RLC Level Guide

The definition of language proficiency is a notoriously subjective area, further complicated when different systems and terminology are used: one person’s ‘elementary’ may be another’s ‘intermediate’. 

At RLC we divide our groups into seven levels from ‘beginner’ to ‘advanced’. Groups may spend several terms getting from one level to the next: for example, we expect a group to spend three terms at elementary level before progressing to pre-intermediate.

The table below shows the name of each level, a brief description of what we think a student can do at that level, and the approximate number of hours or terms we expect a group to spend to complete the level. For the first three levels you can also see where we expect you to reach in our core textbooks Russian Made Clear.

If you click on ‘equivalence’ you will see how RLC compares to a range of other recognised language proficiency descriptions. We encourage you to view this information with scepticism! There is considerable scope for variation within a given system, which is only multiplied when different systems are compared.


For absolute beginners; i.e. those with no knowledge of Russian or of the Cyrillic alphabet


False beginners
You will have studied some Russian previously – e.g. a term or two of evening classes in another institution, a year at school – but may have forgotten much of what you learnt. You will know the alphabet and some simple phrases, and should have a basic overall understanding of how Russian works (i.e. you should be familiar with the concept of the case system). You may know some basic grammar – perhaps present and past tense of verbs, prepositional case of nouns, gender of nouns.
You will have completed 50 to 100 hours of Russian. You should be able to cope with many simple everyday tasks – e.g. introductions, buying things, directions, making appointments – using simple Russian, and should have some strategies to overcome communication problems: e.g. asking people to say things in a different way, speak more slowly, etc. You should be able to conduct very simple social conversations about yourself. At the end of this level you should be able to hold simple conversations on common topics other than about yourself (e.g. weather, likes and dislikes). You should be familiar with all noun cases in the singular; past, present and future tenses; you will have some idea of verb aspects and basic verbs of motion.
You will have completed about 150 to 200 hours of Russian. You should be able to converse freely on everyday topics with a sympathetic native speaker. You will still find it difficult to follow Russian spoken at native-speaker speed. You will know all the cases of nouns, pronouns and adjectives in the singular and plural, though you may not always use them correctly in speech. You will be able to use both verb aspects, and should be familiar with basic verbs of motion.
You will have completed more than 250 hours of tuition. You should be able to cope in all day-to-day situations, and should be able to understand the gist of unadapted texts (e.g. newspaper articles). You may find it difficult to follow Russian on the radio or news. You will have a sound knowledge of all the basic grammar of Russian, although you may not always use the forms correctly in speech. You may also require additional work on more advanced areas (e.g. verb of motion).
Upper intermediate
You will have reached at least ‘A’ Level and may well have studied Russian as a minor at university level. You may also have spent time in Russia studying the language. You will be able to discuss all non-specialist topics with native speakers, and should be able to discuss some familiar specialist subjects (e.g. discussing your job).
RLC’s Advanced level starts after about 700 hours of tuition (B1/B2), but extends to include those who have studied much longer (C1 and higher). Advanced groups may therefore vary slightly in level.To join one of our early Advanced level groups you should be able to understand Russian spoken at native-speaker speed as long as the topic is familiar. You should also be able to follow the main points of TV news, or watch and enjoy a Russian film. You will have read some literary texts, although may require frequent use of a dictionary.At higher Advanced level you will have completed a degree in Russian as a major subject, and will probably have lived or worked in Russia for an extended period. Although you may require some refreshing in complex areas of grammar, you will mostly be interested in advanced conversation and reading skills. You should be able to read a newspaper article or a literary text with only occasional dictionary use.
False beginners
Элементарный (Elementary)
+/- 110
A1 (Breakthrough)
GCSE foundation tier
Базовый (Basic)
+/- 200
A2 (Waystage)
GCSE higher tier
I Basic
Первый (TRKI 1)
+/- 380
A Level, Pre-U, IB
II Intermediate
Upper intermediate
B2 (Vantage)
Второй (TRKI 2)
+/- 760
C1 (Effective Operational Proficiency)
III Advanced
Tретий (TRKI 3)
+/- 1100
C2 (Mastery)
IV Expert

† Lesson in Russian Made Clear

* The CEFR is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, published in 2001 with the aim of establishing common levels of language proficiency across European languages.

** The UNLF is the United Nations Language Framework.

*** The ILR is the Interagency Language Roundtable, a scale established in the 1950s by the American Foreign Service Institute.

Other recognized language proficiency frameworks include:

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I really enjoyed working with other students at a similar level – and got a sense that we were working together and had common goals and objectives.

