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How to Improve Your Russian Conversation Skills

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Do you often find it difficult to find words in Russian? Do you have the opportunity to practice but don’t know what to say? When communicating in Russian begins, it takes resourcefulness to keep the conversation going. In this article, we will give you a few tips on how to improve your Russian conversation skills. Whether it’s a party or a business meeting, use these tips, and you’ll be the best at small talk for sure!

To learn any language, you need more than just vocabulary. You also need to be able to perceive speech by ear, read and write, and, of course, speak it. It doesn’t matter if you practice speaking alone or with a teacher. It is simply impossible to speak without using other skills. Therefore, it is better to develop Russian conversation skills.

Some Friends Chatting at the Table

A conversation can be a lot of fun

Further, we will give you a few main pieces of advice on how to improve your conversation skills in Russian and some phrases and words to keep a conversation going even if you are stuck.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Make Your Own Language Profile Cheat Sheet
  2. Learn Russian Reactions and Filler Words
  3. Learn Common Questions and Answers
  4. Learn Conversation Starters
  5. How to Improve Conversation Skills
  6. Conclusion

1. Make Your Own Language Profile Cheat Sheet

In an unfamiliar group of people, it is hard to reveal your best side and show communication skills. Sometimes it is not so easy to cope with such a task due to psychological and social factors. If the speaker experiences difficulties just speaking about himself in his native language, then when communicating in a foreign language, in addition to the language barrier and insurmountable excitement, he faces even greater difficulties. A Cheat Sheet will help you not to get lost in conversation.

Language Profile Cheat Sheet is basically your own profile that includes the key information about you — your age, gender, your activities, and interests. You take all that you like to talk about in your native language and turn it into Russian. Depending on the circumstances and purposes of communication, your story about yourself in Russian may differ. To make a personal cheat sheet, you can use some help from such translators as Google Translate or Yandex Translator if we are talking about the Russian language. But if you have a Premium account, you can talk about Language Profile with your personal teacher and create your own Russian Cheat Sheet together.

A Girl Is Taking a Note

Did you use cheat sheets at school?

What can be included in the Language Profile?

  1. General information (name, surname, age)

A typical conversation in Russian can start with the following words:

Позвольте представиться. Pozvol’te predstavit’sya. – “Let me introduce myself” 

Then you can say your name and age:

Меня зовут Аня. Мне 35 лет. Menya zovut Anya. Mne 35 let. – “My name is Anya. I’m 35 years old.”

Other things that Cheat Sheet may include:

  1. Place of residence
  2. Family

Here, you can write about parents, sisters/brothers, husband/wife, children, and what they do. 

  1. Education

This part of the cheat sheet should answer the question: where do/did I study? 

  1. Work

At this point, it is necessary to write where you work, and what professional skills you have. 

  1. Hobbies

To have more topics to discuss, write what you are passionate about. Think of possible questions.

Example 1:

Позвольте представиться. Меня зовут Аня. Мне 35 лет. Я живу в Москве. Я закончила МГУ и теперь работаю в банке. Мне очень нравиться работать с цифрами. Я замужем и у меня есть дочь. Зимой я люблю кататься на лыжах, а летом – на велосипеде.

Pozvol’te predstavit’sya. Menya zovut Anya. Mne 35 let. YA zhivu v Moskve. YA zakonchila MGU i teper’ rabotayu v banke. Mne ochen’ nravit’sya rabotat’ s ciframi. YA zamuzhem i u menya est’ doch’. Zimoj ya lyublyu katat’sya na lyzhah, a letom – na velosipede.

“Let me introduce myself. My name is Ann. I am 35 years old. I live in Moscow. I graduated from Moscow State University and now work in a bank. I really enjoy working with numbers. I am married and have a daughter. I love skiing in winter and cycling in summer.”

Example 2:

Меня зовут Марк. Мне 22 года. Я студент политехнического университета. В будущем я стану компьютерным инженером. Мне очень интересна сфера децентрализованных финансов и криптовалют. Также в свободное время я катаюсь на скейтборде.

Menya zovut Mark. Mne 22 goda. YA student politekhnicheskogo universiteta. V budushchem ya stanu komp’yuternym inzhenerom. Mne ochen’ interesna sfera decentralizovannyh finansov i kriptovalyut. Takzhe v svobodnoe vremya ya katayus’ na skejtborde.

“My name is Mark. I am 22 years old. I am a student at Polytechnic University. In the future, I will become a computer engineer. I am very interested in the field of decentralized finance and cryptocurrencies. I also go skateboarding in my free time.”

Example 3:

Я – Виктор. Мне 65 лет. Я на пенсии. Всю свою жизнь я работал бухгалтером. Теперь я путешествую по миру, знакомлюсь с традициями народов и учу новые языки.

Ya – Viktor. Mne 65 let. Ya na pensii. Vsyu svoyu zhizn’ ya rabotal buhgalterom. Teper’ ya puteshestvuyu po miru, znakomlyus’ s tradiciyami narodov i uchu novye yazyki.

