Why learn the Russian Language? There are many reasons to learn Russian, but for me, the most compelling is that it is fun and at the same time challenging.
Русский язык (ruskiy yazik) is the official language of Russia. It literally means the Russian tongue. It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world today. There are about 285 million people who speak Russian, of which 160 million are native speakers. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. It is very closely related to Belarussian and Ukrainian.
Almost a third of all scientific literature are published in Russian. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations or UN, and the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA. The six UN languages, just in case you'd like to know, are
Apart from Russia, it is also one of the official languages in
- South Ossetia
Other former Soviet and neighboring countries that speaks Russian are the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and even Finland has a fair size of Russian speakers. You will also find Russian being widely spoken in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania and Cuba.
You'll be surprised that even In Thailand, especially Pattaya, there are large number of people who speaks Russian. The same is true over in North America, Europe and Israel where there are close to 1 million people who speak Russian in each of these places.
Learning Russian - The Essentials
The spoken Russian language give emphasis between soft and hard sounds, stressed and unstressed syllables, and the reduction of unstressed syllables.
Much of the original vocabulary was derived from the Russian Orthodox Church. It also borrows many words from Polish, Latin, Dutch, German, English and French languages.
As Russia is a vast country, there are many different dialects spoken which have influenced the development of the language. The dialect groups are roughly divided into northern and southern dialects, with Moscow being the dividing point.
An interesting point to note is that Russians can generally understand and communicate with each other irrespective of which Russian native dialects the other party is speaking. The dialects differ mainly in tones and in the stress of the different syllables. Contrast this to the Chinese dialects, where one dialect group completely does not understand the other's spoken dialect. The same is true with Indian dialects where one cannot understand the other.
Derived Russian Languages
- dialect spoken primarily by Cossacks in the regions of Don, Kuban and Terek
- criminal argot of ancient origin with Russian grammar but with distinct vocabulary
- language with Russian and Ukrainian features spoken in some areas of Ukraine
- language with Russian and Belarussian features used by a large portion of the rural population in Belarus
- pseudo pidgin of German and Russian
- Russian-English pidgin - the way in which Russians attempt to speak English using Russian morphology and /or syntax
- extinct pidgin language with mostly Russian vocabulary and Norwegian grammar, used for communication between Russians and Norwegian traders in the Pomor trade in Finnmark and the Kola Peninsula
Russian Language uses a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet or кириллица. It consists of 33 letters or азбуки. Some look and sound similar, while others are very different. The confusing ones are those that looks like an alphabet your know, but is pronounced like another.
For example, the alphabet Russian 'в' is pronounced like the English v; 'г' is pronounced like g; 'н' is pronounced like n; 'п' is pronounced like p; and finally 'р' is pronounced as rolling R 'rrr'.
The good news is that it is very simple and will take you less than an hour to be familiar with all 33 of them.
|Pronunciation||kha||tse||che||sha||scha||hard sound||i||soft sound||air||yu||ya|
There are currently no one standard for the Russian character. The most commonly used format is the Unicode with the character set UTF-8. This support most Cyrillic alphabets, even the early sets which has similarities to the Greek alphabet.
The other is KO18-R which was designed by the government.
Russians who lived abroad, once relied on transliteration due to the unavailability of Russian Language keyboards abroad. To type дом or house, one need to key in dom, and бабушка or grandmother, babushka.
The Unicode extension has solved the requirement for transliteration as it supports most European languages and even Hindi.
Don't be like some people who attempts to learn Russian by just using transliteration. I strongly discourage this as you will be frustrated when you can't read simple road signs and other important words in Russian. Besides, learning the cyrillic alphabet is easy and fun too. It would prove extremely useful when you visit or travel around Russia.
Numbers are written the same way, but of course pronounced slightly differently. That's the easy part, the tough part is recognizing them as they are spoken. It may take a while before they become second nature.
Russian Spelling or Orthography
It is reasonably phonemic in nature with a blend of phonemics, etymology, morphology and grammar. A number of spelling rules were introduced during the turn of the 19th century which attempted to reduce inconsistencies in the Russian Language spelling. The current spelling rule is based on the 1918 reforms and the final codification in 1965.
An optional acute accent (знак ударения) may be used to mark syllables that are to be stressed
- to distinguish between otherwise identical words, or
- when it is not obvious from context
- to indicate the proper pronunciation of uncommon words, especially personal and family names such as афе́ра, гу́ру, Гарси́а, Оле́ша, Фе́рми, and
- to express the stressed word in the sentence
Acute accents are usually found in lexical dictionaries and books for children or foreign readers.
|чудно́||чу́дно||this is odd||this is marvelous|
|молоде́ц||мо́лодец||attaboy||fine young man|
|узна́ю||узнаю́||I shall learn it||I am recognizing it|
|отреза́ть||отре́зать||to cut||to have cut|
*In this website we'll replace the acute accents with red letters like this, замок / замок. It is more work for me to place the red letters than the acute accents, but it's worth the trouble as you can enjoy using them with electronic dictionaries or online translators which do not understand the acute accents.
It is difficult to put a figure on the total number of words there are in the spoken Russian Language due to the fact that Russian words have the ability to agglutinate and create many compounds and diminutives. A good indication is to look at some of the more comprehensive contemporary Russian dictionaries. The table below is a summary of some of them.
|Works||Year Published||Number of Words||Remarks|
|Academic dictionary I||1789–1794||43,257||Russian and Church Slavonic with some Old Russian vocabulary|
|Academic dictionary II||1806–1822||51,388||Russian and Church Slavonic with some Old Russian vocabulary|
|Academic dictionary III||1847||114,749||Russian and Church Slavonic with Old Russian vocabulary|
|Dahl's dictionary||1880–1882||195,844||44,000 entries lexically grouped; attempt to catalogue the full vernacular language, includes some properly Ukrainian and Belarussian words|
|Ushakov's dictionary||1934–1940||85,289||Current language with some archaisms|
|Ozhegov's dictionary||1950s–1960s||61,458||More or less than-current language|
Are you ready to learn the Russian Language?
Russian Language is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. It requires almost 1,000 hours of language immersion to be able to reach the intermediate proficiency level. However, if you have decided to learn the language, it is by no means impossible. Many have done it and now with the power of the internet, learning Russian is "easy." Русский - легко!
Start your Russian Lessons here
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