Business Russian is a vast field
I often have requests for teaching business Russian, and often people who want to do it are very vague about what aspect of Business Russian they are interested in. The fact is that business Russian is a very broad term, covering a vast range of vocabulary and functions: from telephoning and making simple arrangements for meetings and travel to carrying out business negotiations and handling business correspondence (the latter, in particular, is so specialised that not all native speakers of Russian would be able to do it without previous experience!)
Types of Business Russian courses
So, if you are interested in a business Russian course, what kind of course can you do?
If you are an intermediate student, you will be restricted to fairly simple things: learning how to start a phone conversation, or fix a meeting. You can expand your vocabulary into a work-related sphere. The most common vocabulary areas are: banking and finance, the work of business enterprises, negotiating vocabulary, oil and gas (since Russia is rich in it!), law (a vast field in itself). There are unfortunately no easy ways of learning specialised vocabulary, you’ll just have to make a list and learn it…
If you are an advanced student, or a native speaker of a Slavic language who finds learning Russian vocab relatively easy, you could do all of the above, plus more difficult stuff: working with business documentation related to your work (translating or summing up the gist of your documents), writing business letters or e-mails (which requires a very good command of the language), and participating in work/business meetings with Russian native speakers.
Needless to say, if you are a beginner, you need to build a substantial foundation of general Russian before you can start learning business Russian.
Textbooks of business Russian
The choice of textbooks for business Russian is not very wide (since it’s a specialised field) I can recommend “Russian for Business Studies” by Svetlana Le Fleming. It gives good coverage of different aspects of business vocabulary, and supplies good texts and exercises for practice and revision. However, this book was published many years ago, and the content is rather out of date – which doesn’t diminish the value of the vocabulary lists and exercises presented there.
Another reasonably good book is Деловая Поездка в Россию (a business trip to Russia) by Lebedev and Petukhova. First published in 2002 in St Peterburg by Zlatoust Publishers, it covers a wide range of business topics (banking, insurance, tax etc), giving a general overview of the subjects but not going into great detail.
There are also a lot of booklets on the subject published in Russia but they are not comprehensive course books, so they can only be used as supplementary materials for reading or translating. Some of them have promising titles such as “A course for business people” but they often just give texts and dialogues with parallel translation.
One problem of all textbooks of business Russian is that the economic situation in the country has been changing so quickly in the last 20 years that texts on business and economics become obsolete almost as soon as they get published. So it’s much better and more interesting to use “fresh” authentic materials from the Russian press and the internet – something that could be done at the advanced level.
And finally, I am afraid I have to say that no one learns business Russian for fun (or, at least, I’ve never met such people). It’s the most boring course a Russian tutor ever has to teach, and it’s hard work for students. But if you have to deal with Russian partners or clients in your working life, it will make a big difference and will be greatly appreciated!