Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 17

How To Say I Speak Russian in Russian

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Exercises Only

Welcome to episode 17. Today we’ll be speaking about speaking…that is, about which languages we speak. We’ve got a lot to do, so let’s get to it. Please repeat the following phrase after the speaker:

Я говорю по-русски.

One more time, a little slower:

Я говорю по-русски.

I was born and raised in New York, so if someone asks me what language I speak, I’d tell them, “I speak English.” Meanwhile, my friend Vlad was born and raised in Moscow. Ask him what language he speaks and he’ll tell you: Я говорю по-русски.

He’s saying: I speak Russian.

Now, if you’ve studied Russian elsewhere, even a little, you’ve probably encountered this phrase already. Those of you in my Russian Accelerator course learned it in the very first Unit. But whether it’s new to you, or old hat, we’re going to expand on that phrase in some new directions today. Sp say it one more time:

I speak Russian.

Я говорю по-русски.

How would you ask your friend:

You speak Russian?

Ты говоришь по-русски?

Let’s practice those verbs side by side. Say:

I speak, you speak.

Я говорю….Ты говоришь

Now, do you remember how to say:

I’m an Englishman.

Я – англичанин.

So, imagine I’m an Englishman and my Russian friend asks me…

Ты говоришь по-русски?

He, of course, is asking: Do you speak Russian?

So I tell him:

No, I speak English.

Нет. Я говорю по-английски.


Я говорю по-английски.

So how would you ask your friend:

You speak English?

Ты говоришь по-английски?

Are you feeling comfortable with all this so far? Then let’s do a quick review of the main constructions from the last podcast.

Ask your friend:

Is this your company?

Это твоя компания?

How will he say:

No, it’s not my company. But this is my office.

Нет, это не моя компания. Но это мой офис.

How do you say:

I work in the company Samsung.

Я работаю в компании Самсунг.

I work downtown.

Я работаю в центре.

Ask a friend: Where do you work?

Где ты работаешь?

Alright, so…let’s see if you remember the phrases we started this podcast with. Say:

I speak Russian.

Я говорю по-русски.

I speak English.

Я говорю по-английски.

Ask your friend:

You speak Russian?

Ты говоришь по-русски?

You speak English?

Ты говоришь по-английски?

Great! Now let’s add our next new word. Can you guess what country this is?


Listen again and repeat:


Here it is in context…all in Russian.

Здравствуйте, меня зовут Рафаел. Я живу в Барселоне….это в Испании.

He said: Hello, my name is Rafael. I live in Barcelona. This is in Испании.

So, in English the country is called “Spain” and in Russian they pronounce it Испания.

Notice there’s that “ee-ya” ending. So when we say “in Spain” it gets that long “ee” ending.

Listen again…

В Испании. (In Spain)

How would you say:

I’m now working in Spain.

Я сейчас работаю в Испании.

Now, if you asked Rafael what language he speaks, this is what he’d tell you:

Я говорю по-испански.

Ask your friend if he speaks Spanish.

Ты говоришь по-испански?

So far so good? Now imagine someone has asked me what language Rafael speaks. Listen to my asnwer:

Рафаел говорит по-испански.

Rafael speaks Spanish.

Or I could’ve just said:

He speaks Spanish.

Он говорит по-испански.

This is a new verb form for us…or, to use the fancy grammar term, a new conjugation.

Imagine you’re in Moscow with your friend Jennifer. When you two meet your landlord, he gestures to Jeniffer and asks you…

Does she speak Russian?

Она говорит по-русски?

Tell him: No. She’s an Englishwoman.

Нет. Она – англичанка.

Add: She speaks English.

Она говорит по-английски.

We’ll work with this new conjugation a lot more in a moment.

V.O. And now, here’s your Tip of the Day from Russian Made Easy…

Since today’s podcast is about speaking, it reminds me of this important tip: When speaking Russian, speak fast. Really, the faster the better, because it’s more comfortable for your native speaker listeners. Here. You tell me: Which is more comfortable for you to listen to, as a native speaker of English.

