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Learn to Read Cyrillic (Russian) Within the Hour

June 18, 2016

A Quick Cyrillic Tutorial

мама — granny’s kid
папа — the other granny’s kid
акт — part of a play
парк — a rest area
порт — any is fine in a storm
террор — Stalin’s forte
метеор — falling star
доктор — has infinite patients
трактор — what farmers ride
термометр — it has a lot of degrees
математика — the unnatural science
Америка — Yuwessov, A.
Арктика — go there for goosebumps
радио — it talks and rocks
радиатор — a source of warmth
драма — unfunny stuff
Африка — a major continent
факт — something undeniable
фронт — put up a good one
танк — heavy-duty vehicle
патент — protector of inventions
Антарктика — opposite of Арктика
капитан — the boat’s boss
митинг — let’s all get together
план — a good idea
гранит — a hard stone
грамм — European measure
гол — where you score
металл — heavy stuff
телефон — distant sound machine
телеграф — Western Union
телеграмма — a wire
лампа — it sheds much light
ангел — a feathered friend
Италия — the boot country
Германия — Reunited at last!
Англия — Hail Brittania!
армия — big bunch of fighters
салат — uncooked greens
аспирин — headache med’cine
сигара — product of Cuba
министр — government official
сенат — US deadwood branch
сенатор — US political deadwood
система — organization
сигнал — it let’s you know
авиатор — a flyer
ветеран — s/he’s been around
витамин — health pills
веранда — where Southern belles sit
вампир — suave blood-sucker
Волга — famous Russian river
студент — an easy job
университет — sports-fraternity complex
аудитория — a good place to spectate
литература — like, uh, novels & pomes
август — a summery month
вулкан — a geological zit
табак — avoid this
бар — an urban oasis
банан(а) — fruit with appeal
балет — home of the tu-tu
публика — John Q.’s last name
парламент — British legislature
крокодил — Capt. Hook’s nemesis
президент — US head honcho
физика — a natural science
базар — a bizarre market
кризис — a major problem
виза — you need it to travel
визит — the shorter the better
фантазия — like, unreal!
формула — chemical recipe
апрель — a springy month
культура — I ain’t got none of it
календарь — where you get dates
техника — technical stuff
механик — the car-fixer
характер — personality
хоккей — ice game
медицина — does good; tastes bad
циник — stick-in-the-mud
цемент — heavy stuff
цифр — figures
цивилизация — results of civil engineering?
Вашингтон — Gridlocksville, USA
машина — mechanical device
галоши — rubbers
шарлатан — an insincere guy
Хрущёв — former Party chief
борщ — Russian soup
экспорт — take it away!
эскалатор — the way upstairs
экватор — some like it hot
поэт — writes pomes
Югославия — former Balkan nation
юмор — Russian Program forte
бюрократ — Soviet deadwood
нюанс — it’s easy to miss
мираж — it’s not what it seems
журнал — a magazine
журналист — a журнал worker
жасмин — tea flower
Женева — Swiss city
жакет — goes with a tie
жираф — an excellent necker
чемпион — the guy with the gold
Шанхай — city in China
Нью Йорк — The Big [Red Fruit]
май — another spring month
гейзер — a worthless gusher
Чайковский — big Russky composer
музыка — tunes
шашлык — shishkabob
(This last one isn’t all that commonly used of a word in English, but it does exist in the two dictionaries that I’ve consulted Webster’s and American Heritage)

That is the tutorial that has been so useful to me in helping me to learn to very quickly learn to read Cyrillic and to brush up on it before each trip. For those in need of a little explanation of what is happening above, I’ll go through the letters. First alphabetically and then after that, according to ways that they are grouped in Russian. After that, I will offer a few more words of practice for anyone who would still like a little more.

