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Learn Russian & The Cyrillic Alphabet

June 14, 2017
Languages

Learning the Cyrillic Lettering System in the Russian Alphabet + Downloadable Phrase Sheet

learn russian

The Russian alphabet can be intimidating to those who don't have much experience with the Cyrillic script. Hell, it scared me off Russian for a long time! But the Russian language is interesting, challenging, and beautiful. The alphabet is just a small hurdle to overcome before you can begin speaking. Trust me, the Cyrillic alphabet isn't as scary as it looks!

To make it easier, I am going to break down the alphabet into 4 groups. Happy learning! 

The Russian alphabet uses the Cyrillic script and contains 33 letters, consisting of 10 vowels, 21 consonants, and 2 signs. Cyrillic characters are used widely throughout Eastern Europe so it is a good idea to become familiar with these.

The blue boxes denote that the letter inside is a vowel. There are some you may not recognize here. Russian has two types of vowels-don't worry, we'll get there. You'll notice that there are some familiar shapes and some that you most likely have not seen before.

learn russian
learn russian
Russian Alphabet in proper order

Familiar Friends: Letters that sound as they look

‍These letters should be familiar to those who use the Latin alphabet. These are the easiest letters to learn since they have similar sounds to their English counterparts.

They are A, E, K, M, O, and T

learn russian
Examples:

Мама - mom

kak - how

Мама там - mom is there

The Tricksters: Letters that seem familiar

Earlier, you saw the Russian Cyrillic alphabet as a whole and undoubtedly you noticed that there are other familiar letters that were not referenced above. These letters, while they look the same as their Latin-based counterparts, they make different sounds. These can be more difficult to learn, even harder than the new characters, because English speakers see the letter and automatically think of the English sound.

russian language

‍Be sure to note that X is not like the ch in cheek. If Bach is pronounced in the correct German way, then you will get the correct sound with the emphasis on the h sound.

Examples:

OH - he

метро - metro

мотор - motor

Анна - Annaнет - no

The Newbies: New letters, old sounds

‍These letters probably look pretty strange to users of the Latin alphabet. They can be intimidating but you're in luck, these letters have very similar sounds to letters in English.

I recommend you try writing these down several times to get the hang of how they look and feel.

russian words
Examples:

моя мама - my mom

Да - yes

я - I am

я не - I am not

это - this

мой - my

дом - home 

дебочка - girl

тетя - aunt

Strangers: New letters, new sounds (no sounds?!)

‍You made it to the last (and shortest!) group! This sound can be difficult to master as their is no English equivalent. There are similar sounds in languages like German (äu sound) and Icelandic (au sound)so if you have a background in either of those, that will help you here.

Ы ы

a cross between /oy/ and /e/, it can be produced by pronouncing the i in "milk" with your jaw pushed forward. 

Ъъ - hard sign

Ьь - soft sign

These ones do not make a sound but modify other sounds. I think we should save this for our next Russian language lesson!

russian

Download your Russian phrase sheet below: 

russian phrases

Check out some more of our language downloads and surveys! 

russian alphabet
Siggi Einarson

My name is Siggi-dubbed by my American friends because of the Icelandic yogurt-I am a writer, polyglot, and aspiring expat, not a cup of yogurt (unfortunately).

My love for travelling began with a trip to Iceland and Sweden to visit my family when I was just 15 years old. I spent so long dreaming of the possibilities of life abroad but I always figured these dreams were too far reached. Flash forward almost 10 years, here I am again, both cursing and thanking this damn travel bug.

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