RUSSIAN. How i went from zero to B2 in 2 years

EDITED: this post is very loong, if you want to skip all the text, go to the end to read the CONCLUSION.

In order to contribute to this forum Im going to talk about how i learnt Russian language myself from home and from scratch. I went from zero level to fluency in a period of 2 years. (by fluency i mean B2 level).
Please note that im not an English speaker so maybe some parts of my method wont suit you, also I consider it to be a tough program and it requires discipline, at least 1 or 2 hours everyday (many days i woke up 90 minuts earlier on the morning in order to find time).

To get the first contact with the language and get a base of grammar i used the following resources:

  1. Assimil (the Spanish to Russian version was very good, i dont know about the English)

  2. The website (English version

  3. Lingq, Provider Evgeny have very good basic courses for beginners with the basic estructures and grammarn.

Also: You can use extra grammar books on the internet, or some webs with audios of letters to get the right phonetics, as и is not the same like ы. or T doesnt sound like TЬ (even if at the begining sounds the same for you, you need to pay attention listening this sounds many times in order to see the difference and to pronounce it yourself correctly later).

With the assimil book i have a method cycling lessons and doing inverse translation to close the circle. lets see a sample routine for 3 days:
1st day: Read and listen many times dialog of lesson 1, (and also read the grammar notes).
2nd day: Read and listen lesson 2 (with notes) many times, but also come back to lesson 1 and read it out loud, trying to repeat the voice and entonation of the russian speaker the most acurrate possible.
3rd day: read and listen lesson 3 (many times). Repeat out loud lesson 2. And lesson 1 you have to read only the translation text in your native language, and say out loud the translation without looking at it, comparing with the original text to see how many mistakes you have. (i was reading in Spanish and pronouncing out loud Russian, after every sentence i pushed the PLAY button to listen the native voice and compared if i said right). Many times were mistakes , but the good thing was i could notice them, and everytime they were less and less.

Note: many people doesnt like to read out loud alone, but i found it extremely helpful, many times you think you know words but is not until you make this conection voice/brain that is not completely active vocabulary ready to use. So i recommend you to dont be lazy and read out loud, so first time you will talk with native speakers will be ten times easier.


At this point you should have a basic 1.000 words of basic vocabulary and because u read out loud and did inverse translation it shouldnt be completely passive. Here is where i started to talk with native speakers using this 2 resorces:
-Shared talk (good to chat with text). Begin with this as you can use translators to help you.

  • Italki (good for talk by skype). Find an exchange partner on Italki. (you also can find him at LINGQ) I didnt use it to pay for lessons with tutors or teachers, i just used it to find friends and make exchanges, where we choose topics and we talk some time in Russiand and in return some time in Spanish. I think private tutors are only necesary in order to answer specific questions or some grammar things you still didnt get from assimil (but is only my opinion, there are many good tutors at Lingq and many students had big improvements thanks to them).
    At begining conversations were hard and was extremely difficult to express myself, dont worry its a normal process.

In order to continue improving and knowing more words, assimil and talk is not enough, you need more and more imput regularly, for this my fauvorite resouce is LINGQ.

With lingq i read and listen a lot, everyday i traslate 1 or 2 texts on morning and i listen them on my iphone many times during the day, on the metro, while i wash dishes etc. I used this website A LOT, most than any other resource, I could say 80% of my language learning i had it through Lingq.


1st PHASE (3-4 MONTHS): learn basics (dialogues and grammar) with and assimil doing reverse translation. (you can find many other resources for beginners on the net or lingq)



So that makes the constant circle where you have to be getting constant input from Lingq, and producing constant output talking with native speakers… Many times you gonna have to come back to grammar books, and check some notes, watch youtube videos about grammar or phraseology, but most of the time you will be listening interesting material and talking to interesting people which is the nicest part of the process. When you are at this point you just have to continue doing this for 2 years, yeah 2 years doing it everyday for 1 or 2 hours is the only way i found to reach fluency, i dont think there is any shortcut. During this 2 years will be some psycological crisis, times where you have the feeling you are not improving etc, but its normal, you just have to keep going and some day you will find yourself watching a tv show and understanding everying when you talk with friends in Russian.

I hope my experience will help somebody. Thank you for you attention.

Josu Sánchez.


What dedication. I am sure you’ll be an inspiration to Russian learners (and others)! I still can’t give roses from the forum page, so will send you one separately from my profile page.