Lyuda is definitely the best Russian teacher I’ve ever had.

I really enjoyed the set up of the course – a part dedicated to the teacher speaking to each student individually, and the second part dedicated to going through the homework.

My teacher is Irina. She is a very good and encouraging teacher who really helps her students. She is very patient and helpful. She makes the lessons enjoyable and I always look forward to them.

I thought the course was great, and I hope more of them can be organised!

My teacher Larisa is great – clear, patient and genuinely interested in what students have to say. I really enjoy my classes with her:)

Yulia is the best Russian teacher I’ve had – she is really friendly and supportive!

Course book is very well constructed and facilitates learning effectively. I would like course to be broader with some emphasis on cultural aspects of Russia.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Russian through film’. It was extremely well organised and I feel I got a great deal from it.

The textbook is phenomenal.

The course was brilliant. It was exactly at the right level and Maria was super encouraging

All the short courses that I have recently taken part in have been outstanding. I especially enjoyed Phonetics with Irina and also today’s conversation class.

Irina is great. Patient, interesting and explains things really well. I like learning about little bits of language history.

The topics in the course book are very interesting and topical.

This is a very well-run course, with an excellent teacher (Anna) who makes the lessons fun, whilst also learning so thank you. I look forward to future lessons/courses.

It’s an excellent course and I enjoy both the teacher and other students.

Delighted I chose to learn Russian with the RLC. Irina is a great teacher and I always enjoy her classes.

I think the book is excellent, very well structured and I’m extremely happy with it.

I had not spoken any Russian before I started and now, after 9 weeks, I am starting to feel more confident with the pronunciations and grammar. I look forward to the next term.

Love it!

I studied modern languages at Cambridge. The tuition I am getting from Lena is at least as good as I had at university.

Liliya is excellent &she has made learning online straight forward & easy to follow. I enjoy the additional wordwall activities as revision exercises.

Very enjoyable lessons, patient and friendly teacher who explains everything well.

I think the lessons are set up really well and supported with materials.

I was very impressed with the course (especially since it is the first time I take online classes) and the teacher is excellent dedicating time to each student.

I really enjoy my lessons and Irina is a wonderful teacher. My knowledge and understanding of Russian has grown immensely since starting with the RLC.

Not since primary school have I been so enthusiastic to read what comes next in my book!

I have enjoyed learning Russian with Irina. She is a very competent and learned teacher. I think that she is patient and very encouraging towards students.

I would recommend Irina and the RLC programme 110%!

One of the best I’ve used and I have studied languages for many years (mature student)

I have tried learning Russian is two other institutions but learning with Liliya at RLC is the first time I feel I’ve really made progress.

Irina is a great teacher and makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable and is good at encouraging us while facing of the difficulties of learning a new language.

Extremely interesting, stimulating and fun.

I truly think that without your lessons and the patience and clarity of explanation you had, I would have dropped out of university. I really want to let you know how thankful I am for all your help.

Irina is very good at registering and remembering individual needs/characteristics. She makes the class a very safe place and that’s what you need for learning to happen.

I find the course book well structures and like the way that areas are reintroduced from time to time for revision purposes.

Olga is fantastic in providing support and Maria always ensures imaginative and enjoyable lessons. Overall extremely happy!

Lyuda is absolutely fantastic.

The short film course I did with Tatiana was excellent. The film was entertaining and all the activities we did around it were useful.

I’m very much enjoying the course. It is particularly enjoyable having the course in person and also with a hybrid option for when group members might be travelling.

Russian is just a hobby for me, I don’t need it for a spouse or work, so in those circumstances the only way you’re going to keep on trying is with a teacher like Lyuda.

I’m just getting back in touch to let you know that today I received a 2:1 Degree in BA French and Russian and I wholeheartedly believe it’s because of all your help during my first year.

I liked the opportunity for role-playing (reading the script) as well as watching and discussing the film. The language level seemed right for me.

I started russian in a different school and I’m so pleased I switched and joined RLC.

I am thoroughly enjoying these lessons and Vera is a fantastic teacher

The course book is excellent – practical interesting exercises coupled with clear grammatical exposition

Larissa is a fantastic teacher, very attentive, understands well what I want to achieve, is able to explain very well the grammar, mistakes, etc.

It’s very well structured and I feel like I’m making consistent progress. Irina is an excellent teacher and she makes the class very enjoyable.

Love everything, thank you for the hard work setting everything up!

