Learning a foreign language can seem tedious, and learning Russian is no exception: the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, all of those words in textbooks or on computer screens that you have to learn by heart.
This can make it difficult to stay motivated when trying to learn Russian.
Fortunately, there are ways to make language learning fun. There are a number of Russian language games out there to help you learn Russian vocabulary and other aspects of Russian language and culture.
Russian Language Online Games
Want to improve your fluency without going to a language school or having to memorize a phrasebook - online games to learn Russian are like free lessons, but with the added element of fun!
Free online games for learning Russian
Some language-learning apps and websites have exercises that use audio and visual prompts to make learning easier. However, these often require payment.
Yet some websites offer free games for practising Russian grammar, either thematically or according to the grammatical divisions familiar from Russian courses.
- Digital dialects offer a series of language games on subjects as simple as the alphabet, Russian numbers, types of fruit, food, the days of the week and other common words and expressions of the Russian language.
- Russian for Everyone has four different types of games for various themes of Russian words - both for spelling using the Russian alphabet (hangman), combination visual/audio games and combination visual/word games - and grammar games focusing on nouns (mostly in the nominative case), adjectives and verb conjugation.
- Influent is more like a video game: you explore a world and collect Russian verbs, nouns and adjectives - practising Russian pronunciation and spelling all the while - that you can string together to form phrases and sort into your own custom vocabulary lists.
And of course, sites and apps such as Duolingo and Babbel have various exercises as part of their Russian language lessons.
Russian language games specifically for children
There are games online specifically tailored to children, but if you are trying to learn to speak Russian as an adult, you might find them just as useful.
- HelloWorld offers hundreds of games for Russian language course ranging from simple dictionaries, worksheets and flashcards to Russian letters to the cardinal numbers to basic Russian concepts to pronouns such as personal pronouns and possessive pronouns. You can practise conversations such as greetings or sing children’s songs to help you memorize vocabulary. Games such as Bingo or Tic-Tac-Toe help you learn to speak Russian in a familiar setting. There is even a section of patronymics to help you familiarize yourself with Russian culture.
- DinoLingo has online lessons in Russian designed specifically for kids. It has a traditional online course such as grammar rules and language study, illustrated by animated videos and fun quizzes. They also have various resources for practising Russian online - children’s books for studying Cyrillic, simple animated stories, children’s songs and audiobooks for pronunciation, sentence structure and spoken conversation, as well as games to practise various language skills such as vocabulary and basic Russian grammar. Unfortunately, DinoLingo is not free, offering 6-month, 1-year and 2-year plans, BUT they offer one free Russian lesson so you can try it out and see if it’s for you or your child.
How to Learn Russian with Board Games
While online games and quizzes are fun, it’s sometimes nice to take a break from a computer screen.
Or maybe you’re looking for something you can play with several other beginner Russian students in order to study together and break the monotony of memorizing common verbs and genitive declension. Learning a language is often easier if you are doing it in a group!
This is where Russian language instruction can take the form of a board game. And why not? Board games are convivial and fun, and with the right ones, you can revise verb conjugation, demonstrative pronouns and ordinal numbers without it feeling like work.
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Specialised board games to learn the Russian language
Some companies offer board games specially designed to help people learn to speak a second language.
Buratino offers three different Russian-learning games:
- Two games with flashcards, one for letters and one for numbers, coupled with games where the flashcards come into play in various different ways.
- Luna Quest, a traditional board game with a path to follow to learn colours and shapes.
This website offers a number of educational games in Russian to allow beginners to learn Russian words and phrases in various contexts: numbers, nature and weather, and various forms of bingo. You can also get Russian-language board games and practice your Russian that way.
Using Russian board games to improve your comprehension
You can also use established games to help improve your proficiency of Russian phrases and words.
Board games such as Scrabble are wonderful for reviewing the Russian alphabet and learning new words.
You can also try some version of Charades, Pictionary or Taboo if you have enough people - one team gives the other a word or phrase, while half of the other team has to act it out, draw it or explain it (without using certain keywords) so that the rest of the team can guess it.
Intermediate or advanced learners might also enjoy something like Trivial Pursuit in Russian!
Or Rory’s Story Cubes - they’re dice with pictures on them. You roll them and have to tell a story based on the pictures. Guess Who? forces you to practise physical descriptions of people and Russian verb conjugation.
Special Group Games for Russian Language Courses
If you are a teacher in a Russian language course or are looking for something you can play in a study group or similar learner group, you might like some of these:
- Word Race: You will need a stopwatch or egg timer. It can be played on a whiteboard, or else each person or team gets a piece of paper and a pen. A topic is chosen from a bag (or you can just pick one at random) and each person or team must write down as many words related to that topic as possible in the set amount of time. If you are playing with teams, a good way to play is to have each member write down one word and pass the paper or whiteboard pen to the next person on the team. Whoever has the most terms win (irrelevant or misspelt words are eliminated, of course - don’t forget to keep a Russian dictionary on hand!)
- Sentence Salad. Pick a sentence appropriate to the level of your language classes - it can be a simple practice sentence or one photocopied from a book. Copy it as many times as you have players. Cut up each sentence and put them into separate boxes or bags. On the count of three, the players have to put their sentences in the correct order. The first one to finish (with the right grammatical word order!) wins. A good way to learn Russian sentence structure.
- Find the Treasure. An object is chosen as the “treasure” and one player chosen as Treasure Hunter. The Treasure Hunter is sent out of the room and the object is hidden within the room and various obstacles placed randomly throughout the room. The Treasure Hunter comes in and stands by the door. The other players direct him to the object - but they CANNOT simply say “it’s behind the cushions of the sofa”. Instead, they have to tell him each step of the way: “two steps to the blue chair. Now turn left for one step. Left again. Now three steps to the TV. Those were big steps - one step back.” And so on. Wonderful for practising giving and understanding directions.
- What’s My Problem? One student has a problem but is not told what it is. All the other students know it and have to give the student advice on how to solve it. The first student must then guess what the problem is based on the advice they receive. This is a good way to practise all sorts of vocabulary lessons - the “problem” can be anything from being sick to needing to find the cinema to meet someone there at 10:00.
Another way, of course, is to simply play your favourite video games in Russian! Simply change the language settings on Steam and download anything from cute point-and-click adventures and role-playing games (the best for learning vocabulary) to racing games and 1st-person shooters (not quite as educational since they don’t have as much dialogue, but if you choose those with good-length cutscenes you’ll still be getting an earful of Russian without the boredom of language classes or tutoring!).