Learn the Russian Alphabet Pronunciation | Mondly Blog (2022)

Although it may seem a bit daunting in the beginning, the Russian alphabet is not the hardest alphabet in existence (I’m looking at you, Japanese). Consisting of 33 letters – just 7 more than the Latin alphabet – it uses the Cyrillic script to write the Russian language. And you know what’s the best thing about it? Almost all the words in Russian can be pronounced the same way they are written.

To put it simply, once you master the Russian alphabet, you’ll know how to pronounce the majority of the Russian words. So let’s uncover the mysteries of this alphabet together so you can move on to more important things like… learning Russian with Mondly.

A short history of the Russian language and the Russian alphabet

As you already know, Russian is an East Slavic language and one of the world’s major languages: it is one of the six official United Nations languages and the 8th most spoken language in the world with a total of 260 million speakers. Moreover, Russian the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and the unofficial lingua franca in Ukraine and many other former Soviet countries.

Russian and the other East Slavic languages (Ukrainian, Belarusian) were not very different from each other until the Middle Russian period (late 13th century to the 16th century). As a matter of fact, the term “Old Russian” is generally used to describe the East Slavic languages in use before the Middle Russian period.

(Video) Learn Russian alphabet in 10 minutes!

Russian has been greatly influenced by Old Church Slavonic and – since the westernizing policies of Tsar Peter I the Great in the 18 century – by the languages of western Europe. Then, the 19th-century poet Aleksandr Pushkin determined the further development of the Russian language we know today. His writings, in which he combined the colloquial and Church Slavonic styles, were decisive in establishing the best style for literary use.

The Cyrillic script

The Cyrillic script is the national script in various Slavic-, Turkic- and Iranic-speaking countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Northern Asia.

The Early Cyrillic script was commissioned by the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I the Great in the 9th century AD to replace the Glagolitic script and became official shortly after, in 893. It is derived from the Greek uncial script, augmented with letters from the older Glagolitic alphabet and was named in honor of the two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created the Glagolitic alphabet.

The Cyrillic script used in Russia was heavily reformed in the early 18 century by Peter the Great. Several archaic letters were completely removed and others were personally designed by Peter the Great himself. Thus, the updated letters became closer to those of the Latin alphabet.

(Video) Russian alphabet and pronunciation | How to pronounce letters?

Learn the Russian Alphabet Pronunciation | Mondly Blog (1)

Learn how to pronounce the Russian alphabet

There are 33 letters in the Russian alphabet. 10 vowels (а, э, ы, у, о, я, е, ё, ю, и), 21 consonants (б, в, г, д, ж, з, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ, and the consonant й which is sometimes a semivowel) and 2 pronunciation signs (the “soft sign” ь and the “hard sign” ъ).

This is the dictionary order of the Russian alphabet: 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.

If we were to compare the Russian alphabet to the English alphabet, we would have four groups of letters: letters that look and sound (almost) the same as in English, letters that sound the same but look different, letters that look the same but sound different and letters that have no English equivalent whatsoever.

Russian letters that are (almost) the same as in English

  • А а sounds like “a” in “father” or “after”,
  • Е е sounds either like “ye” in “yes”,
  • К к sounds like “k“ in “kept”, “kite” or “like”,
  • М м sounds like “m” in “mother” or “mobile”,
  • О о sounds like “o” in “bore” or “more” (without the ‘r’ sound),
  • Т т sounds like “t” in “top” or “task”.

Russian letters that sound the same as in English (but look different)

  • Б бsounds like “b” in “bad” or “blue”,
  • Г гsounds like “g“ in “go” or “guard”,
  • Д дsounds like “d” in “done” or “double”,
  • Ё ёsounds like “yo” in “your”,
  • Ж ж sounds like “s” in “usual”, “pleasure”, “measure” or “treasure”,
  • П пsounds like “p” in “potato” or “compassion”,
  • Ф фsounds like “f” in “face” or “fact”,
  • И иsounds like “ee” in “see”, “free” or “meet”,
  • Й йsounds like “y” in “toy” or “oyster”,
  • Л лsounds like “l” in “lamp” or “chill”,
  • Ц цsounds like “ts” in “sits” or “that’s”,
  • Ш ш sounds like “sh” in “shrimp”,
  • Щ щ is a softer version of Ш and it sounds like “sh” in “shoes”,
  • Э эsounds like “e” in “met” or “edit”,
  • Ю юsounds like “you” or “use”,
  • Я яsounds like “yu” in yummy or “ya” in “yard”.

