Learn Russian – First things you need to know

MoscowFancy challenges? Like learning something new and unusual? Why not learn a bit of Russian, one of the most difficult languages for an English-speaker to master. Besides, nowadays Russian is becoming a quite useful language to know with all that economic development of the post-soviet states. Did you know that English-speakers may get about 4% extra on top of their wage for knowing Russian? So, if you do like challenges, a rise in salary sounds tempting and you consider yourself a fan of Tolstoy, Gogol or Pasternak than it is definitely something for you.

Let’s start with learning Russian alphabet.

Russian letters that are (almost) the same to the English letters
? a
– Pronounced like the “a” in the word “father” or “car”. It is not the ‘flat’ “a” sound you sometimes hear in words like “cat” or “flat”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “k” in “kitten” or “kangaroo”. This letter replaces the english “c” sound in words like “cat”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “m” in man. (Note: Unlike english, the hand-written “?” should always start from the bottom)
O o – When stressed, it is pronounced like the “o” in “bore”. When un-stressed it is pronounced more like the letter “a”. (See later notes.)
? ? – Pronounced like the “t” in “tap”. (Note: The hand-written form for “?” should always start from the top, as it looks quite similar to the letter “?”)

Russian letters that look like Eglish letters but sound different.
(These are the most important to learn so you don’t get them mixed up.)
? ? – Pronounced like the “v” in “vet”. (Equivalent to the english letter “v”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “ye” in “yes”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “n” in “no”. (Equivalent to the english letter “n”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “r” in “run”, but it is rolled. (Equivalent to the english letter “r”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “s” in “see”. (Equivalent to the english letter “s”). (It might help to remember that it’s used like the “s” sound in the english words “centre” and “cent”.)
? ? – Pronounced like the “oo” in “boot” or “root”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “h” in “hello”. However, this is often pronounced more like the “ch” in the Scottish “Loch” or German “Bach”, or the spanish “x” in “Mexico”.
Russian letters that look unusual, but have familiar sounds
? ? – Pronounced like the “b” in “bat”. (Equivalent to the english letter “b”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “g” in “go”. (Equivalent to the english letter “g”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “d” in “dog”. (Equivalent to the english letter “d”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “z” in “zoo”. (Equivalent to the english letter “z”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “i” in “taxi”. (Sometimes equivalent to the english letter “i”, the short ‘ee’ sound.). (Note: The hand-written form for  ? (“?”) looks a little like the english “u”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “l” in “love”. (Equivalent to the english letter “l”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “p” in “pot”. (Equivalent to the english letter “p”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “f” in “fat”. (Equivalent to the english letter “f”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “e” in “fed”.

New Russian letters and sounds
(The sounds will be familiar, but they don’t have their own letter in English).
? ? – Pronounced like the “u” in “universe”. (Pronounced much like the english word “you”).
? ? – Pronounced like the “ya” in “yard”.
? ? – Pronounced like “yo” in “yonder”.
? ? – Like “s” in “measure”, “pleasure” or “fusion” or like “g” in colour “beige”. (As there is no english symbol for this sound, it is usually represented as “zh”)
? ? – Similar to the “ts” sound in “sits” or “its”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “ch” in “chips” or “church” .
? ? – Pronounced like the “sh” in shut.
? ? – Pronounced like “sh” but with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Try putting your tongue in the same position as you would to say “ch” but say “sh” instead. English speakers may find it hard to define the difference between “?” and “?”.
? ? – Pronounced like the “i” in “bit” or “ill”. (Said with your tounge slightly back in your mouth.)
? ? – This letter is used to form diphthongs. So “o?” is like the “oy” sound in “boy” or “a?” is like the “igh” in “sigh”.
Pronunciation Symbols
(These letters have no sound on their own, but are still considered letters.).
? ? – The ‘Hard Sign’ is rarely used. It indicates a slight pause between sylables.
? ? – The ‘Soft Sign’ makes the previous letter ‘soft’. Think of the “p” sound in the word “pew”. (Try inflecting a very slight “y” sound onto letter before it.)

And here are some Russian phrases you need to know:
??????! [privet] – Hi!
??? ????? [kak dyela?] – How are you?
and your reply is either ?????? [horosho] – good, or ????????? [normal’no] – OK, or ????? [ploho] – bad

??? ???? ?????? [kak tebya zovut] – What is your name?
???? ????? ????? [menya zovut Elena] – my name is Elena. ? ????? [a tebya] – and yours?

That should be enough for the start, but if you wish to learn more why not go to Russia itself on our Russian language course in Moscow or Saint Petersburg . You will immerse yourself completely in the unusual culture of this country, experience the welcoming character of the people and learn the language in a professional language school to be able to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

And of course, when you decide to book our Russian Course in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, don’t forget the word Cheers! – ?? ????????! [na zdorov’e], as you will definitely need it ;-)