The Russian language has a reputation of being one of the most difficult languages to master. According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), Russian is placed under Category 4, one of the highest categories in terms its difficulty for native English speakers. This means that one could take about 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) to be fluent in Russian.
The first step to learn any language is to memorize the most basic components used to construct words and meaningful sentences. For Russian, they are the Cyrillic alphabets.
Cyrillic Writing System
The Russian alphabet uses letters from the Cyrillic script. For English speakers and non-native speakers, the Russian Alphabet can be rather daunting to learn. Here they are:
А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ы Ь Э Ю Я
Did I just messed up your head for a moment?
Any beginner could have been terrified of these unknown scripts. But, I want to convince you that if you look closely, you will realise how easy to learn these alphabets in just one single day!
The Russian language places more emphasis on stresses and accents (i.e. sounds of a letter or word), as compared to how it looks or sounds like in English.
Some letters may look familiar to you if you are fluent in English.
Here they are:
А В Е К М Н О Р С Т У Х
The only exception of those in blue is that:
В sounds like V (vain)
Е sounds like Ye (air)
Н sounds like N (no)
P sounds like R (rat)
C sounds like S (sand)
У sounds like oo (tool)
Х sounds like kh (loch)
There are also some letters that have similar sounds to the ones in English but they do not look like English alphabets. Here they are, especially the one in blue:
Б Г Д З И Й Л П Ф Э
Б sounds like B (bat)
Г sounds like a Greek G (get)
Д sounds like a fancifully written D (do)
З sounds like Z (zebra), looks like how you'd draw a dream bubble when one is "zzzzz".
И sounds like Ee (in), Й sounds like Eee (toy)
Л sounds like L (ladder), like this: λ
П sounds like P (pie), like the PI sound in maths π
Ф sounds like F (find)
Э sounds like E (met)
Now, here are the alphabets with news sounds that you should remember:
Ё Ж Ц Ч Ш Щ Ю Я
Ё sounds like YO (yo!), imagine you're a rapper yo!
Ж sounds like Zh, like how you say the letter 'J' with your top and bottom teeth stuck together at the same time. Imagine the sound of an irritating mosquito flying around you.
Ц sounds like Ts (sits)
Ч sounds like Ch (cheese)
Ш sounds like Sh (shit)
Щ sounds like how you stress the Sh sound to make it sound sharper (sheep)
Ю sounds like Yu (europe)
Я sounds like Ya (yah)
For the two remaining alphabets, Ъ Ь
They are silent but used in different contexts to give either the hard sound (Ъ) or the soft sound (Ь). If you are in for the challenge, try remembering one more letter Ы
Ы sounds like ooi, but say that in your throat. Click on the soundbite below to hear how to say the sound 'Ы'
That's it! That's all you need to know for Russian alphabet.
An easier way to remember these alphabets by the look and sound of it is to focus on remembering those letters you are unfamiliar with. Ignore the English-looking and English-sounding ones that you already know.
Learn those letters and practice saying the sounds on your own and by the end of the day, you should be able to familiarize yourself with the alphabets.
After saying the sounds on your own, you may want to look out for some basic Russian articles and try to pronounce the words using what you have learned so far. You don't have to know the meaning of the word for now.