Russian: a language profile

Language relations

Russian is a part of the Slavic language family. It means, it is relatively close to such languages as Polish, Czech, Serbian, Bulgarian etc. Native speakers of these languages don’t necessarily understand each other easily in any situation, but still these languages do have a lot in common.

Writing

There are 33 letters in Russian alphabet.

Russian writing system is based on the Cyrilic alphabet. This alphabet was developed in about 9th century AD by the followers of the great Byzantine missionaries Cyrrilus and Methodeus. As the history went on, Russian writing system underwent a lot of changes, same as the language itself. Some new letters appeared, some were thrown away or replaced, some changed the way they looked. Finally, in 1923 what the Russian alphabet looks like now was officially accepted by the government.

Reading rules.

There are various ways to explain reading rules in Russian. It’s often mentioned that to read the word correctly, the one must know where the stress in the word is. Even though on the whole that’s true, it’s not quite correct.

Due to the historical changes Russian spelling and pronunciation have split up significantly. In modern Russian, the words are spelled according to the historical rule: a lot of them possess some remainings of the original word they are derived from as well as the connection with other words derived from this word.

Russian days of the week with their incorrect ‘pronunciation’ in braces

However, the spoken language changes much faster than the written form. That’s why Russian words we hear have lost those historical connections and are pronounced the way the natives find it convenient. That’s what Russian spelling has in common with the English one. So English speakers are going to handle this without any problems.

Pronunciation.

That’s what your mouth should be like, when speaking Russian properly 🙂

Russians have quite a good ear for language pronunciation. A foreigner who has really mastered Russian is expected to have no or almost no accent. Unfortunately, this part often becomes the most difficult one while learning. There’re too few courses of Russian pronunciation on the Internet and those that exist are mostly focused on reading, not communication.

The main idea of Russian pronunciation is keeping your mouth completely relaxed compared with speaking French, German, or English. Seeing someone trying their best to pronounce every single letter in the word, Russians can easily  tell a foreigner.

Grammar features.

Good news: no articles nor complicated tenses system in Russian.

Bad news: Russian has a ridiculously well-developed system of endings. Being able to use them correctly is crucial for text understanding and being understood. This is the fundamental way to express the connection between the words in the sentence. Picking a correct ending is ruled by the part of the speech, number, grammar gender, tense, case, preposition and the mood of the speaker. All this is explained in deeper details at our Russian classes in Prague.

Russian possessive pronouns declination (only femenine and masculine, no neutrum)

Is Russian the most difficult language in the world to learn?

Russian native speakers just love to brag about this fact. The reality is that, of course, this is completely wrong.

In terms of learning, Russian is hardly different from any other language. The “difficulty level” doesn’t depend on the alphabet or pronunciation but on the aim of the learner. If all you need is to manage a small-talk about the weather – Russian is quite simple. If you are considering making Russian friends and reading books in Russian – there’s a tough way ahead! But pretty exciting, though 😉