skip to content

Beginners Course

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Summer Preparation: Slavonic Studies

Language work

The ab initio course is designed to take you from scratch to A-level standard in the space of eight months (October-May). This is roughly the equivalent of level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The course is, therefore, very intensive.

In order to be ready for the rapid pace of the course, you should complete the following minimal preparatory work by the start of the Michaelmas term:

  • learn the Russian alphabet and practice reading in Russian.
  • work through at least the first six lessons of the ab initio textbook, Colloquial Russian by Susan E. Kay and Svetlana Le Fleming (Routledge, 4th edition). The following links will take you to Quizlet, which contains exercises to help you learn vocabulary from the first six units. In 2023-24, we will be using the 4th edition (2017) of Colloquial Russian textbook (not 2023). 
  • Practice Russian handwriting; please see recommended sites with instructions on how to form Russian letters here

Note that you will be asked to complete a short questionnaire and a diagnostic test on Moodle (our digital learning platform) prior to coming to Cambridge so that we can allocate you to the correct level group. 

For more details, see the website for Part IA Option A.

Literature and Culture: Preparatory Reading

Please see the website for Introduction to Russian Culture (SLA3) for a list of the recommended preparatory reading.

Additional resources

In addition to working through the first 6 chapters of Colloquial Russian before starting your course, you may find it helpful to explore the aspects of the Russian language on some of the available websites:

Youtube is an excellent source of authentic Russian language material. You can find Russian films and cartoons (also with subtitles), Russian television, Russian music and many other entertaining Russian materials there with just a little creative searching.

Obtaining books

Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge will have copies of some set texts by the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. You may also order books online from or Many Russian books are available for downloading free on the web.

The Colloquial Russian course book can be purchased from the Waterstone's or Blackwell's online shops or from