Russian letters that look the same as in English (but sound different)

  • В вsounds like “v” in “van” or “voice”,
  • З з sounds like “z” in “zoo” or “zodiac”,
  • Н н sounds like “n” in “no” or “noon”,
  • Р р sounds like “r” in “run” or “rest” (but rolled).
  • С с sounds like “s” in “stone” or “sale”,
  • У у sounds like “oo” in “tool”,
  • Ч ч sounds like “ch” in “chat” or “church“,
  • Х х sounds like “ch” in “loch”,
  • Ы ыsounds like “i” in “ill” but with a “rounder” pronunciation (said with your tongue slightly back in your mouth).

Russian letter with no English equivalent

  • Ь – this is called the “soft sign” and it is used to modify the pronunciation of the preceding consonant by making it soft (palatalized),
  • Ъ – this is called the “hard sign” and it prevents palatalization* of the preceding consonant or acts like a “silent back vowel” that separates a succeeding “soft vowel” (е, ё, ю, я, but not и) from a preceding consonant

*palatalization – pronouncing a consonant in a way in which part of the tongue is moved close to the hard palate.

(Video) A Step by Step Guide to the Russian Alphabet in 2021

Phew! That may seem a bit overwhelming right now, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. To help you even more, we put together a table so you can have all this information “at a glance”. Here’s the pronunciation of the Russian alphabet in a nutshell:

Learn the Russian Alphabet Pronunciation | Mondly Blog (2)

Russian lesson no. 1: rules

Russian is definitely not the hardest language you can learn. As you already saw, once you get to know it, the Russian alphabet seems quite friendly. Languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Arabic, on the other hand, are way harder to master. Besides, once you learn the alphabet, you will already be able to read in Russian – a great boost for your motivation!

So let’s see what are some general rules and characteristics of the Russian language to help you get started:

  • there are three tenses in Russian – past, present, and future;
  • each verb has two aspects: perfective and imperfective;
  • Russian has three genders – feminine, masculine, or neuter – indicated by the spelling at the end of the word;
  • Russian has six cases: nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental and prepositional
  • Russians don’t capitalize the names of the days of the week (or months) or words indicating nationality;
  • the standard sentence structure is subject-verb-object, but the word order may vary;
  • Russian is mainly phonetic and it is only the complex stress system complicates the pronunciation of Russian words;
  • however, the stress system is not very strict and stress is movable.

Learn Russian in just 10 minutes a day

It can be really tricky to master Russian pronunciation if you don’t actively live in Russia. But with Mondly, the award-winning language learning app, you’ll teach yourself Russian using a unique, fast and highly efficient learning method.

(Video) The Russian Alphabet and Basic Pronunciation (Day 1 of Russian Through Propaganda)

Using a conversation-focused curriculum organized into bite-sized lessons and advanced technologies like chatbots with speech recognition, Mondly helps you make the connections yourself and speak like a true Russian fast.

Get Mondly now and speak your first Russian words today!

FAQs

How do I memorize the Russian alphabet? ›

But just more fluently listen ah but we're good there yeah your hair z e ik Radtke ha l m m oppa as

How can I improve my Russian pronunciation? ›

7 Tips for Perfect Russian Pronunciation
  1. Imitate the Russian Accent.
  2. Listen and Repeat.
  3. Roll Your Rs like a Russian.
  4. Length the Vowels.
  5. Don't Puff Out П, Т, and К
  6. Devoice Consonants at the Ends of Words.
  7. Practice Pronouncing Consonant Clusters.
  8. Practice Russian with a Professional.

What does Ф mean in Russian? ›

Ef or Fe (Ф ф; italics: Ф ф) is a Cyrillic letter, commonly representing the voiceless labiodental fricative /f/, like the pronunciation of ⟨f⟩ in "fill, flee, or fall".

