An Introduction to Russian Language and Culture


Russian is best learnt when both written and oral skills are taught together within the context of the Russian way of life. Russian culture is, therefore, an essential part of this eight-week beginners course designed to help you learn the basic language skills necessary for communicating in Russian.

Target audience:
This course is for beginners and those with limited knowledge of Russia who wish to gain an introduction to its language and culture. It is for anyone who:

  • is interested in Russia and the language and culture
  • has a Russian-speaking partner or adopted children from Russia
  • is planning to visit Russia or its neighbouring states where Russian is spoken.

Learning objectives:
By the end of the course, participants will have:

  • acquired basic reading and writing skills in Russian
  • gained a basic understanding of Russian grammar (nouns – gender and some cases; verbs (present tense); adverbs; pronouns; numbers and adjectives)
  • learnt basic vocabulary and the linguistic and cultural competence to handle situations such as:
    • introducing themselves and their family and friends
    • expressing likes and/or dislikes and requesting things (in shops and restaurants)
    • visiting places (reading signs, staying at hotels, making enquiries)
  • gained general knowledge of Russian culture and the way of life and about New Zealand–Russia connections.

Course outline:
Week 1: Introduction to the Russian language; the alphabet, stress and vowels; basic geographic names; greetings and goodbyes; diversity of the region (video and discussion)

Week 2: Basic reading and writing skills; nouns, gender; asking simple questions and making simple statements in Russian; the Russian language and cultural identity (video and discussion)

Week 3: Pronouns; introducing yourself and your family; how and when to use first names and patronymics in Russia; “I” and “we” in Russian; home and family in the Russian world (video and discussion)

Week 4: Verbs; present tense; how to express likes and dislikes (including hobbies, interests); how to request things (in shops and restaurants); reading signs when travelling around Russia; hotel etiquette; tips for foreigners; Russian attitudes towards foreigners; cultural clashes

Week 5: “to have”; adverbs; numbers; finding your way around and asking for and understanding directions; asking about prices in shops; how to undertake business in modern Russia (video and discussion)

Week 6: Adjectives; colours; public holidays and months of the year; Russian literature, music and art; New Zealand–Russia untold stories (video and discussion)

Week 7: How to make suggestions – to be able to, to know how to; making toasts in Russian; the Russian sense of humour and attitude towards smiling; Russian hospitality; myths about vodka (the “Russian antifreeze”) (video and discussion)

Week 8: Summary and discussion; presentation of certificates of achievement.

There is a short break half-way through each session, and coffee/tea is provided.

Class limit:
This course is limited to a maximum of 16 participants, so please enrol early.

Olga Suvorova has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Moscow State University. She has extensive experience in working with international leaders in both the private and public sectors in New Zealand and Russia on cultural intelligence questions. Olga is married to a New Zealander and works in both New Zealand and Moscow.


‘Excellent course. Additional activities such as visit to Russian Orthodox Church appreciated as the visit was very interesting. Tutor did a great job’ - An Introduction to Russian Language and Culture participant, 2016.

‘She is without doubt a really good teacher and has an enormous knowledge and passion for the subjects she teaches which gets transmitted to the students’ - An Introduction to Russian Language and Culture participant, 2015.

‘I thoroughly enjoyed this course, I loved learning about Russian culture and the basic foundation of the language. Olga especially made this course all the more enjoyable through her cheerful and supportive teaching style’ - An Introduction to Russian Language and Culture participant, 2015.


Related links:
Russia and the Baltic States: In the footsteps of Peter the Great 2017 study tour
Russian Language and Culture: Post-beginners

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140.
Phone 04 463 6556,  Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.