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Learning the Russian alphabet

As I said in my discussion of different scripts, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Here it is (the 3rd column shows the English counterpart):

А  а   a

Б  б   b

В  в   v

Г  г   g

Д  д   d

Е  е   ye

Ё  ё   yo

Ж  ж   zh

З  з   z

И  и   i

Й  й   y

К  к   c

Л  л   l

М  м   m

Н  н   n

О  о   o

П  п   p

Р  р   r

С  с   s

Т  т   t

У  у   u

Ф  ф   f

Х  х   kh

Ц  ц   ts

Ч  ч   ch

Ш  ш   sh

Щ  щ   sh (softer)

Ъ  ъ   hard sign

Ы  ы   y

Ь  ь   soft sign

Э  э   e

Ю  ю   yu

Я  я   ya

In my workbook for the Russian script, I use several strategies to help learners achieve mastery quickly and thoroughly. These strategies include:

  • grouping
  • visual mnemonics
  • test questions to help you practice
  • vocabulary lists for further practice.

These vocab lists appear for each group of letters, so you can practice on words that only use the letters you have learned. To make them easier to read (and also, beneficially, remember), the words are mostly cognate with English words (my Indo-European Cognate Dictionary was invaluable for that).

Some of the visual mnemonics are ‘cards’ for each letter. For example;


mnemonic card


mnemonic card


mnemonic card


mnemonic card

Each “card” shows, first, the upper and lower case forms of the Russian letter, written in a color picked out from the picture. Below these is the English letter that is translated as its equivalent. Below that is a word, in English, showing how that letter is pronounced. The part of the word that is the appropriate sound is written using the Russian letter. A picture showing the meaning of the word is then shown — not because the word is anything other than simple! but because images are generally much more memorable than words.

The images, where necessary, are also used to help remember the shapes of unfamiliar letters, for example:

mnemonic image

mnemonic image

The images are also used in stories to help remember the order of the letters.

You can augment the lessons in the book with some activities I've provided. Even if you don't have the book, if you are learning Russian, or are interested in refreshing your knowledge of it, you may find the games helpful or fun.


Indo-European Cognate Dictionary