General questions

What is the minimum time period between signing-up and the beginning of lessons?

If you already have your visa, you may sign up for your Russian course one week in advance. If you don’t have your Russian visa yet, you will need to wait at least two weeks between your payment and the beginning of your lessons. (And at least 3 weeks if your Russian course lasts more than a month.)

Where do the students at CREF come from ?

Our students come from all around the world to learn Russian. More than 20 nationalities were represented in 2011, mostly from Western Europe (France, Spain, the UK, Germany, Switzerland), North America and Asia.

When do I need to pay for my accommodation ?

Your enrollment for the Russian course is finalized once a down payment of 30% is made. You can sign up and pay for courses directly online or by contacting us through e-mail or telephone. It is also possible to pay by bank transfer or through our payment interface online.

Would I be able to come to Russia without a visa ?

It is absolutely not possible to come to Russia without a visa. But there is nothing to worry about, as CREF handles everything and helps you along every step of the process to see that you can get your visa as quickly and as easily as possible. You will need to enroll with us at least two weeks in advance for a short stay and at least six weeks ahead for an extended stay.

After my enrollment, when will I receive my letter of invitation ? Information about my host family ? My course schedule ?

After making your down payment, CREF sends you a letter of invitation to Russia (which is required to obtain a visa from the Russian Consulate). If it’s a visa for staying in Russia less than a month, the invitation is sent by e-mail within 48 hours. For a one-three month visa the invitation is sent within two weeks by telex to the Russian Consulate which you have selected. For a visa to stay more than three months, the invitation will be ready within four weeks (Note that if there are any Russian public holidays during this period, the wait-time can be significantly prolonged) and is sent by express mail (takes about three days for anywhere in Europe and five days for North America and Asia).
Information about host families are sent one week before arriving in Russia for your course. We send all the necessary information to ensure that everything goes well for your arrival and your stay (Name of the host-person, address and map of the neighborhood, telephone #, etc.).
The complete schedule for your Russian lessons will be sent to you no later than one week in advance.

Russian lessons

Are all students in a group at the same level? How is the level determined? How many students are there in each group for Russian lessons?

For the duration of your Russian course, the students in your group will be at the same level. Groups consist of no more than six students whose levels are all assigned according to the test results which are sent in prior to arriving in Russia.

What time do lessons begin ?

For Russian group lessons we normally begin at 9 a.m. Each lesson lasts 45 minutes and is followed by a short break. For individual Russian lessons, you decide when and at what pace you would like to have your lessons.

What is the range of levels you offer Russian courses for ?

Whether you are at a beginner, intermediate, or advanced level, we offer Russian courses which will meet your needs.

How much time is required to learn Russian? How many different levels do your courses include?

Everything depends on what exactly is meant by “to learn Russian”: within 80 hours you can start communicating well for day-to-day situations, but you need much more time to be able to read and understand the language of Pushkin.

Our courses span six levels in accordance with the recommendations of the European Council  (Click here for more details). Each of these levels is divided into a forty hour course. (Click here to find out more).

Is there a minimum number of weeks for a Russian course ? A maximum number ?

For individual Russian courses the minimum is one week. For Russian group courses the minimum is two weeks.
There is however no maximum time period for a Russian course, a student can, if he or she wishes, study a whole year at our school.

Do the teachers speak in French / English during lessons?

In our teaching approach it is considered most effective for the teacher to speak as much as possible in Russian so that students are immersed in a Russian-speaking environment. But if the student is having a certain difficulty understanding something, the teacher will use either English or French to provide a helpful explanation.

How are the lessons structured? What materials are used?

The Russian lessons are focused above all on communication and usually begin using some topic of a daily life scenario. The objective is to achieve proficiency in your Russian communication skills: for example, you will learn how to ask for something in a store or how to buy train tickets, and in doing so, will learn the grammatical elements and vocabulary which are useful in such situations. The teacher prompts the students to interact with each other as much possible during Russian group lessons.
Our teachers use Russian language textbooks as well as materials which are actually used by Russians (videos, audio, printed texts)

Am I able to change groups during my course?

Yes, if you feel that your group doesn’t match your level of Russian, we will offer you an alternative.

Will I need to make additional payments for the material used in the course?

No, CREF has all the necessary material available for you to access throughout your entire Russian course.

Will I receive any diploma/certificate after completing my courses?

Yes, CREF will present you with a certificate at the end of your courses which states the number of hours completed, your language level, and the test result you earn at the end of your course.

What if I’m having a hard time deciding which type of Russian course to choose?

Contact us! We will gladly try to help you! Our staff is available to help you at any time Monday to Friday from 8:00-18:00 (Paris time) by telephone, Skype or e-mail.

Practical Information

Where is CREF located ?

Le CREF is located in the city center near the metro stations Lubyanka and Chistye-Prudy, about ten minutes walking distance from Red Square.
Our address is : 16/4 Ulitsa Malaya Lubyanka 101000 Moscou. You may also find a map to find the school here.

Should I bring any special gift for my host family?

Our host families generally appreciate very much if you bring them a little souvenir which reflects where you come from, but this is certainly not required.

Does it get really cold in Russia?

In Russia, the weather can be very cold. In Moscow or Nizhny Novgorod, however, it does not get extremely cold, where the average temperatures are around -10° (Celsius) in January or February, and every so often there are days when it is -20°. If it is cold outside, you may simply cover yourself warmly the same way you would during cold weather in Europe or the United States. The outdoor temperature in Moscow often feels less cold than it does in New York, for example. And then of course it is always warm inside apartments, the metro and classrooms at CREF, so is there is no need to worry. For the rest of the year, the climate in Russia is comparable to the climate of Western Europe, with only a few more dramatic changes in temperature throughout the year. In any case, before coming please ask us for any advice and we will tell you which types of clothes you should bring for the best comfort in Russia!

