The Russian Alphabet

The modern Russian alphabet is based on a Cyrillic script that was initially developed in the Bulgarian Empire around the tenth century AD. Since then many letters have been removed until what we see today.

The alphabet has 33 letters with eleven vowels, twenty consonants and two signs used in punctuation. Here is the Russian alphabet and you can see that twelve letters look like English letters.

А, Б, В, Г, Д, Е, Ё, Ж, З, И, Й, К, Л, М, Н, О, П, Р, С, Т, У, Ф, Х, Ц, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ъ, Ы, Ь, Э, Ю, Я

Five of the letters sound the same as in English:

  • А а - as in car or father, a long sound
  • К к - as in kitten
  • М м - as in man
  • О о - as in when it is stressed it sounds like bore but when it is not it sounds like the letter a
  • Т т - as in tap

The other seven letters look the same but have different sounds:

  • В в - as v for vet
  • Е е - as in ye in yes
  • Н н - as in n for no
  • Р р - as in r for run
  • С с - as in s in see
  • У у - as in oo for boot
  • Х х - as in h for hello

The nine letters look different but have the same sounds as English letters:

  • Б б – is the same as B b
  • Г г – is the same as G g
  • Д д - is the same as D d
  • З з – is the same as Z z
  • И и – similar to the letter i in taxi
  • Л л – is the same as L l in the word love
  • П п – is the same as P p
  • Ф ф – is the same as F f
  • Э э – is the same as E e in the word fed

The remaining letters don't have an English equivalent letter but do have a recognisable sound:

  • Ю ю – like the English word you or universe
  • Я я – like 'ya' as in yard
  • Ё ё – like 'yo' in yonder
  • Ж ж – it is has sounds like 's' in fusion and like the 'g' in the word beige
  • Ц ц - like the 'ts' sound of bits
  • Ч ч – like the 'ch' sound in chips
  • Ш ш – like the 'sh' sound of shut
  • Щ щ – a sound between 'sh' and 'ch'. Put your mouth to say 'ch' but say 'sh' instead
  • Ы ы – like 'i' in still
  • Й й – used to make diphthongs. For example 'oй' sounds like 'oy' for toy and aй sounds like 'igh' as in high.

The other two symbols denote whether to use a hard or soft sound for letters:

  • Ъ ъ – hard sound and is not often used and it indicates for a slight pause between the syllables of the word.
  • Ь ь – soft sound used to make the letter before it soft. For example the letter 'p' in pew is a soft sound.

It is easier to learn pronunciation of words as they do not change like words in English. There will be no traps like 'poor' and 'pour' where two words sound the same but have vastly different meanings.