IWTYAL 159: Growing vocabulary at intermediate level

Valentin asks: “I’m at intermediate level in Russian. How can I grow my vocabulary?”

In this episode:

  • There’s no quick solution – you have a large amount of vocabulary to learn, and that takes time
  • Firstly, make sure you can read Russian. It’s not too hard, and not being able to read is a handicap
  • “I can’t read books or read articles” – maybe not, but you can find material that’s graded

Tools that can help you read…


  • Find speaking partners and use Russian socially – in Japan, speaking with others as much as possible was how I grappled upward to fluency
  • Don’t ignore the option of taking classes – it can be a good, systematic way to improve
  • Avoid using prepared lists or flashcard decks


  • The principle is to grow your vocabulary using material you enjoy. Why? Because by staying motivated, you’ll ultimately get more exposure.
  • Try to enjoy the “struggle” — it’s your best friend!

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

All my short story books:

short stories for beginners short stories for intermediate learners olly richards

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  • Valentin

    Thanks so much for answering Olly! 🙂

    Well first, let me clarify a bit my situation. I’m actually a student in Applied Foreign Languages (basically languages and business) in English and Russian so I’m already taking Russian classes! Well to be accurate, I spent the last semester in Newcastle as an Erasmus student and the only Russian “classes” I had were simply a couples of exercises I had to send to my home uni, so I had to find a way to progress by myself. So I’ve been using using Assimil Using Russian pretty much everyday, saving interesting words and phrases in Anki (I obviously had to make choices since I’m liberally overwhelmed with new words).

    I’ll be back home in a few days and I already got in touch with some Russian students to practice Russian and French with once I’m back in France 🙂 I’ve also got your Russian short story book a few weeks ago and I’ve planned on start reading it next mouth!

    And thanks for suggesting Readlang, that’s a kind of thing I wanted! I’ll install it right away. I actually found LingQ quite expensive… I also considered spending a few weeks or mouths in Russia next summer or year because I also need to improve my Russian to do my Master (I’m in the last year of my Bachelor).

    Thanks again for your tips Olly, I’m feeling I’m on the good track now! If you have any more suggestions now, I’d be glad to hear them. Since I’ll be back from the UK, I’d have a few more questions on how to cope with the variety of accents here but I think that’s enough for today. Have a nice time in Hong Hong and cheers! ^^

    • Good luck, Valentin! You’ve got all the right ideas… now, the only thing that matters is actually following through and doing it all! Bonne chance!

      • Valentin

        Merci ^^
        Well I realised that Readlang isn’t available on Firefox ;-( But I’ll look for something else instead!