Surely, you are only thinking about learning Russian language. And you appeared at this page while you were searching an article about Russian alphabet. Yes! Russian letters are different from Latin. But don’t be panic! A lot of letters are similar not only in writing but even sound the same. And now let’s find out a little history.
We should be grateful to the two brothers Cyril and Methodius, who created the Old Slavonic alphabet. In honor of one of these brothers, the name “Cyrillic” appeared.
Nowadays Russian alphabet has got 33 characters.
There are 10 vowels letters
а, о, у, и, е, ё, э, ю, я, ы.
However, there are 21 consonants in Russian language such as
б, в, г, д, ж, з, й,к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ.
Also, there are two letters which don’t have any sound. Those are ь, which is called the soft sign and ъ which is called the hard sign.
Some Russian letters look and sound the same as in English, some letters are really different.
The letters which look the same as in English are A, E, K, M, O, T.
|Аа||Pronounce it like “ar” in car. Other examples: father, calm, palm, hard, card|
|Ее||You can read it as “ye”. For example, yellow, yesterday|
|Кк||Pronounce it like “k”. Examples: kitten, king, kill|
|Мм||We can hear it like”m”. Examples: mother, many|
|Оо||Pronounce it like “o”. Examples: hot, cold|
|Тт||We can hear like “t”. Examples: table, telephone, television|
The letters Б, Г, Д, ё, Ж, П, Ф, И, й, Л, Ц, Ш, Щ, Э, Ю, and Я can be related to the second group, because they sound really close to English sounds, but look different.
|Бб||Pronounce it like “b” in English words: brother, Batman|
|Гг||Pronounce it like ‘g’ in girl, game, glass|
|Дд||We can hear it like ‘d’ in desk, dance, dentist|
|Ёё||Pronounce it like ‘yo’ like in yogurt and yoga. As well, this letter we can read like ‘o’, for example like ‘o’ in ‘holiday’. It depends on its position in the word|
|Жж||We read it like ‘s’ in treasure, Asia|
|Пп||Pronounce it like ‘p’ in people, parrot|
|Фф||Pronounce it like ‘ph’ in phone, photo, elephant|
|Ии||We read it like ‘ee’ in deer, tree, see|
|Йй||Pronounce it like ‘y’ in: yes, Yemen|
|Лл||Pronounce it like ‘l’ in little, leg, later|
|Цц||Pronounce it like ‘c’ in central|
|Шш||Pronounce it like ‘sh’ in: shirt, she, shower|
|Щщ||We read it like ‘shch’. And really, there is no close sound in English.|
|Ээ||Pronounce it like ‘e’ in elephant, egg.|
|Юю||Pronounce it like ‘u’ in the UK, uniform|
|Яя||Pronounce it like ‘ya’ in: ‘yard’|
The letters В, З, Н, Р, С, У, Ч, Х will be related to the third group, because they look the same as English letters but sound quite different.
|Вв||Pronounce it like ‘v’ in ‘vase’|
|Зз||We pronounce it like ‘z’ in ‘zoo’|
|Нн||Pronounce it like ‘n’ in name, new, nose|
|Рр||Pronounce it like ‘r’ in: red, rose, read|
|Сс||Pronounce it like ‘s’ in sea, sale, start|
|Уу||We pronounce like ‘oo’ in book, cook|
|Чч||Pronounce it like ‘ch’ in chair, challenge|
|Хх||We can read it like ‘h’ in: hotel, hippo|
And the last group is the group with letters which aren’t in the English alphabet. Those are Ы, Ъ, Ь.
The last two letters don’t even have any sound.
|Ыы||This letter doesn’t have English equivalent but Pronounce it like more open ‘i’|
|Ъъ||This letter is named ‘hard sign’. It is always silent. We use it to prevent palatalization of the preceding consonant.|
|Ьь||This letter also doesn’t have an English equivalent. Russians named it as ‘soft sign’ and it is always silent, too. We use it to palatalize the preceding consonant if it is phonologically possible.|
Look at the picture below to see how the Russian handwritten letters look like. They are really different from those which are printed. So, however, you have to be really attentive and hardworking if you have a desire to learn how we usually join Russian letters. I think it will take some time to learn how to write Russian cursive writing.
Letters and Sounds
As well, we can group all Russian letters into two classes. We name them “soft’ class and ‘hard’ class. For sure, this depends on the type of letter which goes after these letters. That’s why all 20 Russian consonant letters can be sounded like 37 separate sounds.
However, we also can divide all vowels into ‘soft-indicating’ and ‘hard-indicating’ letter’s groups.
А, Э, Ы, У, О can be referred to the «hard-indicating» vowels and to make these letters ‘soft-indicating’ we just need to add the sound of ‘y’ in front of each letter.
Therefore, the letters Я, Е, Ё, Ю, И can be referred to as «soft-indicating» vowels.
Usually, students ask me «what is the best way to start learning Russian?» I recommend starting from sounds and reading rules. We can do it together on my course «Russian reading course«. You are welcome. I will be happy to teach you.