Cyrillic Letter – Alphabetically Arranged

А in Cyrillic is represented as – a – in Latin, which sounds like —” a” in alpha
Б in Cyrillic is represented as – b – in Latin, which sound like — “b” in bravo
В in Cyrillic is represented as – v – in Latin, which sound like — “v” in victor
Г in Cyrillic is represented as – g – in Latin, which sounds like — “g” in golf
Д in Cyrillic is represented as – d – in Latin, which sound like — “d” in delta
Е in Cyrillic is represented as – e – in Latin, which sounds like —  “e” in echo
Ж in Cyrillic is represented as – zx – in Latin, which sounds like — “s” in pleasure
З in Cyrillic is represented as – z – in Latin, which sounds like — ” z” in zulu
И in Cyrillic is represented as – i – in Latin, which sounds like — “i” in india
Й in Cyrillic is represented as – j – in Latin, which sounds like — “y” in boy
К in Cyrillic is represented as – k – in Latin, which sounds like — “k” in kilo
М in Cyrillic is represented as – m – in Latin, which sounds like — “m” in Mike
Н in Cyrillic is represented as – n – in Latin, which sound like — “n” in November
О in Cyrillic is represented as – o – in Latin, which sounds like —  “o” in Oscar
П in Cyrillic is represented as – p – in  Latin, which sounds like — “p” in papa
Р in Cyrillic is represented as – r – in Latin, which sounds like —  “r” in roll
С in Cyrillic is represented as – s – in Latin, which sounds like — “s” in Sierra
Т in Cyrillic is represented as – t – in Latin, which sounds like — “t” in tango
У in Cyrillic is represented as – u – in Latin, which sounds like — “u” in put
Ф in Cyrillic is represented as – f – in Latin, which sounds like — “f” in foxtrot
Х in Cyrillic is represented as – h – in Latin, which sounds like — “h” in hotel
Ц in Cyrillic is represented as – ts – in Latin, which sounds like — “ts” in cats
Ч in Cyrillic is represented as – ch – in Latin, which sounds like — “ch” in chair
Ш in Cyrillic is represented as – sh – in Latin, which sounds like — “sh” in ship
Щ in Cyrillic is represented as – st – in Latin, which sounds like — “sht” in shtook
Ю in Cyrillic is represented as – ju – in Latin, which sounds like — “u” in uniform
Я in Cyrillic is represnted as – ja – in Latin, which sounds like — “ya” in yard

Cyrillic Letters – Broken Down into Groups

Group 1:  5 Cyrillic Letters that are the same as English
01st  Letter –  А – like the “A”  in America
12th Letter –  К – like the “K” in Ken
14th Letter – М – like the “M” in Mary
16th Letter –  О – like the “O”  in Olga
20th Letter –  Т – like the “T” in Tom

Group 2: 6 Cyrillic Letters that are similar to Greek
04th Letter –  Г – like the “G” in Gloria
05th Letter – Д – like the “D” in Don
09th Letter –  З – like the “Z” in Zebra
13th Letter –  Л – like the “L” in Linda
17th Letter –  П – like the “P” in Peter
22nd Letter – Ф – like the ” F” in Fred

Group 3: 6 Cyrillic Letters are the same as English, but pronounced differently.  These are “false friends.”
03rd Letter – В – like the “V” in Victor
06th Letter – Е – like the “YE”  Yeah
15th Letter – Н – like the “N” in Nancy
18th Letter – Р – like the “R” in Russ
19th Letter – С – like the “S” in Sam
23rd Letter – Х – like the “H” in Herb

