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Living Language's uses a four-step approach to studying Russian: Build a Foundation, Progress with Confidence, Retain What You've Learned, and Achieve Your Goals. For almost seven decades, the techniques that Living Language initially developed for the US State Department have allowed students to create a strong foundation of core words and phrases, moving easily to complete sentences and conversations, and eventually conversing comfortably in Russian in a number of real-world situations.
The Russian lessons offered by Living Language are delivered in two basic formats: Russian Essential and Complete, which are presented through books and audio CDs, and the Russian Online Course:
If you'd like to get an idea of Living Language's approach to teaching Russian, be sure to take a look at their free Language Lab. You can access it directly from the website, without having to enter your email address or any other personal information. We suggest going directly to Lesson 1: Essential Expressions and trying the vocabulary flashcard game. You may want to set the transliteration feature to "on", which will allow you to see the approximate English pronunciation of the Cyrillic words. You will also be able to see which topics are covered in the Russian program; for example, the 10 lessons in the Essential level cover basic expressions and other everyday topics, while the Intermediate level helps you talk about health and food (among many other subjects).
However, we felt that the free Language Lab activities didn't really help us understand how Living Language structures its teaching of Russian. We were left wondering if there is any direct instruction regarding the Cyrillic alphabet or pronunciation, or how the famously tricky grammar of Russian is addressed. We would have liked to see, at a minimum, a video or screenshots of the lessons themselves, or a description of the progression within the lessons. Most competitors allow prospective students to see the dashboard, syllabus, or other detailed information, so that they know exactly what they're getting with their program. Living Language felt like something of a mystery with respect to how, exactly, they teach their Russian lessons. Especially because there is no return policy or satisfaction guarantee - again, unlike most of their competitors - students may find it best to try one of their lower-priced options, such as the one-month online course, before committing to a more expensive package or subscription.
On a positive note, Living Language's e-Tutoring has many positive reviews from students who feel that it's well worth the investment. Pricing varies, but Living Language includes two e-Tutoring credits with their full-year package, and students can purchase further credits if they wish. For many of their language programs, Living Language offers a Platinum package that combines the full-year online course and all of the print/audio materials, along with twelve e-Tutoring credits; unfortunately, Russian is not one of the languages that currently offers access to that Platinum package. We suggest contacting Living Language to inquire regarding their e-Tutoring prices if you feel that you would benefit from working one-on-one with a native speaker.
On the whole. Living Language's Russian lessons have positive reviews, especially for their tutoring options, but their lack of a satisfaction policy and scant details about the structure of their program make it difficult to give them a higher rating at this time.
Pimsleur is well-recognized around the world for teaching new languages through 30-minute audio lessons. If your priority is learning how to speak Russian, not necessarily how to read or write it, Pimsleur may be worth your consideration. What makes Pimsleur particularly handy is that their audio lessons come either as a CD or an MP3 download, so that you can listen on your iPod, smartphone, or other mobile device during your commute or other moments on-the-go.
If you're wondering if Pimsleur's audio lessons are a good fit for your learning style, click on the orange "Try a Free Lesson" button on their main Russian lessons page. After entering your name, zip code, email address, and purpose for learning Russian (such as for fun, business, and so on), you'll have access to a complimentary 30-minute introductory lesson. We found the sample lesson to be easy to follow and left us with a good understanding of some basic pronunciation and phrases. You'll want to make sure that you are in an environment that allows you to speak out loud; a core component of their teaching strategy is asking students to imitate what they hear as closely as possible.
On the other hand, if you need to know how to read and write Russian as well as speak it, Pimsleur might not help you reach those goals as well as some of the other programs we reviewed. Their Unlimited Software package does include 900 flash cards and 900 quick matches, in addition to the 90 audio lessons from the MP3/CD packages, but this isn't likely to help you not only understand how Cyrillic is read but also how to write it yourself.
We also were less than impressed with Pimsleur's "Proficiency Guarantee". Many of the Russian lessons in our review offer a money-back customer satisfaction guarantee, but Pimsleur chooses to go a different route: once you complete their Level I Russian program, you can opt to take a competency exam through an independent testing company Pimsleur has chosen (which, incidentally, gave us a 404 error when we tried to follow Pimsleur's link to the testing site). You can only get a refund if you fail that exam.
Lastly, Pimsleur will cost you more than almost any other provider of Russian instruction. Given that they offer a single approach to learning the language - audio lessons - we felt that the value was not as high as other more comprehensive programs that teach listening, conversation, and reading/writing skills for less money.
We highly recommend that you try the sample lesson before purchasing one of Pimsleur's programs, especially if you're an auditory learner who might greatly benefit from their listening-based Russian language instruction. If you decide that Pimsleur is for you, be sure to check for any special offers that may be available, as we saw discounts offered from time to time when we visited the site.
To help you find the Best Russian Lessons, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of Living Language and Pimsleur.
Why learn to speak Russian? More than 270 million people speak Russian worldwide, from native speakers living in the nations of the former Soviet Union to students who have learned it as a second language. In fact, many federal agencies - from the US Department of Agriculture to the Department of Defense, as well as the FBI, CIA, NSA and State Department - have identified Russian as a priority language of national need.
It's no wonder, therefore, that speaking Russian can be a distinct advantage in one's career goals, international travels, or post-graduate studies. Modern technology makes it possible to learn Russian from the comfort of your home - or anywhere you choose to go with your mobile device and headphones - rather than trying to find a local class and fit it into your busy lifestyle.
From audio lessons to interactive multimedia programs on your laptop, beginning and experienced students alike can easily access the information needed to take their skills to the next level.
When deciding on a program for studying Russian, you should determine your overall goals and focus on a program that will help you meet your objectives while being a good fit for your learning style, available time for studying, and your budget.
If you learn best by listening, you may want to focus on lessons that are provided primarily in audio format, making it easy to learn on-the-go, during your commute, and so on.
On the other hand, if you're a more visual learner, you will want to choose a program with Russian lessons that are delivered through videos, images, and reading materials, whether that's delivered via CD/DVD or through an online download or subscription.
One aspect of learning Russian to keep in mind is its use of a non-Roman alphabet. Russian is written using the Cyrillic alphabet, which can take some time to recognize, understand, and master.
Is it important for you to learn how to read and write in Russian, or is conversational ability sufficient? If your reasons for learning the language include reading and writing, make sure to select Russian lessons that will give you experience with Cyrillic.
There are a few key components to evaluate as you consider which Russian lessons will be a good fit. These include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Russian lessons available today. We hope these reviews will help you to find the perfect Russian program to get you on the road to fluency in no time!
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