Will I be met by anyone from CREF when I arrive at the airport or train station?

If you would like, when you arrive in Russia for your Russian courses with CREF we may provide a transfer service for you from the airport/train station to your place of accommodation. This service is charged according to our prices (link…).

How much money should I bring with me?

We advise you not to bring too much cash with you. Expect to pay about 5 € for your afternoon meals in the dining area of the school and between 10 € and 30 € for the organized cultural excursions. To change any money, avoid using the currency exchanges found everywhere which will overcharge you for the commission rate (for example, never change money at airports or train stations, where the commission rates are significantly higher than in the city!).  You can also bring your credit card to withdraw money from cash points/ATMs (which are now easy to find), or, as it is becoming a more standard practice in Russia, to pay for your shopping.

Is it possible to travel around the city by bicycle?

We don’t recommend it. Russian drivers are not always cooperative with cyclists. There is no better option than the metro or walking to discover Moscow!

Accommodation during your stay in Russia

How do you select the host families?

We follow a very strict set of guidelines in choosing the host families for clients. We take careful effort to ensure that the comfort, the cleanliness, and size of the room where you will stay fulfill all of your expectations. Also, we choose families who have a real interest in being an active and open host for students. This will allow you to progress even faster in your Russian course! And finally, you can be sure that your place of accommodation will be near the school in the city center. The geographical criteria are certainly a vital part of choosing where you will stay.

Is the tap water safe to drink?

We advise against drinking tap water while you are staying in Russia. You should buy bottled water.

How will I wash my clothes?

Your host family will be happy to wash your clothes for a small charge. Otherwise, you may take your clothes to one of the many launderettes or dry-cleaners in the city. Their prices are comparable to European prices.

Will I have Internet access?

You have internet access all day long at the school through our Wi-Fi network if you have a laptop, or you may use one of the computers which are available for students.

Am I able to change host families?

Normally, you should stay with the same host family during your entire stay for our courses in Russia. However, if you encounter some problem, our staff will do everything possible to find a solution and, if necessary, will change your place of accommodation.

Where can I eat ?

Our Moscow CREF office has a dining space where you may find sandwiches, snacks, and cold/hot drinks. Otherwise, there are a number of cafes and restaurants near CREF which offer choices from 5 to 10 € that include a soup and salad, a hot dish and a drink.

Are there any particular health problems in Russia I should be aware of? Should I plan to have medical insurance?

There aren’t any particular health problems in Moscow or Nizhny Novgorod. We recommend that you have medical insurance (which is required for the visa anyways). That will allow a payment in any private clinic, as public clinics are often below the modern standard of hygiene and comfort.

Can I buy a local SIM card?

Yes, absolutely! Prices are very low for local calls, but high for international calls, especially when it is you who receives the call.

Should I have any concern about the Russian mafia? Are cities in Russia safe?

There is nothing to seriously worry about in that regard in Russia anymore. As long as you aren’t involved in any illegal activities, you have nothing to be afraid of! Generally speaking, the center of any big city in Russia is safe, with a visible police presence at all hours, especially in the metro. That said, remember that you will be a tourist in a foreign city and should take simple precautions, particularly to avoid being an easy target for pickpockets.

Are taxis safe? Expensive?

Official taxis in Russia are rather safe (despite their occasionally unnerving driving styles) and not too expensive. By ordering a taxi ahead of time you can avoid a long wait in the street as well as an unexpected fare when you have to pay. We don’t recommend that you use the so-called “gypsy cabs” (referred to as tchastniki): they are not licensed drivers, are not accountable to anyone, are not always very familiar with the city nor the best routes; moreover they are known for frequently hustling the price of their fare.

How can I get around in Moscow?

The metro is the most practical way to travel around Moscow. It’s very reliable, clean, safe, and many of the stations include stunning designs and architecture which in themselves are points of interest for Moscow tourists.
Travelling by foot in the center of Moscow is also very convenient, especially between CREF and the “must-see” tourist sites.
For travelling late at night, we advise you to take a taxi, as the metro closes around 1:30am.

Does drinking vodka at night guarantee having a hangover the next day!?

The answer is no! That is, so long as you don’t mix it with any other alcohol. Most especially, you should never drink beer after having vodka! Also, be sure to choose wisely the people you drink with. Why not go have a drink with your classmates and teachers after a day of lessons, in one of the many bars and restaurants around CREF? It’s the best way to practice Russian and discover Russian hospitality traditions. As long as it is consumed with moderation, vodka can be a very good medium for unlocking Russia and its language.

How do I enroll for a language course on your website?

You may simply register on the website and click on the tab Quote/ Online Sign-Up. You then follow the instructions and within a few clicks there is a quote offered. Then, if you would like to, you may pay through our secure payment system.

Is it possible to pay online?

Yes, with the online secure payment system Chronopay. Chronopay offers top-level security to protect all your bank card information through a secured network. We guarantee that none of your bank card information will be kept on the website, and all the information is transferred directly to the Chronopay  site for the payment procedure. To find out more about the security of your payment, visit the website www.chronopay.com

General Terms of Sale

Please download our General Terms of Sale in pdf format.

Feel free to contact us for any further information.