The material is always illuminating. I love all the sections on Russian culture and history.

absolutely excellent, i am writing away pretty confidently now

Maria is an outstanding teacher, she explains everything clearly, and is always so encouraging and supportive. The lessons are always engaging and I look forward to them each week 🙂

Irina, our teacher, is an absolute star! Love her 🙂

We cover a wide range of topics and Irina is hugely patient if we are struggling with any aspect of the lesson or syllabus.

I think it is the best textbook I have used to learn Russian. It breaks the grammar down into small chunks and the exercises help to develop knowledge and understanding.

I really enjoyed this session. Tatiana was really well prepared with loads of interesting exercises. I found it quite hard work, which is not a criticism!

The approach is crystal clear, comprehensive, and allows to build step-by-step very solid grammatical foundations

I also really enjoy the elements of Russian culture and history that is sometimes included which provides a deeper understanding of the language.

Irina is an amazing teacher and I’m always excited to attend class. She really takes the time to explain new vocabulary by highlighting comparisons with other Russian words which is helpful.

Maria’s teaching style is clear, enthusiastic, and very encouraging, and of course fun!

Liliya is great. I feel encouraged and feel like I am finally making progress with learning Russian

I believe the teaching, teaching format, and teaching materials are all excellent. I enjoy the lessons. Thank you RLC!

It is great to feel like I have made progress every week and I am always energised after the lessons.

Excellent in every respect.

In the Conversation Club, I never feel stupid when I can’t find the right way to express myself, which is 100% my biggest worry when I try to speak Russian.

I love this course and Irina makes it very enjoyable. She is a fabulous teacher and I love my group too.

I really enjoy studying at RLC 🙂

I’ve had good fun, thank you! Especially the fact that it was gamified made it light and enjoyable. Maria is great and a great fit for these classes.

As a total beginner it’s been a great start. Thank you RLC!

This course has transformed my Russian, and our teacher Natasha is really knowledgable and explains the language process very well. I would highly recommend this course and look forward to returning next term.

Irina is a fantastic teacher – very patient and encouraging and always willing to answer questions. She is very good at pushing us while still keeping the course relaxed and enjoyable.

It is one of the best language textbooks I have ever used.

it was wonderful for me to experience such a marvellous example of Russian/Soviet film-making, the way it conveyed subtle and sensitive emotions and the play of human relationships in such a short space of time

Great building-block vocabulary and the speech was so clear and easy to follow.

I’m enjoying the course very much. Irina is a great teacher who knows exactly how to communicate her extensive knowledge in the right way for learners.

Having looked at other materials available, I appreciate how useful and well put together the textbook is.

I really enjoy my lessons with Irina. She is a wonderful teacher who works hard to make sure that all aspects of the Russian language are covered: from vocabulary and grammar through to intonation/inflection and pronunciation.

Well structured course, friendly and helpful teacher

The best language textbook I know (and Russian is my sixth language, so I know a few!)

This is the best language course I have ever done. Larissa is a wonderful teacher – intelligent, entertaining, well-organised, friendly, kind.

I love the course. It’s part of my weekly routine. I am learning new things every week. Thank you.

I really look forward to coming to London for the lesson on Mondays.

Love it. Great value. Great teacher. Look forward to next session.

It’s very thorough and carries the learner forward gradually, with lots of reinforcement

It’s really good – very fast moving and varied way of learning. Irina is amazing, she will always take the time to answer my questions and add extra bits of info in to the lessons.

The course provides a good insight into everyday Russian life and customs as well as the language which is very interesting

I find the course book really interesting. I take it for granted that it facilitates learning. What I really appreciate is the humour , the insight into Ryssian cilture

The lessons are the right mix of predictable and unpredictable, relaxing and challenging.

It is a wonderful book. Perfect balance of essential grammar and sudden gems such as poems!

Irina is a wonderful teacher.

Irina is a fantastic teacher, is friendly, is always timely and constructive with feedback, and I am making a lot of progress —much more than I would have expected.

The online sessions work very well. Vera masterminds the sessions to maximise our understanding and learning

I really enjoy the story chapters at the end of each unit

I really enjoyed the film that I studied with Tatiana …Tatiana explained the vocabulary/dialogue in the film really well. The exercises that were prepared to accompany the film were useful, enjoyable and tested comprehension well.

I love my course! It’s a highlight of my week.

I look forward to Tuesday evenings as much for the sharing of news with the other group members as for the language learning and practice.

I’ve happened to have different teachers each semester but they have all been really good. Natasha my current teacher is lovely and I really like her teaching style.

