How to Get by in Russian

Posted on August 9th, 2011

How to Get by in Russian - Learn RussianAre you planning on visiting Russia or any other country of the former Soviet Union any time soon? If your answer is “yes” then the tips below will help you to learn about the best ways to organize your knowledge of Russian prior to your trip.

Learn Russian Alphabet

A few people I recently spoke to, were absolutely confident that they could get by in Russia by just knowing a few basic words or phrases such as “thank you”, “you are welcome”, “hi” and “bye” without having to learn Russian alphabet….

Imagine this situation: you have just landed in Russia, went through the customs, and then at the information desk you were told that you need find a bus stop, where you would take a bus to your hotel. As you exit the airport, you see several bus stops. The passers by don’t speak any English, you cannot understand what the signs around you say, and you feel lost and confused… What will you do now?

It’s very likely that the information desk would help you to find the right bus stop in this case, but there could be many other situations where you will need to read the signs around you. As you can see, just a few words will get you nowhere, you need to learn Russian alphabet and be able to read both printed and cursive (handwritten) Russian.

Russian cursive is very different from printed Russian letters, and some signs and advertisements that you see in a Russian speaking country will include both.

After learning both printed and cursive Russian alphabet you will be able to read the signs, advertisements, and the names of the streets in Russian.

In fact, I have a great alphabet video that will help you to practice your Russian alphabet . For learning Russian cursive, I would recommendthis wonderful resource – Russian cursive. you can learn how to write a Russian cursive letter by pointing at it with your cursor.

Try to Learn as Much Russian as Possible

While any Russian will be ecstatic to hear you say “привет” with a cute foreign accent, (the only Russian word you know :-)) ), the reality is that most of Russians do not speak English on the level that would allow them to communicate with you freely, and that is if they speak any English at all…

This means that you need to learn more then just a few basic words, if you are planning on staying in Russia for a while and communicating with your Russian friends and colleagues. You need to learn Russian language, and be able to make at least simple sentences and ask questions.

If you have a very limited amount of time to learn Russian before your trip, make sure to learn:

Our next step is to learn a few main window display and door signs in Russian.

Signs in Russian

Learning signs in Russian will stop you from entering places you should not be entering, or doing things you should not be doing and embarrassing yourself or getting yourself in trouble.

Here are a few window signs (вывеска [VI-vis-ka] window sign) for you to get you started:

Гостиница [gas-TEE-nee-tsa] hotel
Магазин [ma-ga-ZEEN] store
Супермаркет [soo-pir-MAR-kyet] supermarket
Продукты [pra-DOOK-ti] groceries
Аптека [ap-TYE-ka] pharmacy
Салон красоты [sa-LON kra-sa-TEE] beauty salon
Парикмахерская [pa-reek-MA-hir-ska-ya] hairdresser
Театр [ti-ATR] theater
Кинотеатр [kee-na-ti-ATR] cinema, movie theater
Школа [SHKO-la] shool
Университет [oo-nee-vyer-see-TYET] University

More signs:

Закрыто [zak-REE-ta] closed
Отрыто [at-KREE-ta] open
На себя [na si-BYA] pull
От себя [at si-BYA] push
Не курить [ni koo-REET’] no smoking
Вход воспрещён [VHOD vas-pri-SHYON] do not enter

Carry a Dictionary and a Phrasebook, or an Electronic Translator with You

Even if you have crammed as much Russian as possible, dictionary is a must in your pocket at all times! Please don’t rely on meeting a Russian-speaking person who speaks English very well. You are in a foreign country, the only person you can count on is yourself.

If you know Russian alphabet and you are not sure what a particular sign means, you will always be able to look it up. If you are not sure about how to ask for directions, you could always find that particular phrase in your phrasebook, or translate it electronically.

A Few Basic Phrases in Russian you Need to Know

I am sure you will do your homework and prepare for your trip to a Russian speaking country very well, however, just in case if you need to find a translator, you can use the following phrases:

Я не понимаю [YA ni pa-ni-MA-yoo] I don’t understand
Вы меня понимаете? [VI mi-NYA pa-ni-MA-yi-tye?] Do you understand me?
Я плохо говорю по-русски [YA PLO-ha ga-va-RYOO pa ROOS-kee] I speak Russian badly

Я не говорю по-русски [YA ni ga-va-RYOO pa ROOS-ki] I don’t speak Russian
Вы говорите по-английски? [VEE ga-va-REE-tye pa ang-LIY-ski?] Do you speak English?
Здесь кто-нибудь говорит по-английски? [ZDES’ KTO-ni-boot’ ga-va-REET pa ang-LIYS-ki] Does anyone here speak English?
Мне нужен переводчик [MNYE NOO-zhin pye-ri-VOT-chik] I need an interpreter/translator
Помогите, пожалуйста, перевести  [pa-ma-GI-tye pi-rye-vyes-TEE pa-ZHA-looy-sta] Can you help me to translate, please?

These are just a few phrases to inspire you to learn more. Have fun in Russia, and be safe!


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