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Learning Cyrillic Alphabet

We are going to be in Russia in late May for 7 nights (4 STPB, 3 Moscow). I have read in several places that it would be a good idea to learn at least the alphabet in order to recognize signs, etc. Does anyone know a good website to find and reference the alphabet? Thanks!

Posted by
290 posts

Hi, Ali. You are right, it helps to become familiar with Cyrillic. I carried a copy with me while we were there and it made getting around much easier. Just Google 'Cyrillic alphabet' and you will get tons of info. Have a great time.

Posted by
289 posts

Just noticed there is a Russian language introductory course being offered at a local high school (community education night classes). Think taking a class would be worth it?? The timing happens to be perfect and 8 weeks for $120 isn't awful.

Posted by
12040 posts

Yes, I agree that being able to read Cyrillic is helpful, particularly on public transportation. Many words that are important to tourists have a similar sound in English and Russian, but look different in their respective alphabets. For example, what looks like "PECTOPAH" in Cyrillic is pronounced very similar to "restaurant". Most Russian travel books will have a brief description of pronunciation. You won't be able to pronounce many words 100% accurately (there's a lot of hidden "y" sounds that don't have a corresponding letter), but well enough to get by.

I looked into learning Russian once, but it is an extremely difficult tongue for native English speakers to learn, much less master. Like Latin and German, the nouns are declined for case, but unlike those two languages, the declension is extremely irregular. My opinion is that for a short trip, it isn't worth the considerable effort, and you wouldn't learn enough to be useful by May anyway.

Posted by
1356 posts

Definitely try and learn how the Latin alphabet maps to the Cyrillic alphabet before you go. It will help.

Lonely planet publishes a Russian phrasebook which may come in useful - I used a Ukrainian one last summer to decipher some of the signs since so little was in English or the Latin alphabet.

Posted by
276 posts

If the $120 doesn’t cut into your travel budget, and you have a real interest in Russia, I think the class would be a great idea. It's not at all necessary, but I think it might add to the enjoyment of your trip, especially since most language classes usually also cover a bit of history and culture as well. Tom is right that Russian is very difficult to learn, but I respectfully disagree that it isn’t worth the effort. No, you’re not going to become anything approaching fluent in 8 weeks, but you would become more comfortable reading Cyrillic and exchanging pleasantries in Russian. I’m sure you could get by without any knowledge of Russian, but I always find any attempt to speak the local language is very much appreciated. I’ve never had the chance to travel to Russia, but I took Russian in school and whenever I run into a Russian here in Oklahoma (believe it or not, it does happen:)) and I work up my courage to try to use the little that I remember, they are always very warm and encouraging. I think any native English speaker gets extra credit from speakers of difficult languages for the mere attempt.

Posted by
12040 posts

PS- and on a personal level, being the only member of a party that can transliterate the characters can make you feel kind of smart, even though it's pretty easy to learn. I remember trying to convince some skeptical Americans in Bulgaria that (as best as I can approximate this in Latin characters)"WEPATOH" was not some exotic Bulgarian hotel chain, but in fact, the Cyrillic spelling of "Sheraton". "Are you sure that's our hotel?"

Posted by
289 posts

Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I'm not sure if I'll do the class but I also discovered there are a lot of folks around the Boston area that are willing to teach the language at a low rate so might go with that. The $120 class is inexpensive in my opinion and I don't consider it part of the travel budget but more of my hobby budget (if there is really such a thing) since I'd been looking for a course to take a night once week. My boyfriend claims he was never good at classes and when I mentioned the class he didn't really respond either way (I took it as a "please don't make me go through that!).

Posted by
295 posts

When we were in Moscow we knew which metro stop to get off on (in English). When the train pulled into the station we would look at the sign (losing count of the stations, the smart way, because it was so interesting looking at the Russian riders). By the time I slowly transliterated it the door would close and off we went. We backtracked a lot, but sure had fun.