If you have a lot of downtime in your life currently, you might have considered using this time to learn a second language. And why not?
Many people want to learn multiple languages to broaden their horizons and understand new cultures. That’s why it’s one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions each year.
Russian is one of the world’s ten most popular languages, with hundreds of millions of fluent speakers around the globe. If you’re attempting to learn Russian, you have a few challenges ahead of you but many worthy rewards.
There are many different resources and guides to help you learn Russian out there. However, you still might need a few tips and tricks to help you get the language down. Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
1. Get Familiar With the Cyrillic Alphabet
There’s no way around it: if you want to learn to read and speak the language, you’re going to need to deeply familiarize yourself with the Cyrillic alphabet. That might sound frightening, but it really shouldn’t be as big of a challenge as it might seem at first glance.
If you’re an English speaker, you’ll be relieved to hear that the Cyrillic alphabet is actually derived from Latin and Greek letters, the same alphabet set we used to eventually develop English. That means that many of the letters that you’ll be learning will bear a strong resemblance to that of the English language.
The look and sound of the letters might be a little different, but you should have a jumping-off point. The Cyrillic alphabet is a few letters longer than the English one (with 33 characters, that’s seven more than you are used to) but it shouldn’t be too much more to memorize.
2. Start With Basic Phrases
Every language has phrases that are going to be used more often than any other. Getting the hang of these common saying can give you a footing to build off of. They can also help you out a lot if you find yourself in a Russian-speaking environment and need to get your bearings.
Some of the most basic Russian phrases include:
- Доброе утро (Good morning)
- До свидания (Goodbye)
- Пожалуйста (Please)
- Спасибо (Thank you)
- Да (Yes)
- Нет (No)
These are general all-purpose phrases that you can use to communicate at the simplest level. Of course, if you’re traveling to Russia for a specific purpose or to do a specific kind of work, there might be phrases that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with that are related to that subject matter.
You’ll need to dive in much deeper if you really want to become even somewhat fluent in Russian, but having a little vocabulary under your belt never hurt anyone. You can always use a Russian translation service if you need to learn specific phrases quickly.
3. Hard and Soft Consonants
If there’s a trick to getting Russian down pat, it’s getting on top of your consonants. There are so many consonants in the Russian language because there are actually two kinds you need to learn about: hard and soft.
Which kind of consonant is being used will rapidly alter the sound of a word. What’s the rule to stay on top of these kinds of things? If a consonant falls at the very end of a Russian word, it will be hard. That is the simplest scenario.
What else? You’ll actually have to look at the letters that come after: if a consonant is followed by a у, а, о, э or ы than you’ll be hearing a hard sound.
Soft consonants are followed by different characters from the alphabet: ю, я, ё, е, or и.
It can take a decent amount of time to get in the habit of looking for these consonants, especially if you’re just being exposed to the Cyrillic alphabet for the first time.
4. Find Cognates
One other way to help your mind get used to grasping Russian is to look for popular cognates. Cognates are words that look and sound similar in two different languages. In the case of English and Russian, there are many.
Getting familiar with these words can help you to find a bridge between the English language and characters you are used to and this new, foreign one.
Some English to Russian cognates that might be helpful to get familiar with includes Телефон, Такси, and Температура, which means telephone, taxi, and temperature respectively.
There are many more cognates out there that you can familiarize yourself with if you need to.
5. Learn Russian Grammar Rules
There are many rules to familiarize yourself with if you’re hoping to learn Russian properly. Grammar is a big deal. Much like in the French and Spanish languages, you’ll need to understand the gender that is assigned to each noun. You’ll need to memorize which nouns are which genders.
Looking at the last letter in a Russian word should tip you off to whether it’s a masculine or feminine word. If the word ends in a consonant, it’ll be masculine. If it ends with a or я, it will be feminine.
There are some exceptions to this rule but it’s not something that you should worry yourself with when you first starting learning Russian. It’s better to stick to the hard-and-fast rules and learn the exceptions in due time.
Use These Tips to Help You Learn Russian
Learning any kind of new language can be difficult, but Russian specifically has many challenges one will have to work through. If you’re hoping to learn Russian this year, the above tips and tricks can help.
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