Good luck, Josu!
But don’t try to translate every text. At this level you have to understand a lot without translation.
I believe the retelling of some podcasts is a very good exercise in order to acquire fluency in a foreign language.


yes by translating a text at lingq i dont mean translating the full text, i mean translating the 4-5 new words in the text which i didnt know the meaning.
About retelling, if i read a text that it is a bit long, i find it hard to retell even if it would be in my own language, is like i forget most of the stuff and only get the main idea. Besides if i retell, i usually dont use most of new words because i cant remember them during the time im retelling, but if i read i make sure i pronounce with my mouth 100% of the new words, and once is pronounced it sticks better to my brain, maybe is because while im reading im imagining im telling this to somebody, like if would be a real situation. I dont know, but it works for me, i guess many people will find retelling better for them anyway.

1 Like

Fantástico! Thanks for sharing this information. I have a fraction of the time and effort involved, and I’m still a beginner in Russian. Your story and information is a good reminder to keep working. It just takes a lot of time!

(For other new Russian learners that find this post.) I’m still new enough that I don’t have all the top 1000 words in my vocabulary. I’m comfortable with my ability to read though, so I’ve been reading sample sentences of the Top 1000 Russian Words via

Wow good job! I like your methods. I’ve been doing a lot of stuff very similar to your methods.

Just curious, what did you do to determine you were B2? What test did you take/administer?

Congratulations. I have a question about how you made your vocabulary active. Apart from Italki, did you use other web page? Or it was the only tool that you needed.

My experience making vocabulary active:

  • chat with natives (you can do that on Lingq if you find a partner, or where there is a chat)
    -talking with natives by skype (you can find a partner to talk, you can find it on Lingq or
  • Having experiences and struggle on real life. This you can only do it in the country. This i mean going to the shop and having to ask yourself for what you want, or having a dinner where everybody speaks nothing else but Russian.

Tutors at lingq are a good way to make your vocabulary active, since most of them they are professional and know how to make you talk, and how to correct your mistakes.

Also like steve points out, reading and listening also make your vocabulary active. i would say that for every 5 words you learn, 1 or 2 become active automaticly. So the more u read and listen the more active vocabulary you gonna have also.

Hope it helps


I took the test that Russia put to foreigners wishing to get permanent residence permit. It has Oral and listening comprehesion, grammar, writing, laws history, etc. Total 4 hours of exam, I passed with 95%. Also an independent school rated my Russian level as B2 after making a long test, though i didnt write. My writing Russian is terrible, maybe A2


Congratulations and well done. I’m very pleased that you talked about the Russian test as it gave me the idea of looking for an equivalent Polish test, and I found one. Not sure if I’ll do it but there is a lot of material and full sample exams on the website. For the Polish learners amongst us:



Thank you so much, Josu. This is incredibly helpful information. For me, as a native speaker of the same language as you, learning the same language, with similar previous language background and following a very similar method. It’s a spot-on guide and estimation of time and effort. Helps a great deal to stay motivated, too!

Thank you for the information Josu. I really appreciate it.

That’s very encouraging Josu. Thank you!

Great story, Josu! I’ve posted it as a motivation to a friend!

p.s. Assimil editions are basically made per target language. So if the Spanish version for Russian is good, the rest adaptations with Russian as a target language also ought to be good. And I’ve actually already heard many times they are :slight_smile: - Assimil mon avis - YouTube

I have the Russian Assimil for German speakers and it’s really good.

It just came out a new edition in Spanish, with complete new dialogs and explanations, and is very good, even much better than the old edition. Even if i did the old assimil i bought the new one and im doing it from the begining using it only the inverse translation. Really good.

The only thing i dont like, is that the second part “perfeccionament” is only in french-russian :frowning:

I really like Lingq, but i think in order to be able to use Lingq you should have a base first, then is when Assimil do his job.

Very encouraging! Thank you for sharing.

I don’t agree that one needs a base to use LingQ. I started Russian using LingQ on the first day. I don’t think it was a bad way to get started.

Great job! Thanks for sharing your story :slight_smile:
As for learning grammar, I find Duolingo to be the best option. It’s free and it’s just a game! You get to know more and more words and what’s most important - to use them! When I started using Duolingo I made a huge progress with Italian and now I use it every single day to improve my Spanish (by the way, I started learning this language 3 days ago :slight_smile:


Duolingo doesn’t do Russian. I used it for German and it was fun for a few hours, then I got bored and stopped.