Wellll…..What. Can. You. Do. Live. And. Learn. Isn’t. That. Right?

…or this…

Well, what can ya do? Live ‘n’ learn, isn(t) that right?

When I tell my students this, they often say: But I just can’t think that fast. It takes me time to think of each word!

Well…that’s fine. That’s normal. Take all the time you need…but do it in your head, before actually starting to speak. Take a moment, piece the phrase together in your head, and then say the whole thing as quickly as you can.

Since most of what I say when speaking Russian is based on constructions that I’ve mastered, this isn’t usually an issue for me. But once in a while I find myself constructing a phrase with some new verb or participle or case ending. And that’s what I do. I piece the phrase together in my head and then I rattle it off as fast as possible.

So that’s today’s tip: To make your listeners comfortable, think slowly but speak quickly.

Alright, back to biz. Pretend you’re with your two friends — Vlad and Rafael — introducing yourselves to class on the first day of college. Tell the class:

My name is James. I speak English.

Меня зовут Джэймс. Я говорю по-английски.

This is Vlad. He speaks Russian.

Это Влад. Он говорит по-русски.

This is Rafael. He speaks Spanish.

Это Рафаел. Он говорит по-испански.

So let’s apply this new verb ending to other verbs we’ve learned. Imagine you’re with two friends at a cafe, and you’re the only one who speaks Russian. Tell the waitress:

I’ll have tea, he’ll have coffee, and she’ll have capuccino.

Я буду чай, oн будет кофе, и она будет капучино.

Did you hear that? Try saying it again:

Я буду чай, oн будет кофе, и она будет капучино.

Let’s try all three verb endings for that:

I’ll have….you’ll have….he’ll have

Я буду….ты будешь….он будет

So say…

I’ll have borscht and she’ll have the viniagrette.

Я буду борщ и она будет винегрет.

You could also phrase your orders using the verb “want” so try saying:

I want a pizza and she wants a salad.

Я хочу пиццу и она хочет салат.

Say that one more time:

She wants a salad.

Она хочет салат.

So again, let’s try all three verb endings for that:

I want….you want…she wants

Я хочу….ты хочешь….она хочет

Ask your friend what she wants:

Что ты хочешь?

She says:


So now tell the waitress:

She wants borscht.

Она хочет борщ.

How about the verb “to live”? Say…

I live in Los Angeles.

Я живу в Лос-Анджелесе.

Ask a friend:

Where do you live?

Где ты живёшь?

Now try saying:

Rafael lives in Barcelona.

Рафаел живёт в Барселоне.

Say that one more time:

Рафаел живёт в Барселоне.

So here are those three conjugations. Say…

I live….you live….he lives…

Я живу…ты живёшь…он живёт

Tell someone:

Mom lives in Kiev whereas Dad lives in Moscow.

Мама живёт в Киеве а папа живёт в Москве.

Ok, so….How about the verb “to work”? Ask you friend where he works:

Где ты работаешь?

So, based on that, try saying:

Sasha works in Minsk.

Саша работает в Минске.

Say that one more time:

Саша работает в Минске.

So, our three verb forms for “work” so far are:

I work….you work….she works

Я работаю….ты работаешь….она работает

Let’s try using just that “he, she” form for a bit. Introduce your friend, Say…

This is Michele. She is a Canadian.

Это Мичел. Она – канадка.

She lives in Toronto.

Она живёт в Торонто.

Она – адвокат.

She is a lawyer.

Она работает в центре.

She works downtown.


He’ll have tea and crepes, please.

Он будет чай и блины, пожалуйста.

….and she wants caviar.

…и она хочет икру.

How did you do with all those? I probably sound like a broken record, but it needs to be said: If you got most of those, and if you’re following along pretty well with all this, then you’re doing awesome. Seriously. I mean, you now have mastered three of the six conjugations in Russian…just by listening to a podcast.

Anyway, be sure to visit RussianMadeEasy.com for the downloads and keep those emails coming. My email address is: mark@RussianMadeEasy.com

Next time we’ll learn to talk about the things we need. Until then, keep practicing!

