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Monday, July 27, 2015

Learning Foreign Languages: Russian 101

Having just returned from my second trip to Russia, I am finding that my ability to read the language has improved vastly since I first posted this. It's a good thing, too, as getting around the country without some knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet is challenging. And so, for wannabe polyglots, here again is a primer.

To get around Moscow by Metro, it is
essential to know how to read Russian.
In St. Petersburg, however, there is English signage.

Now that we have covered the basic Cyrillic alphabet, let's proceed to a reading lesson. I chose to spend my one free day in Moscow last May wandering the Arbat and silently phonetically mouthing out the names of familiar fast food franchises. I highly recommend this strategy for those trying to learn the seemingly impenetrable Iron Curtain that is Cyrillic.

First, we visit McDonalds. This one is easy, right? MAK=MAC. The fourth character looks like the Greek delta Δ--which is D. O becomes an A sound in Russian when the syllable is unstressed, so we've got DO. In our previous lesson, we learned that H =N, so HA is NA. The third to last character is the Cyrillic version of L. Then we are back to delta, and C=S. What does it spell? McDonalds.

Very good. Now, let's get a cup of KOФE. Note the third letter, which looks the same as the Greek version of F (phi). Sound it out. You have coffee. Excellent. But where to get our coffee? Perhaps CTAPБAKC.

Now we need a doughnut to accompany our coffee. We do not get coffee at the pink and orange establishment above, because we cannot read the sign that says "Coffee & More". After all, we are reading in Russian. But ДAHKИДOHATC sounds Дelicious. To translate, we need to close the one hole in our doughnut sign literacy.  И =ee. Hence, Dahnkeen Donahtc. Close enough.

Let's moo-ve/MYB (merely a transliteration) on. 

MY MY, or Moo Moo, is a popular fast food chain in Moscow. If you can't read the Cyrillic, just look for the black and white корова.

Finally, let's wash this all done with a bottle of BOДA. B=V. The O sounds like A, due to the stress. Voila, Vahdah. Let's take a sip and call it a day/ДEHb. 

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