How do you pronounce the Russian alphabet? ›

Mackie is the accent on the first syllable Mackie snuck Hey Hey You you yeah yeah that's how you say

How long does it take to learn Russian alphabet? ›

It should take about 3-4 hours to learn the Cyrillic alphabet if you're in the right mindset. I broke it up into one-hour chunks while my husband did it all at once. Some apps (such as Duolingo) will take longer while others are better tailored to learning the Cyrillic alphabet before your trip.

How fast can you learn Cyrillic alphabet? ›

The Cyrillic alphabet can seem intimidating, but don't be fooled. It only has 33 letters — just 7 more than the Latin alphabet! Here's how you can learn the Cyrillic alphabet in only 2 days.
...
Saturday: Tackle The Familiar First.
Aа like Anna.
Tт like Tatiana.
3 more rows
7 Apr 2022

Is Russian pronunciation easy? ›

Compared to English, Russian pronunciation is very easy because it follows simple rules. Most of the time, Russian words are pronounced the way they are spelled. Any exceptions are easy to memorize, as they are governed by strict but straightforward rules.

Do Russians pronounce W as V? ›

Since there's no /w/ in Russian, whenever a /w/ appears in English it is sometimes replaced with a /v/ consonant sound – that does exist in Russian.

Is Russian phonetically consistent? ›

Languages that are the most phonetically consistent are: Russian, Korean, and Arabic. Phonetically consistent languages are those that are unchanging in pronunciation between spoken and written speech. Other phonetically consistent languages are: German, Dutch, and Swedish.

Does F exist in Russian? ›

Certainly /f/ an extremely common sound in Russian. It is an integral part of the Russian phonological grammar — and in fact, there'd be no reason to introduce a dedicated letter for a sound that is not.

What is Z in Russia? ›

The Latin-script letter Z (Russian: зет, tr. zet, IPA: [zɛt]) is one of several symbols (including "V" and "O") painted on military vehicles of the Russian Armed Forces involved in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is speculated that the Z helps task forces distinguish themselves from other forces.

What is T Russian? ›

Te (Т т; italics: Т т) is a letter of the Cyrillic script. It commonly represents the voiceless alveolar plosive /t/, like the pronunciation of ⟨t⟩ in "stop".

What letter is J in Russian? ›

The Russian letter "й" is called "и краткое" (it is pronounced [i kratkaye]). We represent its sound as [j], that is, a shorter sound than "и" similar to the sound of "y" in "oyster" or "boy".

Is K silent in Russian? ›

We use our vocal chords when pronouncing voiced consonants, but not when pronouncing voiceless consonants. In Russian, the consonants can be organised into pairs as such: Voiced: Б (b), В (v), Г (g), Д (d), Ж (zh), З (z) Voiceless: П (p), Ф (f), К (k), Т (t), Ш (sh), С (s)

What is Y in Russian? ›

The twenty-ninth letter of the Russian alphabet, called ы (y) or еры (jery), and written in the Cyrillic script.

What is the fastest way to learn the Cyrillic alphabet? ›

How to Learn the Russian Alphabet Fast - YouTube

Is Russian harder than German? ›

From an English speakers perspective, German would be easier to learn compared to Russian. Research from the U.S. Department of State on foreign languages, states the German generally takes 36 weeks to learn while Russian (under the category of hard languages) takes around 44 weeks.

Should you learn the Russian alphabet before learning Russian? ›

If you are just starting to study Russian, you should know that the Russian alphabet will make learning Russian easier, not harder. It's fun, and it's not hard to learn. However, I don't recommend that you start learning Russian by learning the alphabet.

What is the easiest Cyrillic language to learn? ›

Much of Macedonian vocabulary is similar to Serbian and Bulgarian, and it uses a Cyrillic alphabet, just like Bulgarian. Part of what makes it one of the easiest Slavic languages to learn for English speakers is its simple vocabulary, which makes it pretty simple to speak and comprehend.

Is Russian Cyrillic hard to learn? ›

The name 'Cyrillic alphabet' means the same as the Russian alphabet by the way. It's just a different name. Because if you've never learned the Russian alphabet, it's impossible to distinguish any word. But in reality, the Cyrillic alphabet is one of the easiest parts of learning Russian.

