How To Speak Russian
Russian is the most widely-spoken East Slavic language and also the most-spoken Slavic language overall. Although the Russian people are incredibly diverse, belonging to 160 different ethnic groups that speak 100 different languages, almost all of them also speak Russian. Millions of people in Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, Latvia, Moldova, Estonia, Georgia and Armenia also speak the language, making Russian the lingua franca of most of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Russian is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to learn the Slavic language with the biggest reach and influence. Read the guide below and then test your skills with a free Russian lesson.
The Russian Alphabet
Although you can start to learn how to say and understand simple words and phrases, you won’t get very far with the language until you learn the Russian alphabet. The alphabet uses cyrillic script, whose origin can be traced to ancient Greek. This is a useful clue since many Russian letters look exactly like their Greek counterparts which you might remember from math class. For example, the Greek ∏ (pi), the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is exactly the same as the Russian П (pe), which makes a “p” sound. Similarly, the Greek Φ (phi) corresponds to the Russian Ф (ef), which sounds like an English “f”.
Some Russian letters look similar to Latin letters, but make different sounds. The Russian P,er , actually makes a rolled r sound; while И, i, is not a backwards N, but actually sounds like the e in “me”. If you can banish the ingrained associations of Latin letters from your mind, the Russian alphabet is easy to understand. Once you know this alphabet you will be ready to embark into exciting new language territory.
Russian Pronunciation and Grammar
English is a Germanic/Romance hybrid (Germanic roots with Norse, French and Latin influence). Russian is an East Slavic language and has very little in common with English. For beginners trying to learn Russian, correctly pronouncing words can be a significant challenge. Russian has vocal sounds that don’t exist in English, like a greater variety of vowels and a subtle gradient of different sh sounds. With the help of Babbel’s speech recognition feature you will be able to practice your accent and help ensure that your Russian is understandable.
Russian grammar may at first seem strange to an English-speaker, but its rules are actually straightforward. Russian had six cases, which means that nouns, adjectives and pronouns can have six different endings. This may sound complicated, but because so much information is conveyed in the nouns, word order is not as strict as it is in English and you have no articles to memorize (compare that to having to memorize whether each German noun is either der, die, or das). Verb conjugation is very different from English, but far less irregular.
Ways to Learn Russian
There are several options available when learning how to speak Russian: hiring a private tutor, enrolling in a language course (in school or online), studying alone with a CD-ROM or audio course, joining an exchange program, or practicing conversational Russian with a native speaker (a so-called tandem partner). All of these strategies can be effective, although some (tutors and CD-ROMS) can be expensive, while classes and exchange programs are also a huge time commitment. The fastest way to pick up Russian – and the biggest commitment by far – is still immersion. Moving to Russia requires you to pick up the language in order to live day-to-day. This survival pressure usually produces fluency within a few months, but not without a lot of stress and hard work. If you do plan to immerse yourself in Russian, it’s a very good idea to prepare beforehand with one of the methods mentioned above. If you don’t have much spare time, an online program like Babbel may be your best bet.
Learn Russian the Babbel Way
Babbel’s Russian course is affordable, accessible online and via mobile devices, and proven to strengthen your reading, listening, speaking and comprehension skills. As a Babbel user, you have access to a diverse program of grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing exercises. Your Babbel.com account saves your progress in the cloud and the integrated Review Manager helps ensure that you don’t forget what you learn. So whether you are too busy for a language class, a complete beginner, needing to brush up before a vacation or business trip, or wanting to re-learn everything you forgot in high school, Babbel can be customized to your needs.
Try your first Russian lesson for free and discover Babbel’s easy and intuitive course system which determines your individual level and accommodates different learning styles. You can learn at your own pace, set your own lesson plans and receive helpful hints whenever you need them. You will also be joining an entire community of learners. Babbel users can easily share questions, experiences and advice via message boards and chat, and the Babbel support team is always only a message away.