At the moment, I am trying to teach myself Russian. The most useful book I have found so far is a Teach Yourself Russian book borrowed from the library. I also own a BBC Active Russian Phrasebook and Dictionary and the BBC Active Talk Russian book with 2 CDs. This audio course cost more than twice the price of the phrasebook, and quite frankly, I don’t think it was worth it.
I bought it because I wanted the audio, and in that sense it is useful, but I think it could have been done much better. It seems to be aimed at the lowest common denominator. There is not a lot of vocabulary in the book, in fact, there is plenty more vocab in the phrasebook. That is my first problem – you won’t get far with the audio series.
The audio has so much time wasted with the voice saying “if you want to say … in Russian then the word you would use is …”. Too much of the audio is taken up with english. The book should be doing that job.
What I would have appreciated from this course would have been: a conversation for each chapter, in audio, and the book should make it clear what the conversation means. A little bit more explanation of grammar (though I don’t think too much is necessary). They could have gotten a lot more spoken Russian into the same two CDs, and a lot more vocab into the same size book.
The phrasebook on the other hand, is great. They know how to do a phrasebook. I find the pronunciation guide very logical; each phrase is transcribed into the roman alphabet, in a way that makes sense to an English speaker. Well, it makes sense to me anyway. There is plenty of vocab, like a list of body part names, list of menu items, list of shopping vocab, etc. You can’t really learn Russian properly from that alone, but it is a great extra resource. And I think it would work really well as a phrasebook if that was all you wanted it for.
A useful resources for Russian is Master Russian. The site doesn’t look like much (I’m ashamed to say a boring looking website can put me off – what can I say I’m a graphic designer for a living), but it does contain some useful stuff.
Then there is a website of a university in Sussex that has some Russian texts online with the translation (prioritizing word-for-word accuracy) and a glossary, as well as exercises (which I have not yet tried) and audio (which I couldn’t get to work). But it’s great because you can start getting into Russian literature, while still learning Russian.