How hard is it to learn the Russian alphabet? ›

They might be surprised to know that the Russian alphabet actually takes only about 10 hours to learn. Japanese is an East Asian language. The major difficulty in learning this language is that Japanese has nothing in common with European or Slavic languages.

Is Russian alphabet easy? ›

Russian uses a special set of letters: the Cyrillic alphabet. They are 33 letters which are very easy to learn.

What Russian letter looks like Z? ›

Zeh (З, з) is the eighth letter in the Cyrillic alphabet. It sounds like [z].

How many letters are in the Russian alphabet? ›

Modern Russian has 32 letters (33, with inclusion of the soft sign—which is not, strictly speaking, a letter), Bulgarian 30, Serbian 30, and Ukrainian 32 (33).

Is duolingo good for Russian? ›

Does Duolingo teach Russian well? Duolingo offers a complete Russian course, but that doesn't mean it teaches the language well. If you're looking to pick up some useful words and phrases, it's a great option. If you want to become fluent in Russian though, Duolingo is not the best choice.

What does Z mean Russia? ›

The Latin-script letter Z (Russian: зет, tr. zet, IPA: [zɛt]) is one of several symbols (including "V" and "O") painted on military vehicles of the Russian Armed Forces involved in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is speculated that the Z helps task forces distinguish themselves from other forces.

Is Russian difficult to pronounce? ›

Compared to English, Russian pronunciation is very easy because it follows simple rules. Most of the time, Russian words are pronounced the way they are spelled. Any exceptions are easy to memorize, as they are governed by strict but straightforward rules.

Why is Russian so hard for English speakers? ›

Of all the European languages a native English speaker can learn, Russian is among the most difficult. The Germanic and Romance languages have a lot of the same core because they both have roots in Latin. Russian is from a completely different language branch called the Slavonic branch, which includes Czech and Polish.

Is Z getting removed from the alphabet? ›

However, according to Hoax Slayer, all of this is simply an on-going prank that has gone on for years, and has been taken totally out of context. The ELCC actually doesn't exist. Which means Z is definitely not getting removed from the English language — your zippers and zealous zebras are A-OK.

Is 3 a letter in Russian? ›

The shape of Ze is very similar to the Arabic numeral three ⟨3⟩, and should not be confused with the Cyrillic letter E ⟨Э⟩.

What is M in Russian? ›

м • (m) (lower case, upper case М) The fourteenth letter of the Russian alphabet, called эм (em), and written in the Cyrillic script.

What Russian letter never starts a word? ›

The letter ы never occurs as the first letter in the word, therefore it is never capitalized.

What is Y in Russian? ›

The twenty-ninth letter of the Russian alphabet, called ы (y) or еры (jery), and written in the Cyrillic script.

Is there w in Russian? ›

We (Ԝ ԝ; italics: Ԝ ԝ) is a letter of the Cyrillic script. In all of its forms it looks exactly like the Latin letter W (W w W w).

Can you learn Russian in 2 years? ›

Summary: Russian is a difficult language. You won't become fluent in Russian in 3 months. If you study daily for an hour, you'll become upper beginner in 3 months to half a year. Then intermediate level in 6 months to 2 years.

How far will Duolingo Russian take you? ›

Duolingo's a great way of getting started with Russian. But eventually, you'll need to look further afield if you want to progress. That's because Duolingo's Russian course is really short. Although each skill has up to 6 levels, realistically you could complete the course to crown level 1 in a pretty short time.

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

Mandarin Chinese

Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet.

Videos

1. Simply Beautiful Russian Alphabet
(Елена Танцева)
2. Russian alphabet – How to learn Cyrillic – Russian ABC for beginners
(Real Russian Club)
3. The Russian Alphabet [Day 1 of a 4-Semester College Course in Russian]
(RussianThroughPropaganda)
4. Russian language, video lesson 1 - "How to read Russian"
(Russian Language with Milla)
5. Russian Alphabet Explained by an American
(Language Simp)
6. Russian alphabet. Letter Рр.
(Learn Russian Language)

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