In spite of the demise of the Soviet Union, the Russian language remains one of the most widespread and useful languages to know. It is currently spoken by over 250 million people worldwide. Russian is the official language or one of the official languages in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Millions of Russian speakers live in Ukraine, The Baltic States, Israel, and the USA. In fact, Russian is the lingua franca of the entire ex-Soviet world. Additionally, Russian is one of the working languages of the United Nations alongside a number of other upstanding international organizations.
According to Web Technology Surveys (2013), Russian is the second most popular language on the Internet (after English).
You may want to learn Russian in order to conduct business in Russia and Eastern Europe, to challenge your brain, or simply to travel to Russia and not feel completely lost and hopeless when trying to make meaningful connections with the native speakers. For this you may want to familiarize yourself with the Cyrillic alphabet. Although coaches in Moscow and St. Petersburg subways now display destinations in English (or, rather, in Latin letters), most inscriptions citywide are in Cyrillic only. To find your way around town you don't need to know the language, but you will be much better off if you are able to read Cyrillic. Such words as supermarket, metro, taxi, or university sound quite familiar even in Russian.
All you will need to invest in learning the Cyrillic alphabet is a few hours of work and practice. This ability may serve you well not only in Russia, but in other countries where local languages are written down in Cyrillic, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Macedonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia.
In short, there are quite a number of reasons why you may want to learn (or at least to familiarize yourself with) the Russian language.
As we mentioned, a good starting point in learning the Russian language is the alphabet. Learning it is far easier than many people might suspect, and mastering it will undoubtedly give you a sense of accomplishment.
If all you need is to learn the alphabet, you could turn to the Cryllic Quickly website, developed and maintained by the University of Chicago Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. It will first guide you through the familiar letters. 7 out of 33 Cyrillic letters coincide with Latin ones: А, Е, К, М, О, С, Т. You will then learn the letters you may think you know, but you really don't, such as P (Cyrillic R), H (Cyrillic N), or X (Cyrillic H or Kh). Finally, you will get to know such formidable letters as Я (Ya), Щ (Shch), or Ю (Yu). The website is equipped with exercises and writing samples. With a certain degree of determination it shouldn't take you more than a few hours to master a completely different writing system!
You may want to have a look at another entertaining (though less academic) resource on the Cyrillic alphabet. The methodology used by the authors is to have you read recognizable, internationally used words, such as “park”, “football”, or “vodka” learning a letter or two at a time.
Another website, composed by Dr. Yulia Roshchina, allows you to play the sounds and check your pronunciation as you go through the letters.
There is no doubt that learning Cyrillic letters will make you feel proud of your linguistic abilities. This will hopefully enhance your desire to learn more, so once we are done with the alphabet, we will go on to basic phrases, elementary grammar, and other useful information.
ПОКА! (“bye-bye” in Russian, pronounced pah-kah)
Умом Россию не понять,
Аршином общим не измерить:
У ней особенная стать –
В Россию можно только верить
- F. Tyutchev
The epigraph chosen for this article is an extremely famous quotation from a Russian poet of the so-called “Golden Age of Russian poetry”. In translation to English it sounds like:
For the insight of Russia you should not use your brain.
And measurement of Russia in common yards is vain.
It has a very special and very unique gist...
A great belief in Russia you ought just to persist!
This short poem tells everything not only about Russia, but the Russian language as well. As a student who began learning Russian, having finally accepted those reverse R’s and N’s in Cyrillic script, you may find out that there is so much more complexity than you originally thought.
The Russian language is more synthetic than analytic, which means that instead of changing words by adding other words (for example, prepositions in English), you change the word itself. Let's compare an English verb, for example: run
English:Run, Ran, Running:
Russian: Бегать, Прибегать, Выбегать, Подбегать, Забегать, Отбегать etc.
Once you understand that there is a very specific structure, it becomes extremely easy. Look at the example. All of these words have a common part "бег". It is called: "the root" of the word. The part that is before it is called the prefix, and the part after it is called the suffix. Every Russian word can be divided by the following scheme: Prefix, Root, Suffix, Ending. Prefixes and suffixes are divided into various groups within a certain classification that lets you create your own words by combining different “bricks”.
The suffix "к", or "чк" is called the "diminutive-hypocoristic suffix", or, in Russian "уменьшительно-ласкательный". It is a very powerful tool for poetry, love letters, and anything that requires being cute and romantic. For example, if you want to call your Russian girlfriend, you don’t have to find names like "sweetheart", or "honey". You just change her name with this suffix, and the new word becomes both sweet and honey at once! For example when the name Ольга (Olga), with the shortened version Оля (Olya) takes the diminutive-hypocoristic suffix, it becomes Олечка (Olechka). Because of such language structure, Russian rhymes sound absolutely amazing, and the flow of your speech sounds like the song of a nightingale.
Another reason to learn Russian is that it is a language spoken on the largest land mass on Earth. From Kaliningrad near Germany, to Vladivostok near Japan, from the never ending winter of Murmansk to the sands of the Caspian sea, you will hear the sound of the Russian language. And that doesn't include the countries of the former USSR, where people still speak it. Imagine, with just one language you will be able to communicate with people of such cultural diversity as descendants of the Mongolian Empire in the East, highlanders of the Caucasian mountains in the South, people of one of the oldest Eastern European cities of Kyiv, northern tribes of the Aleuts and buryats - who are sometimes claimed to be the ancestors of Native Americans, and finally, people of the Baltics such as Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians.
If you are interested in learning this beautiful and widespread language, or if you just need help with your Russian homework, go ahead and submit your questions. We have the tutors who will guide you, and some day you will be able to read such amazing authors as Chekov, Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky in their original language.
Желаю удачи! (Good luck!)
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