“I am Victor. I am 65 years old. I’m retired. All my life, I have worked as an accountant. Now I travel the world, get acquainted with the traditions of peoples, and learn new languages.”

2. Learn Russian Reactions and Filler Words

During a conversation, native speakers use numerous phrases to support the conversation.

They sound very similar to English exclamations and have almost the same meaning.

A Man Is Pronouncing Letters

Filler words are an important part of sounding natural when you speak Russian

Ух ты! Uh ty! – “Wow!” 

– Я выиграл в лотерею 500 рублей!

– Ух ты!
– Ya vyigral v lotereyu 500 rublej!

– Uh ty!
“- I won 500 rubles in the lottery!

– Wow!”

Кошмар/Ужас! Koshmar/Uzhas! – “It’s a nightmare!” 

– Мы простояли в очереди три часа!

– Ужас! Не могу себе представить.
– My prostoyali v ocheredi tri chasa!

– Uzhas! Ne mogu sebe predstavit’.
“- We stood in line for three hours!

– It’s a nightmare! I can not imagine it.”

Да ты что! Da ty chto! – “No way!” 

– Вчера мой парень сделал мне предложение!

– Да ты что! Счастливая…
– Vchera moj paren’ sdelal mne predlozhenie!

– Da ty chto! Schastlivaya… 
“- Yesterday my boyfriend proposed to me!

– No way! You are a lucky girl…”

Ничего себе! Nichego sebe! – “That’s awesome”

– Нашему отделу дали премию.

– Ничего себе! Вот повезло.
– Nashemu otdelu dali premiyu.

– Nichego sebe! Vot povezlo. 
“- Our department was given an award.

– That’s awesome! That’s lucky.”

Понятно. Ponyatno. – “I see” 

– Я завтра не смогу прийти. Мне нужно в больницу.

– Понятно. Выздоравливай. 
– Ya zavtra ne smogu prijti. Mne nuzhno v bol’nicu.

– Ponyatno. Vyzdoravlivaj. 
“- I won’t be able to come tomorrow. I need to go to the hospital.

– I see. Get well.”

Неужели? Neuzheli? – “Really?” 

– Я опоздал, потому что застрял в пробке.

– Неужели? Уже третий раз за неделю? 
– Ya opozdal, potomu chto zastryal v probke.

– Neuzheli? Uzhe tretij raz za nedelyu?
“- I was late because I got stuck in a traffic jam.

– Really? For the third time in a week?”

What are fillers? This is a word (or words) that does not carry a special lexical meaning and is superfluous. However, such words are often used to fill a pause or to express emotions. In Russian, they are called parasitic words — people use them in a speech almost unconsciously. They can be reaction words and just unconsciously spoken words and sounds. We suggest that you familiarize yourself with the Russian conversation words to improve your skill, learn fillers, and learn reaction words in order to fill in the awkward pauses.

Как бы… Kak by… – “ Like…”

Знаешь…Znayesh’… – “You know…”

Ну… Nu… – “Well…”

В любом случае… V lyubom sluchaye… – “Anyway…”

Типа… Tipa… – “Sort of …”

Видишь ли …  Vidish’ li … – “You see…”

Да уж… Da uzh… – “Yeah…”

Точно … Tochno … – “Right…”

Короче говоря … Koroche govorya … – “In short…”

There are also sounds (interjections), that can be “parasites”: 

Гм… / Хм… Gm… / Khm… – “Um…”

Ммм… Mmm… – “Mmm …”

Ага …  Aga … – “Uh-huh …”

О! O! – “Oh!”

А! –  A! – “Uh!”

With the help of these words, we fill the void in speech, compensate for our insecurity, and take time to choose the right words. And if vocabulary is still meager, and there is something to express in words, linguistic parasites are irreplaceable helpers to facilitate the process of communication. Using them, you show that you follow the train of thought and are emotionally involved in someone’s story. But here, of course, you should be careful so that the enthusiasm and empathy do not turn into interrupting the interlocutor.

3. Learn Common Questions and Answers

There are a lot of materials on RussianPod101 about common questions and answers in Russian. Check the main articles: The 10 Most Common Questions in Russian & How to Answer Them and 10 Responses to “How are you?”

For now, look at the following questions and answers, which you are likely to hear in everyday conversations in Russian.

Practice these questions with your partner, and then try to use a few of these phrases the next time you meet a friend at a coffee shop, work event, or party.