DOWNLOADS – (right click with mouse and “save as”)

Episode 17 – Full Program

Episode 17 – Exercises Only


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10 responses to “Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 17”

  1. Frank Arnold Avatar
    Frank Arnold

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve started picking up Russian as a sort of hobby because it seemed weird to me that I knew so little about a major language that ranks as the second most used language on the internet. Like many people I started on Duolingo, and was shocked by the <> construct, and a few moments later was blown away with the <> construct because genitive is used! Ever since I’ve been trying to make it a habit of doing something Russian. For now my goal is to be able to read simple stuff (like comic books).

    I recently stumbled upon your podcast and have been doing a couple per day while commuting by car. I’m very much interested in your Russian Accelerator course, but I was wondering if you had any plans of having an audio-only paid podcast. With toddlers at home I found it’s hard to maintain a habit of following video courses… and although I completely agree that visual input is important in language learning, audio courses will fit my current lifestyle best. Thank you for your wonderful work, and if you have any advice, I’d appreciate it.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Frank, I recently created an audio course, for those who are unable to sit and watch videos.
      Please check it out here: http://www.RMEPLUS.com

      1. Frank Arnold Avatar
        Frank Arnold

        Hi Mark,

        Thanks and apologies, you go into great detail on this in the episode immediately following the one on this page.

        Will sign up right away. Am almost finished with the podcast so will move on to plus after that!

  2. Tatjana Avatar

    Reaching Lesson 17 is for me very exciting! As you mentioned, it happens that it starts getting harder and people might think about to quit and be happy with the view words they learned. BUT every next lesson IF you mastered the fewer ones will be just the same just be patient with yourself and repeat the lessons you might have some problems!
    I recommend to everyone to listen to Russian music as it helps to pick up the words we learned.
    Im just having a hard time to find Russian people for tandem (language tandem) in my country. Also because of the world circumstances i cant really share my interests to other people. Im getting rude feedbacks on why Im even learning Russian. Thank you! It feels good to listen to your friendly voice. As soon i can finish and master the free lessons Im really looking for the Accelerator course or the Plus? Not sure right now.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Tatjana!

      Thanks for the kind words. I know what you’re going through. I, too, occasionally encounter people who want to put me down for learning (and teaching) Russian. It’s crazy. Isn’t it more important WHAT people say, than HOW they say it? And remember, for approx half of Ukraine, Russian is their native language. Should Austrians not speak German because of the things Germany did during WW II? And what about English? Haven’t English speaking countries committed horrible crimes at some point in their past? Should we also not speak English then? It’s all crazy. Yes, Russian leaders are sick and twisted people and the war is horrible (we fled Ukraine, after all)…but the Russian language is a wonderful thing.

  3. Danielle Stanley Avatar
    Danielle Stanley

    How do you know how to pronounce “po” ? Sometimes the Russian speaker says “paw” and sometimes “Pah” to mean” in” Russian or “in” English. Please explain.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      I’d sound it out as “puh” (in American English)

  4. Milo Avatar

    Hey Mark, first of all thanks for these podcasts, I’m really enjoying them so far. One question: why in the part “I’ll have borscht and she’ll have the viniagrette.” you say “и” and not “а”?

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Great question, Milo. You would use И to mean “in addition to”
      So: I will have coffee AND milk. (You mean, ‘and’ in the sense of ‘in addition to’)

      You use ‘A’ to mean “whereas”
      I will have soup, WHEREAS she will have pizza.

      Dont sweat it too much, though. But over time you’ll develop of feel for when to use each.
      Hope this helps,

  5. David Surrett Avatar
    David Surrett

    Your tip to look for patterns is paying off. I noticed for verb endings that second and third-person vowel endings are the same. If one has a long ‘e’ sound (ee) , the other does as well, same for a short ‘e’ (yeh) or ‘o’ (yoh). boo-desh and boo-det, zhi-vyosh and zhi-vyot, gah-vah-reesh and gah-vah-reet, etc.

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