Group 4: 16 Cyrillic Letters are distinctly Russian
02nd Letter – Б – like the “B” in Ben
07th Letter – Ё – like the “YO” in Yolk
08th Letter – Ж – like the “SI” in Vision or the “S” in Pleasure
10th Letter – И – like the “I”  in Italy
11th Letter – Й – like the “Y” in Boy
21st Letter – У – like the “OO” in Moon
24th Letter – Ц – like the “CE” in Science or “TZ” in Switzerland
25th Letter – Ч – like the “CH” in Charles
26th Letter – Ш – like the “SH” in Short
27th Letter – Щ – like the “SHCH” (SH + CH) in Hush Child
28th Letter – Ъ – Hard sign (For simplification, I will leave this unexplained for now)
29th Letter – Ы – Hard I (For simplification, I will leave this unexplained for now)
30th Letter – Ь – Soft sign (For simplification, I will leave this unexplained for now)
31st Letter – Э – like the “E” in Emma
32nd Letter – Ю – like the “YU” in Yukon
33rd Letter – Я – like the “YA” in Yard

I have a hard time remembering what sound “Ч” represents. For this helpful tidbit kudos to Aaron Hotfelder: “Ч = ‘ch’ Since the letter looks like a ‘4’ and makes the “ch” sound, think of the word ‘fortune.’ Four-chun. Get it?”

For a little more practice, here are some international words used in the Bulgarian language (and many other languages) that will be understood by a speaker of English.

Extra Cyrillic Practice, From Bulgarian and International Words

атом – The building blocks of chemicals
администратор – The manager
Америка – The country I’m from
идиот – A book by Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky
Интернет – The World Wide Web
адрес – Where you live
Канада – The home of the Yukon Territory
зомби – A genre of creepy movies
модем – How you dial up to the internet
директор – The boss of a film crew
дискотека – Where you go to dance in Bulgaria
акробат – Swinging from a flying trapeze
диск – What computers no longer use
Банк – A place where money is held
банкер – A person who works there
бар – Where you go for a drink
ескорт – One who accompanies
рекорд – Spinning vinyl
бизнес – How you make your money
караоке – Singing in the Japanese tradition
орнамент – How you decorate your tree at Christmas
радиатор – Staying warm in the winter
дебит – The opposite of Credit
карате – A martial art
зебра – A striped horse

Хотел – A place to sleep when you travel
Такси – A yellow car that drives you around
Супермаркет – A place to shop
Телефон – Ways to contact friends
Офис – A place where work is done
сервиз – A place to get your car repaired
компутър – A super-calculator
България – A Southern Slavic Country that uses Cyrillic
София – The capital of that country
Кетчуп – Heinz has 57 varieties
Кафе – A place for coffee
стерео тунер – AM or FM?
Контраст – I agree
фаст Бургер – Mickie D’s
хот дог – Chicago Style – onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, mustard, relish, a dill pickle, and celery salt
Бистро – A place to eat
Министерство на финансите – They handle the country’s money
масаж – You go here for a back rub
физиотерапия – When your body’s not working right
информация – You have a question you need answered
Температура – How many degrees?
Паркинг – Where to leave your car when you don’t take a “Такси”
Оптика – Where you get your eye glasses from
ресторант – A place you go to eat
Факс – Sending a photocopy by telephone
Тенис Клуб – A place to play racket sports
базар – A grand place to shop

Finally, for one more practice round these are a list of English names
transliterated into Cyrillic.

Names in Cyrillic

Доналд – The Trump
Дорис – Day
Тони – Soprano
Сандра – Day O’Connor
Мартин – Luther King Jr.
Милдред – Babe Didrikson’s real first name
Том – Hanks
Анна – Tolstoy’s Karenina
Тим – Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
Нанси – Drew
Кен – Barbie and
Робин – Batman and
Марк – One of the 4 Gospels
Марта – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Ерик – the Red, father of Leif
Бети – White, Of Golden Girls Fame
Антонио – Banderas
Дебра – Debbie Gibson
Адам – The first man
Лиз – Elizabeth Taylor
Алберт – Einstein
Карен – Derived from Katherine, probably from the Greek word for “pure”
Норман – Mister Bates
Дона – Summer
Анди – Griffith
Карол – Burnett
Бернард – A saintly dog
Алис – In wonderland

Source: Learn to Read Cyrillic (Russian) Within the Hour

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