Friendly Russian: Learning How to Read & Write in Russian

Russian Studies |UNC Charlotte| Contact

 

Chapter 1: Lesson 1

The Alphabet: The letters and sounds that are like English ones

Introduction

Many people consider Russian intimidating because of the Cyrillic alphabet. As a matter of fact, you may learn to read in Russian faster than you learned to read in English. Why? First, because you already know how to read in English and some of the Roman letters are adopted by the Cyrillic alphabet. Second, you will find that reading Russian is more straightforward than reading English. Russian, to a great degree, is a phonetically written language, and its sounds do not change their quality as drastically as the sounds of English do. For example, the Russian 'A' is always 'Aa' like in the word "mama"; its 'O' is always 'Oh' like in the word "Oh"; its sound 'K' is always conveyed by the letter 'K', whereas the letter 'C' is reserved exceptionally for the sound 'S'. The 'one letter - one sound' correlation is rather consistent, making reading in Russian a relatively easy task. As a matter of fact, you may begin to read some Russian words right away. Just watch your 'C's!

When reading try to learn the words in bold.

Letters and sounds coinciding in Latin and Cyrillic alphabets

 

Click on the letter for sound

           

Аа

Кк

Мм

Оо

Сс

Тт

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aa
k
m
o
s
t

 

ListenListen and repeat new words. Practice your pronunciation

Click on the words for sound:

             

ма́ма

сто

кот

кто

там

ко́смос

атом
mama
bridge
hundred
tom-cat
who
here
outer space
atom
             

сок

тост

как

так

мак

маска

juice
skating-rink
lump
toast
how
so
poppy
mask

 

Open Cyrrilic Keyboard on the left. Type the answers, copy and paste them into the puzzle.

Click on number in box to see clue!

Complete the crossword with new words!

 

Pronunciation tips

  1. Please notice that accent (stress) makes vowels slightly longer. The unstressed vowels are naturally less distinct, or so-to-say 'reduced'. This reduction makes two different vowels - 'A' and 'O' - sound very similarly in an unstressed position. Compare them in two words "като́к" and "комо́к".  Always pay attention to the stress. Reduction is typical of all unstressed vowels.

  2. Most of the Russian consonants that are similar to their English counterparts are somewhat more relaxed, less intense. There is no “puff of air” typical of English consonants. For Russian "T" the tip of the tongue touches the upper teeth, not the ridge behind them (the same is true for its voiced counterpart "Д" corresponding to the English "D", but you will deal with this sound later).

  3. Additional tip: Relax. Following note 2 is not crucial for making yourself understood. It is important only for those who want to fully get rid of their foreign accent.

 

Letters and sounds which sound the same or similar but do not coincide in the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets

 

Click on the letter for sound

           

Вв

Ее

Нн

Рр

Уу

Хх

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v
yeh
n
r
u
h

These letters are treacherous. They stand for different sounds in Russian and you have to overcome your habit of pronouncing them as in English. It will take some training.

Read after listening and reading pronunciation tips below:

ListenListen and repeat new words.

 

Practice your pronunciation. Click on words:

Вв- v

     
/very/
here is,are
east
     
           

Ее- yeh

ме́сто
свет
/yet/
Eve
century
place, seat
light
mark, grade
 

Нн- n

нос
/noise/
nose
no
he
she
it
 
 
весна́
 
window
dark (adv)
ocean
tub
spring
           
 
сон
 
 
room
glass
wall
dream (n.)
         

Рр- r

рот
торт
/pero/
in Spanish
mouth
river
sea
number
cake
 
 
се́вер
 
theater
sister
north
map
March
           
   
 
restaurant
country
strange (adv)
subway
         

Уу -oo(u)

тут

/boom/
morning
here
tasty (adv)
lesson
bag, purse
 
 
со́ус
 
jacket
hand, arm
sauce
           

Хх- h

у́хо

/loch/
ear
sugar
 

 

Pronunciation tips

  1. Russian "Pp" (Rr) is a most difficult letter for some students. Not even all native Russian speakers can master it. For example, Lenin couldn't. So, you may happen to be in famous (or infamous?) company. Relax: an imperfect sounding “p” won't interfere with being correctly understood. Still, give it a try. The tip of the tongue should vibrate against the tooth-ridge. It's a trilling sound, like the Spanish or Scottish "r". 

  2. Add a little more friction to the Russian "X" as compared with the English "h," but don't make it too harsh or scraping, otherwise ''K" may result instead of "h".

  3. Like many Russian consonants, “B” becomes mute before voiceless consonants and at the end of a word: in “вку́сно” (tasty) and “ров” (ditch) it is pronounced as ‘f’.

  4. In an unstressed position, the vowel “Е” sounds almost like “И” which corresponds to English “ee”. Compare “ме́сто” (seat, place) and “метро́” (subway).

 

2. Complete the crossword with new words!

Open Cyrrilic Keyboard on the left. Type the answers, copy and paste them into the puzzle.

(Click on number in square to see clue)

 

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