-Чем вы занимаетесь?
-В настоящий момент я учусь.
-Chem vy zanimayetes’?
-V nastoyashchiy moment ya uchus’.
-So, what do you do?
-Right now, I’m a student. 
-Что ты делаешь по выходным?
-Ну, я люблю читать русскую классику.
-Chto ty delayesh’ po vykhodnym?
-Nu, ya lyublyu chitat’ russkuyu klassiku.
-What sort of stuff do you do on the weekends?
-Well, I tend to read Russian Classics.
– Твоя работа интересная?
– Да, я постоянно узнаю что-то новое.
– Tvoya rabota interesnaya?
– Da, ya postoyanno uznayu chto-to novoye.
– Is your job interesting? 
– Yes, I am constantly learning something new.
– Откуда ты?
– Я из Сибири, а ты?
– Otkuda ty?
– Ya iz Sibiri, a ty?
– Where are you from?
– I am from Siberia, and you?
– Вы хорошо говорите по-русски. Где вы учились?
– Я окончил МГУ.
– Vy khorosho govorite po-russki. Gde vy uchilis’?
– Ya okonchil MGU.
-Your Russian is good. Where did you study?
– I graduated from Moscow State University.

4. Learn Conversation Starters

Let’s talk about some examples of how to break the ice. A general comment is a good start for dialogue. Take a closer look, maybe there is something noteworthy in the place where you are? Or will you notice an interesting detail in the appearance, and behavior of the interlocutor? Here are some Russian conversation skills examples:

Какой завораживающий вид! –  Kakoy zavorazhivayushchiy vid! – “What an eye-catching view!”

A winning option is to ask the person for their opinion.

А как вы считаете? –  A kak vy schitayete? – “What do you think?”

A good old trick that will help out if nothing more remarkable could be found is a conversation about the weather. A selection of words about weather and nature will come in handy.

Кажется, вот-вот пойдёт снег. –  Kazhetsya, vot-vot poydyot sneg. – “Looks like it’s going to snow.”

Льёт как из ведра. У вас есть с собой зонтик? –  L’yot kak iz vedra. U vas yest’ s soboy zontik? – “The rain is coming down in buckets. Do you have an umbrella with you?”

Get some more weather ideas from our article — Learn The Top 15 Weather Conditions.

Вы смотрели вчерашнюю игру? Такой позор! –  Vy smotreli vcherashnyuyu igru? Takoj pozor! – “Have you watched yesterday’s game? What a shame!”

Hopefully, a few more phrases have been added to your favorite ways to strike up a casual conversation.

5. How to Improve Conversation Skills

If you wonder how to practice speaking Russian skills, here are some best practices which are good for learning any new language:

1. Talk and talk

If you live or study abroad, use this advantage and talk to new friends, talk in shops and cafes, and everywhere you go. If you are studying the Russian language in your own country, find a language partner, use apps for talking, or talk to a personal teacher here on RussianPod101.

2. The shadowing method

The basis of this method is simple: you need to listen to audio with a foreign speech and repeat it aloud – as close to the original as possible. Thus, you follow the speaker like a shadow. Then it all depends on the time you devote to practice. Here, regularity is above all: at least half an hour of daily classes – and soon, even in Moscow, no one will guess that you are not Russian.

3. Listen and read

You need a vocabulary to carry on a conversation, right? Learning bookish vocabulary is great, but there are also other ways to improve your vocabulary: watch movies and TV shows, listen to Russian music, radio, and podcasts (RussianPod101 also has a great podcast for learning), or read books, forums, and blogs.

Learning Russian through movies is a great way to improve your language skills! You hear live foreign speech, and enrich your vocabulary with colloquial words. To get the most out of your viewing experience, choose a movie or TV show according to your level and taste. Don’t start with The Brothers Karamazov screen adaptation so as not to get lost. Start with something funny and easy-going like the comedy TV show «Кухня» (Kitchen) or classic Oscar-winner «Москва слезам не верит» (Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears).

4. Talking on the phone

Many people find telephone conversations particularly difficult. The reason is that on the phone, we do not see people’s movements and expressions on their faces. For practice, don’t send messages, try to call and talk on the phone in a good old way. Hearing a person’s voice is much more pleasant than receiving emoticons in messengers, and it will definitely help you with Russian learning.

A Girl Is Talking on the Phone

People form significantly stronger bonds when they’re talking on the phone than when communicating over text messages

5. Talk to yourself

It is one of the best ways how to improve your Russian speaking skills. Maybe it is strange, but it works. And if someone sees, you can pretend to be on the phone and just don’t care.

What to talk about? You can simply describe what you see or comment on your actions: “Here I am eating my breakfast. It is a tasty sandwich…Here I am leaving the house. Did I take keys? Is it cold today? So, what bus should I take…”. 

6. Conclusion 

All in all, the best way for improving Russian conversation skills is to have fun practicing the Russian language. It is much easier to learn when you enjoy it. Combine serious practice with humorous things: sing along to popular songs in Russian, practice tongue twisters, or make up a speech in case of getting a Nobel Prize.

A Man Singing to the Song

Singing in a foreign language can significantly improve learning how to speak it

Remember that all these tips are effective under one extremely important condition: even if you do not have an interlocutor, you must have feedback. Find a teacher to review your written work. Be sure to check yourself with a dictionary. 

Don’t start using many new phrases until you are sure you understand what they mean and how to say them. A personal teacher is a great way here to practice Conversation Skills. Use our Premium service, MyTeacher, and it will not take long to see the result.

And what about you, do you feel comfortable when talking in Russian? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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