000 years of history, Kazan proves to be a highly worthwhile travel destination and has been gaining a rapidly increasing number of visitors each year.
Language Programs in Russia
Spoken by nearly 300 million people, Russian is the sixth most spoken language in the world. Russian is spoken in Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, and many other republics of the former USSR. Not surprisingly, it is best to study Russian in Russia, a country that is just as huge, challenging, and interesting as the language itself. Since adopting a free market economy, the nation has been offering many additional economic incentives making it an even better place for language study abroad. A myriad of opportunities for language study in Russia exist, but the following are the most common types of language programs in Russia:
Individualized Language Courses are a great way to learn a large amount of Russian in a short period of time. Individual courses are often conducted by one or two teachers, who may each focus on a specific component of the language (i.e. reading, writing). This type of language program in Russia will be customized to meet the available time, language needs, and most effective structure for each individual student. Individualized Russian language courses are most suitable for those who want to maximize a specific amount of time they have to spend studying the language, and who want to come home with a very good command of the Russian language.
Standard Group Courses are the most common form of courses provided by language schools in Russia. This type of course typically entails language instruction for a small group of students and uses a communicative approach to learning. Group courses offer a productive and fun learning environment, allowing students to practice communicating in Russian with one another, improving their confidence when they are faced with real-life situations. Students are often required to take a proficiency test for this type of language program in Russia, so they can be grouped with individuals of the same language skill level.
Specialized Russian Language Courses are also available in Russia, the most common of which is business Russian. These courses usually include several activities that develop basic language skills, such as writing, listening, speaking, and reading, combined with exercises specifically designed to enrich participants’ specialized Russian language skills (i.e. specific vocabulary they would use in their specialty).
Costs & Affordability
Language students can expect to spend a minimum of $300 to $400 on day to day needs in Russia, with groceries costing around $40 to $80 a month. It is possible to get a three-course meal in almost any Russian city for $20, while riding the metro every day might cost between $8 and $16 a month.
You can expect the cost of living to be lower in St Petersburg and other less populated areas in Russia, compared to life in Moscow. In general, Russia can be an expensive country to live in; but, there are ways to make your budget work! You can choose to cook your own food instead of eating out and avoid going to expensive restaurants.
Accommodation & Visas
Language students can find practically any type of accommodation during their language program in Russia, including guest houses, dormitories, apartments or flats, and homestays. Homestays are ideal for those interested in an arrangement that will let them experience how locals truly live; there are a variety of homestay options to choose from too, from single adults to families with children to retired couples. Another popular option for accommodation in Russia is a self-catered apartment that is shared with other international students or expats. There are also a wide range of apartments available, many of which are basic, affordable studios with a living room, a kitchenette, and a bedroom.
Those who attend language courses in Russia at a university or a language school will usually have to secure a student visa, which is normally processed via the academic institution you will be attending. Student visas most often have no time restriction, which is an added advantage for those participating in long term language programs in Russia or for those who want to travel afterward. There are some language schools in Russia that will still require a tourist or business visa, and those attending private lessons or individual courses will likely be required to obtain the same. In either of these cases, your visa documents will need to be processed directly through a Russian consulate or embassy in your home country, before your arrival in country.
Benefits & Challenges
Climate. Language study in Russia may not be “all peaches and cream”. The winters can be especially tough for those who are not accustomed to limited hours of sunlight and below freezing, frigid temperature.
Cuisine. Foodies may not find Russia a particularly peachy destination, unless you have an extraordinary affinity for potatoes and beet soup. The bright side is that it is possible for students to pool their resources, both monetary and intellectual, and take turns cooking dishes from their home country, which can become a great avenue for bonding too.
Transport. If you plan to take language courses at a university, there is a good chance you will be situated in a location that is far away from the downtown area. Thus, you will likely have to take long commutes to go to your favorite restaurants, shops, museums, etc. However, Russia’s highly reliable public transportation makes traveling long distances quite efficient.
Culture. Russia offers riddles and limitless surprises to people accustomed to the Western way of thinking. If you allow new perspectives and the Russian hospitality to sweep you away, language programs in Russia are sure to leave a life-changing mark on your life.