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Lesson Number 4. The Russian Alphabet. Strangers.

Updated: Oct 2, 2018

In the last 3 posts we learnt 3 categories of the Russian Alphabet: True Friends, False Friends and New Friends.

Today I will introduce the last group of completely new letters and sounds.

The Fourth Group: Strangers.

These are the sounds that you probably never saw before and that don’t have a direct equivalent in the English alphabet. There are totally 12 of them:

Жж Ёё Йй Цц Чч Шш Щщ Ъъ Ыы Ьь Юю Яя

Жж - [Zh]: this letter sounds like S in exposure. Although English doesn’t have such a letter, it does have this sound, so it isn’t difficult to pronounce. Ж looks like a bug (ЖУК), which buzzes and makes a noise Жжжжжжжжжж!

Журна́л - journal, magazine

Пари́ж - Paris

Пассажи́р - Passenger

Ёё - [Yo]: this is the youngest letter of the Russian alphabet, it is written like е which you already know, but has two dots on top; and unlike [ye] in yes sounds like [yo] in yogurt. This letter will make your life easier one day (I am not saying too much to anticipate); it also has a monument in the Russian city Ulyanovsk - imagine!

Ёлка - Christmas Tree

Мёд - honey

Актёр - actor

Йй - [Yuh]: the letter Й also looks just like the letter you know, И, but wears a “hat”. The sound though is totally different, it sounds like the last sound Y in May, fly or boy and is called “И Кра́ткая” [i kratkaya]

Йо́га - yoga

Май - May

Майами - Miami

Цц - [TS]: sounds like TS in cats or Z in pizza, looks like rectangular U with a tail.

Центр - center

Цирк - circus

Цент - cent

Та́нец - dance

Watch out for this letter for it is treacherous: the examples above show that the letter Ц is often used when C is used in English. It is very easy to forget and pronounce С instead, which is not the same letter at all.

Чч - [Ch]: the sound is pleasantly familiar, like CH in chat, and the appearance might remind you of the CHair upside down (or a number 4, whichever suits your memory better):

Чай - tea

Чек - cheque, receipt

Ча-ча-ча́ - Cha-cha-cha

Шш - [Sh]: again here the sound is familiar, SH in short, shame etc. It looks like a comb, imagine the comb is making the sound Ш every time you pass it on your hair.

Шок - shock

Шо́ппинг - shopping

Да́ша - my short name :)

Шеф - boss (that’s a confusing word, which always makes my husband Mark laugh when I say I am a chef in our family)

Щщ - [Shch]: oh that sound in the square brackets looks perplexing! It is a soft Ш, and thankfully this sound exists in English: SH in sheet, sheep, and other words where SH precedes I or EE.

Щи - Russian cabbage soup Shchi

Борщ - Borscht

Ыы - [I] - finally we got to a completely new sound which doesn’t exist in English. It is the sound [i], but strengthening the root of the tongue. Imagine you are saying the Russian sound У, and while saying it try to smile as wide as possible. I believe it’s easier to understand from the video so I am planning to make a short one with the possible techniques to improve this letter pronunciation. The appearance of this Stranger might also confuse from time time and seem like 2 different letters. Be alert with Ы!

Ты - you

Мы - we/us

Вы - you plural (youse in Scotland) or formal you

Сыр - cheese

Юю - [Yu]: looks like a fish and sounds like U in Utah, or you in you - it is an easy sound, it is more difficult to remember how to write it.

Ю́мор - humour

Тюльпа́н - tulip

Яя - [Ya]: sounds like YA in yard, and looks like a mirrored R. This letter Я - is a very important word, which means I/me.

Иде́я - idea

Яма́йка - Jamaica

Я́хта - yacht

The Russian Alphabet highlighted according to the 4 groups: True Friends - green, False Friends - red, New Friends - light blue, Strangers - yellow

So these were the letters which have sound, and there are 2 left who don’t have any:

Ъ (hard sign) and Ь (soft sign). They are used to make preceding consonants hard or soft correspondingly.

Hard sign also creates a pause:

Инъе́кция - injection

Нью-Де́ли - New Delhi

Тайва́нь - Taiwan

Роль - role

For now I suggest not to dig deeper in these signs, you will learn more about them when the time comes.

So the last 4 posts introduced you to 4 categories of the Russian Alphabet, 33 letters in total.

It is not obligatory to know the Alphabetic order now, but it might be a good to watch the video below (and maybe to sing along with it):

And if you want to move forward and have classes with me in Glasgow or by Skype,

You are welcome to contact me.


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