The course is well run. I’ve really enjoyed it and Maria has been a great teacher!

The book is very comprehensive and provides with a great progression of learning

Also, I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Conversation Club on Sunday – although it was challenging, it felt very supportive and fun and Larissa was really encouraging and lovely.

I have learned several languages, usually with good teachers, but Irina is definitely among the very best. Her feel both for the language and for learners’ needs are of the highest level.

it was very useful and teacher provided individual feedback which was much appreciated

Clear, comprehensive and interesting

I got a huge amount out of the lessons and feel like my level has improved a lot… inspired me to keep going despite the obvious lack of time with two kids 😃

I really enjoyed the phonetics course and learned a lot. According to native speakers I know, my pronunciation improved significantly.

I feel that I have become more confident in my skills after just one semester, and have become more talkative in Russian when I speak with my Russian friends.

The session with Maria was really good – a nice pace, mixture of activities and at the right level for our expertise. I would definitely love to join another session with Maria.

Vera is very supportive and patient. She makes each lesson a fun and pleasurable occasion

Anna has made the experience so enjoyable and encouraged all the students to feel comfortable – I know this isn’t easy to achieve online but Anna has managed it really well!

The balance of different language skills is good and I feel like the level and speed of delivery of the content is perfect.

Irina is great at prompting challenging sentences that practice what has been studied.

The course has stimulated me to work on this more. The audio preparations, and the personal feedback from Maria were really constructive and valuable I found.

it was really helpful to expand my vocabulary in a different and slightly more complex direction, without grammar being the main driving force of the lesson.

I enjoy the Conversation Club and it provides me with a very useful opportunity to practice my Russian on topics I may be unfamiliar with.

I believe the course book is excellent.

I enjoyed this term, just like the last. I’m getting more confident with my Russian, and Victoria’s classes are very engaging and interesting

RLC is brilliant in all aspects. I especially appreciate the ability to join remote when I’ve been unable to attend classes in person.

The course and teacher are excellent.

Tatiana was a friendly and welcoming teacher so ideal in this setting where we had not met before.

Irina is excellent: she knows exactly how to teach and how to make a two hour lesson interesting. I am hugely glad I decided to take the course.

The teaching as always has been excellent. The teacher is encouraging, supportive and engaging.

I find the course is adapted to the needs and the pace of the group of students in it and the teacher always explain any doubts you may have about grammar, pronunciation or anything else.

Lena is a first class language teacher in my opinion. She makes lessons varied and is very open to be flexible and study things that I want to study with her.

The highlight for me was the survival skills style games Maria led during the lesson…

I have been taking lessons with RLC for almost two years which I enjoy enormously and feel I have made real progress.

Dmitri’s style is engaging and explains the content very well, adding fun and relatable anecdotes on the Russian language and culture which help memorise the words.

Irina and Maria are both great teachers – very impressive!

My teacher is Victoria and she is just lovely. Very professional yet approachable. She clearly takes a lot of time to prepare materials for our lessons and uses such a variety of media which I really like.

I am really enjoying my course. I like the range of interactive tasks provided during the online classes. The textbook and online content is an excellent resource.

Super easy to use and excellent structure that allows you to build knowledge consistently and at a do-able level.

I really enjoyed the Conversation Club on Sunday. The format with the materials sent in advance is very useful and it is great to have interesting content.

I really enjoy Victoria’s lessons, they are fun and engaging. The videos she shows at the beginning of the class are very interesting and a useful way to expand our vocabulary.

I really enjoyed the handwriting course . It was well thought out and worked perfectly using Zoom and What’s App . I especially liked seeing and trying to decipher examples of Russian handwriting.

I have found the course, and in particular Natasha’s teaching method, extremely good.

Natasha is an excellent teacher, and this course has been very enjoyable!

I have really enjoyed with learning Russian with Larissa – she is very friendly, knowledgeable, open and kind:) she makes the classes so interesting and fun!

The group is the right size overall and has a very good dynamic which I think helps give people the confidence to speak freely even if they make mistakes.

I think the course has been really great. I have done a few other language courses (different languages) and this is the most engaging.

My teacher Maria is terrific, and all the staff members in the office I have spoken to have been amazing too.

I really enjoy the variety in Viktoria’s classes and the blend of didactic and interactive. she’s also good fun to work with and understands adult learners.

Maria H is an amazing and gifted teacher and always makes each lesson a highlight of my week

Irina is a truly fantastic teacher.

