Once you learn the Russian alphabet, the next step is to move on and memorize a few key words. At this point, there are probably two groups of readers: those who agree that memorizing words is helpful and those who think it is a waste of time. No matter which category you fall into, you probably hate doing it. Learning any language is partly about memorization, but that is only a small fraction of what you need to do. This isn’t about dedicating hours and hours to memorization either, although you will have more memorization to do when you first get started. Pick 50 or so keywords based on what you need to know.
This section gives you some recommendations, but they are based on learning the basics of Russian. If you are going to need to learn business Russian or technical aspects, you are going to require a more focused set of keywords too (they are not included in this guide though). If you need to know other types of words, select 35 or 40 from this list, and then look up 10 to 15 words that are more specific to what you need.
While grammar tends to be one of the trickiest aspects of a language to master, new vocabulary is something that you will need to learn for the rest of your life. Consider how many words there are in English that you don’t know. Now apply that to the language you are interested in learning – you will never be through learning new words. However, that does not mean it isn’t well worth the effort and time.
To really learn a language, you have to have enough vocabulary words to talk; after all, you can’t get by on just knowing how to structure the sentences. Fortunately, vocabulary is one of the easiest things to work into your day. Whether you use flashcards or an app, any time you have a few minutes of just standing around or waiting, you can work on getting the words into your head.
There are also a lot of different ways to learn vocabulary. Starting with basic reading books, even if they are for children, you can start to absorb a lot in a short amount of time. While you shouldn’t focus just on vocabulary, as you become comfortable with the grammar of your chosen language, you can start working new vocabulary words into your conversations. Over time, incorporating new words will be easier.
Learning vocabulary words is always pure memorization, but once you have learned the basics, you will find that there are many related words to the ones you already know. Also, once you know the basics, you can use context clues to understand the words in a sentence that you don’t know. Since you will be learning survival skills soon, memorize the words you can now. The survival phrases give you a way of seeing how the most common Russian words are used. This provides a fantastic introduction to the grammar.
Ultimately, fluency is not something that you can learn without a considerable amount of memorization. Even when using English, you probably only know about 15% of all the words in the language. This is, in large part, because many words are not actively used in daily communication, but that doesn’t mean that they are never used. Written language often includes more words that aren’t as common in the spoken version of that language.
Just as you can keep learning English over your entire life, you can spend time memorizing new Russian vocabulary words long after you have become fluent. The best words are typically ones that are less often used because they have more specific meanings. Long after you have become fluent, you should keep memorizing vocabulary.
The following are nearly 200 words that will be incredibly useful to know. You can create flashcards for them, write them on a daily basis, or find an app that will help you practice them. Other basic words that you need (such as numbers and days of the week) are not covered here because they are included in the section just for numbers.
The words are divided into parts of speech to help you better remember their meanings. This should help you pick a few of each type so that you can memorize the ones you think you are most likely to need.
|большой||big, large, important||не||not|
|новый||new; modern||вот||here, there, this is, that’s|
|последний||last, the latest, new||он||he|
|белый||white||это||that, this, it|
|так||so, thus, then||мы||we|
|уже||already, by now||этот||this|
|где||where||который||which, who, that|
|там||there, then||такой||such, so, some|
|тут||here, now, then||какой||what, which, how|
|потом||afterwards, then||кто||who, that, some|
|теперь||now, nowadays||самый||most, the very, the same|
|тоже||also, as well, too||другой||other, another, different|
|сейчас||now, presently, soon||наш||our, ours|
|здесь||here||свой||my, our, your|
|потому||that’s why||что||what, which, that|
|пока||for the present||твой||your, yours (informal)|
|хорошо||well||своё||one’s own, my, our|
|куда||where, what for, much||быть||to be|
|сразу||at once, right away, just||сказать||to say, to speak|
|совсем||quite, entirely, totally||мочь||be able|
|почти||almost||говорить||to say, to tell, to speak|
|много||many, much||знать||to know, be aware|
|снова||again||стать||to become, begin, come|
|опять||again||есть||to eat, to be|
|никогда||never||хотеть||to want, like|
|идти||to go, come|
|стоять||to stand, be, stand up|
|человек||man, person||думать||to think; believe|
|время||time, season||спросить||to ask|
|рука||hand, arm||жить||to live|
|дело||business, affair, matter||смотреть||to look, watch|
|глаз||eye; sight||сидеть||to sit|
|жизнь||life||понять||to understand; realize|
|день||day||иметь||to have, own|
|голова||head, mind, brains||делать||to do, make|
|дом||house, home||сделать||to do, make, finish|
|место||place; seat||казаться||to seem, appear|
|лицо||face; person||давать||to give; let, allow|
|сторона||side, party||пойти||to go|
|нога||foot, leg||увидеть||to see|
|дверь||door||остаться||to remain, stay|
|работа||work, job||выйти||to go out, come out, appear|
|земля||earth, land, soil||дать||to give|
|конец||end, distance||работать||to work|
|час||hour, time||любить||to love|
|голос||voice||оказаться||find oneself, turn out|
|город||town, city||ответить||to answer, reply|
|стол||table, desk; board||значить||to mean, signify|
|ребёнок||child, kid, infant||мотреть||to take a look, watch, inspect|
|сила||strength, force||ждать||to wait|
|отец||father (see #918)|
|машина||car, machine, engine||
|случай||case, occasion, incident||на||on, it, at, to|
|ночь||night||с||with, and, from, of|
|мир||world, peace||по||on, along, by|
|вид||appearance, look, view||к||to, for, by|
|ряд||row, line||у||by, with, of|
|начало||beginning, origin, source||из||from, of, in|
|вопрос||question, matter, problem||за||behind, over, at, after|
|война||war||от||from, of, for|
|деньги||money||о||of, about, against|
|минута||minute, moment||для||for, to|
|жена||wife||до||to, up to, about, before|
|правда||truth||под||under, for, towards, to|
|свет||light;world||при||attached to, in the presence of, by, about|
|товарищ||comrade, friend||после||after, afterwards|
|дорога||road, way, journey||через||through, across|
|перед||before, in front of|
|ведь||you see, you know||об||about, of (see #34)|
|и||and, though||между||between, among|
|а||while, and, but||про||about, for|
|будто||as if, as though|