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Mary Neuburger, Chair BUR 452, 2505 University Avenue, Stop F3600, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-3607

The Russian Alphabet


Russian has the reputation of being a difficult language to learn. It is not as close to English as German is, and Russian has not influenced the development of English (and thereby become familiar) as have French and Spanish. Yet, Russian and English are related Indo-European languages, and because of the Greek and Latin base of many technical terms, English and Russian share more of the same vocabulary that is generally realized. It is not difficult, for example, to recognize the transliterated words telefon, mashina, radio, or doktor. As a matter of fact, Russians have adopted so many English words that American students comprehend many with ease: kompyuter, defect, risk, moment, biznes, and menedzher.

Of course, the Russian alphabet, called Cyrillic in honor of St. Cyril -- is different, and apprehension about the alphabet is in fact the reason most often given for reluctance to study Russian. This is unfortunate because the Russian alphabet is not at all difficult to learn. Standard courses spend only the first days, or less, on mastering the alphabet. Half of the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet resemble English letters, while others are familiar to us from common Greek letters ("pi" and "delta", for example). There are only seven letters in the alphabet that are totally new and they are a great aid to learning spelling and pronunciation. Anxiety over the Russian alphabet is, in other words, unnecessary.


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