"Русский язык! Тысячелетия создавал народ это гибкое, пышное, неисчерпаемо богатое, умное, поэтическое и трудовое орудие своей социальной жизни, своей мысли, своих чувств, своих надежд, своего гнева, своего великого будущего". - A. N. Tolstoy
Do you want to understand this beautiful quote? In order to do so, you'll have to start learning Russian - A rich and powerful language that has allowed some of the world's greatest literary minds, such as Tolstoy, to express their feelings, thoughts, hopes and frustrations in a way that no other other language can. Studying this beautiful language is not always an easy task. But I want to help you get started. This article is about taking your first steps in this journey, by learning the building blocks of the language: the alphabet.
THE ALPHABET - АЛФАВИТ
The Russian alphabet is the first hurdle you'll encounter as a beginner. But don't worry: Once you know how to read and pronounce the Russian language's 33 letters, you can basically read any Russian word. The good news is that, unlike English and French, for example, Russian words are pronounced pretty much exactly as they are written.
At first glance, the new strange symbols you see may be a daunting sight, but once again - don't worry. It's actually pretty easy to learn. There are 33 letters in the Russian alphabet: 10 vowels, 21 consonants, and 2 pronunciation signs (hard sign and soft sign). Luckily, parts of the Cyrillic alphabet (as it's also called) are very similar to the Latin alphabet, which should be helpful.
So what's the best way to learn it? Instead of giving you a long list of all letters jumbled together, I'm going to teach you the secret method I use with all of my students. Below, you'll find the alphabet divided into 4 separate groups: Letters that are the same as in English, letters that are similar to Greek, letters that look like English letters but are pronounced differently, and letters that are distinctly Russian. By studying these in more digestible chunks, you should be able to learn the alphabet in no-time. Good luck!
GROUP 1: Letters that are the same as in English
|Cyrillic |Name |Pronunciation | |---|:-:|---| |А а | a | a as in father | | К к | k | k as in karate | |М м | m |m as in mind | |О о | o |o as in orange | |Т т | t |t as in ten |
GROUP 2: Letters that are similar to Greek
|Cyrillic |Name |Pronunciation | |---|:-:|---| |Г г | ge | g as in get | | Д д | de | d as in dog | |З з | ze |z as in zoo | |Л л | el |l as in like | |П п | pe |p as in spit | |Ф ф | ef |f as in five |
GROUP 3: Letters that look like English letters, but are pronounced differently
|Cyrillic |Name |Pronunciation | |---|:-:|---| |В в | ve | v as in very | | Е е | ye | ye as in yes | |Н н | en |n as in nice | |Р р | er |r as in better | |С с | es |s as in sun | |Х х | kha |ch as in Bach |
GROUP 4: Letters that are distinctly Russian
|Cyrillic |Name |Pronunciation |
|Б б | be | b as in bite |
| Ё ё | yo | yo as in York |
|Ж ж | zhe |zhe as in genre |
|И и | i |i as in visa |
|Й й | ij |y as in boy |
|У у | u |u as in flu |
|Ц ц | tse | ts as in bats |
| Ч ч | che | ch as in change |
|Ш ш | sha |sh as in shine |
|Щ щ | shcha |shsh as in fresh sheet |
|Ъ ъ | hard sign |no sound |
|Ы ы | ih |i as in vigor |
|Ь ь | soft sign |no sound |
|Э э | e |e as in echo |
|Ю ю | yu |yu as in Yukos |
|Я я | ya |ya as in yacht |
PRONUNCIATION - ПРОИЗНОШЕНИЕ
Let's dive straight into the deep end of the pool. Here are some examples of words that are difficult to pronounce, mainly because of their many consecutive consonants. Although these probably won't be the first words you'll be using as a beginner, it's interesting to see that word constructions like these can be found in Russian. Use the new tools you've learned, and try pronouncing them!
|Russian |Transliteration | |---|:-:| |Адъюнкство |Adjunkstvo | |Контрпример |Kontrprimer | | Контрпредложение |Kontrpredlozjenije | |Взгляд |Vzgljad | |Празднование |Prazdnovanije |
Once you've learned the alphabet, you'll want to improve your pronunciation skills. You're probably wondering - How do I do this? The answer is through immersion. Specifically, watch films in Russian, listen to the radio and podcasts, and - most importantly - speak with native speakers, or take private lessons with tutors on Verbling. If you're really ambition, try memorizing one of these Russian tongue twisters. Repeating these are great practice, and also one of the best ways to impress a Russian-speaker.
- Мышки сушек насушили, мышка мышек пригласила. Мышки сушки кушать стали, зубы сразу же сломали.
- Пришел Прокоп, кипел укроп.
- Шла Саша по шоссе и сосала сушку.
- Ехал Грека через реку, видит Грека в реке рак. Сунул Грека руку в реку, рак за руку Греку цап!
- Тридцать три корабля лавировали, лавировали, да не вылавировали.
Keep calm and learn Russian!