I like the online exercises. I like the audio and would like to use it more. I really like the podcasts and the transcripts are helpful.

I am especially happy with Irina as our teacher. She does a fantastic job.

The conversation club is really excellent. Actually I was quite scared the first time, as just talking Russian is a bit daunting. But it is a really friendly environment.

I really enjoy RLC. The methodology and all the teachers I have had so far are all great.

The lessons with Irina are always engaging and Irina is always helpful and supportive. I really enjoy the mixture of materials and activities that she brings to the lessons.

At first, I was a bit dubious about doing classes online, but it works well, and the professors know how to keep the entire class engaged and make it interactive.

Well delivered and very enjoyable

Irina S is a marvellous teacher. I feel I would not have improved my language ability as I have without her support and knowledge.

I really enjoy the Sunday Conversation Clubs. The atmosphere is relaxed and unpressured. The breakout rooms work like a charm.

I’ve learned several languages. Irina is one of the very best teachers I have had. She not only understands the language (of course)but understands students’ needs too.

And the Russian Language Centre, with its wonderful ethos, does so much to provide a positive, constructive, even nurturing learning environment!

Victoria is a gifted teacher – she is able to clarify in concise terms mysteries of the Russian language that have defied my for many year. She is excellent.

The course is great and Larissa is fantastic!

My course is the highlight of my week. I have learnt so much and it has been such a pleasure!

Maria is a fantastic teacher whose lessons I very much enjoy and I feel I am making real progress

Vera has been one of the best Russian teachers I’ve had so far and I really enjoy learning with her. She has increased my confidence speaking in Russian and makes me feel confortable when interacting with the group.

I love that the beginning of each class includes lots of conversation and that everyone gets a chance to speak.

Maria is a stimulating, extremely knowledgeable and excellent teacher. She provides a very good mix of colloquial and literary Russian.

The materials are really good quality, and fantastic that we have the resources in different formats – the exercises, the audio files, the book, all available online.

Lyuda absolutely MAKES the course! She is a fantastic teacher, and I am so happy with the improvements I am making with her help. She deserves a lot of recognition for her talent and abilities.

The course book is excellent and Irina more than excellent. Thank you.

I am really enjoying the course and have learned much more than I expected. It is quite demanding but I prefer that.

I am really enjoying my course. My teacher is Irina. She is very hardworking and the lessons are well prepared. She encourages the students and manages the lessons very well online.

She was very helpful and encouraging, I’d definitely recommend it to others. I particularly liked examining the historical letters and documents.

I very much enjoyed the course, Maria is an excellent teacher, and provides excellent feedback. I think that the course is especially useful as Russian pronunciation is so dependent on stress, consonant quality etc.

Very useful, and simple to understand. I especially like the stories at the end of each chapter

The course book is well planned and thorough, leaving no gaps in our knowledge. This thoroughness really helps to give us confidence.

Great book. Love the story

Overall I’m very happy with the organisation, professionalism and energy of RLC. I find the material and the classes/teachers engaging.

Perhaps more impressive than anything else is the fact that with Lena, I am learning a huge amount about Russian literature about she seems to be extremely knowledgeable.

Larisa is a living legend. She is great.

I have experience of both Maria and Irina. Both are outstanding, wonderful teachers. I would recommend them to anyone wishing to study this beautiful language. Thank you – Maria and Irina!

I always thought that learning a new language, especially Russian with the Cyrillic alphabet, would be an onerous task. However the brilliant RLC course book along with our fantastic teacher Liliya, has made learning Russian achievable and fun.

As a complete beginner, the book is excellent providing several examples and easy explanations that help cementing the basis without needing much effort.

Great for improving my listening skills. Like the format and concentrating on one topic in detail.
Look forward to more!

The course was very interesting and lively, Victoria obviously knows her subject well. I enjoyed it very much.

I really enjoy coming to the classes and I feel as though I have learned a lot.

I have enjoyed immensely!! Maria is brilliant, very funny and really made learning fun!! There was no pressure and it was done at a very good pace for you to learn. I am glad I took part!!

My lessons are going great! I am very happy with Olga and her teaching methods.

I found the session challenging. But I enjoyed the novel (to me) approach of using the short film as a basis for grammatical study.

The course is fantastic and all of the online materials really help to reinforce what we’ve learned in the class – Liliya is a great teacher and very attentive to the whole class.

love love loveeee Irina!!!! Really great teacher and explains things very well! + Just lovely overall! I always look forward to her classes! :)))))))

It was brilliant! I really enjoyed both sessions…. I feel I learned a lot.