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Russian language for travelers

All Russia-related Articles

by Nadia F., a Russian woman living in St Petersburg, Russia

When traveling to Russia, you will discover that the majority of signs, street names, menus and other useful essential information is written only in Russian language. Though English language is now taught nearly in every school and University in Russia, nevertheless the conversation is mostly at the basic level. It is most likely you will have to ask several people before finding a person who understands you well. The American pronunciation is never heard at the Russian classes at school, so even if the person knows the word in written, he may not understand your pronunciation.

So, for your comfort, safety, independence and security, we offer you a few tips to help you with Russian language when traveling to Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries, where Russian language used to be the official one.

Russian alphabet

The Russian language uses the Cyrillic letters which are similar to the Roman alphabet, but are pronounced a bit different and sometimes the similar way of writing is even confusing. You can see the Russian alphabet with transliteration below.

CapitalSmallPronunciation Example
Аа[a]a in ask
Бб[b] b in bike
Вв [v]v in vote
Гг[g] g in get
Дд[d]d in deck
Ее[ye]ye in yes
Ёё[yo]yo in yogurt
Жж[zh]s in measure
Зз[z]z in zed
Ии [i]i in mister
Йй [y]y in yes
Кк [k]k in key
Лл [l]l in land
Мм[m]m in make
Нн[n] n in no
Оо [o]o in clock
Пп [p] p in pack
Рр[r] r in rate
Сс[s] s in small
Тт [t] t in take
Уу[u]u in full
Фф[f] f in fact
Хх [kh]h in house
Цц[ts]ts in gifts
Чч [tsh]ch in chalk
Шш[sh]sh in shake
Щщ[sh']sh in sheep
Ъъ -not pronounced, means no palatalization for the previous consonant
Ыы[i]i in still
Ьь -not pronounced, meanspalatalization of the previous consonant
Ээ [e]e in let
Юю[yu]u in user
Яя[ya]ya in yahoo

The good part of Russian language is that the words are written in the way they are pronounced and one character is always read in the same way. Meanwhile, in English language the characters are pronounced in different way, depending on the syllables, etc.

So, once you learn the Russian letters, you can read any Russian text correctly yourself.  

Basic Russian words with transliteration:

Да - Da - means Yes
Нет- Nyet- means No
Привет - Privet - means Hello
Пока - Poka - means Bye-bye
Хорошо - Khorosho - means Good, Ok
Плохо - Plokho - means Bad
Имя - Imya - Name
Фамилия - Familiya -Family name
День - Den - means Day
Завтра - Zavtra - means Tomorrow
Вчера - Vchera - means Yesterday
Дом - Dom - means Home
Вода - Voda - means Water
Деньги - Dengi - means Money
Кофе - Kofe - Coffee
Тепло - Teplo - Warm
Холодно - Kholodno - Cold
Снег - Sneg - Snow
Вход - Vhod - Entrance
Выход - Vyhod- Exit

Also there are many international words that are pronounced in the same or similar way in Russian language:

Метро - Metro
Транспорт - Transport
Спорт - Sport
Театр - Teatr - means Theater
Музей - Muzey - means Museum
Отель - Otel - means Hotel
Ресторан - Restoran - Restaurant
Банк - Bank
Бар - Bar
Госпиталь - Gospital - Hospital
Проспект - Prospect - means Street
Паспорт - Pasport - means Passport
Адрес - Adres- means Address
Студент - Student
Доктор - Doctor
Инженер - Ingener- means Engineer
Радио - Radio
Телевизор - Televisor - means Television
Телефон - Telephon - Telephone
Доллар - Dolar - means Dollar
Рубль - Rubl - Ruble
Багаж - Bagazh - Baggage
Туалет - Tualet - Toilet
Сервис - Servis -Service

Russian personal pronouns:

Я - Ya - means I
Ты - Ty - means You, informal
Вы - Vy - means You, polite
Он - On - means He
Она - Ona - means She
Они - Oni - means They
Мы - My - means We

Common Russian phrases

Добрый день - Dobriy den - Good day!
Рад встречи - Rad vstrechi- Glad to meet you!
Я ... - Ya ... - My name is ... (For example, "Ya James Bond")
Как дела?- Kak dela? - How are you?
Всё хорошо - Vsyo khorosho - Everything is fine
Я из США - Ya iz Se-She-A - I am from the USA
Спасибо - Spasibo - means Thank you
Пожалуйста - Pozhalusta - means Please
Извините - Izvinite - means Excuse me
Помогите мне - Pomogite mne - Help me
До завтра - Do zavtra - See you tomorrow!
До встречи - Do vstrechi - See you!
Позвони мне - Pozvoni mne - Phone me
Потом - Potom- Later
Я не понимаю по-русски - Ya ne ponimayu po-russki - I don't understand Russian language
Я не понял - Ya ne ponyal - I did not understand
Мне нужен переводчик - Mne nuzhen perevodchik - I need an interpreter
Я хочу...- Ya khochu... - I want ...
- пить - pit - to drink
- есть- est - to eat
- спать - spat - to sleep

Я хочу в отель - Ya khochu v otel - I want to come back in the hotel

Russian question words:
Как - Kak - means How?
Кто - Kto - means Who?
Когда - Kogda -means When?
Что - Shto - means What?
Где - Gde - means Where?(e.g. Где отель? - Gde otel? - Where is the hotel?)
Почему - Pochemu -means Why?
Сколько - Skolko - means How much?
Уже - Uge - means Yet?

As we are in the 21st century in the era of computer technology, you can now use a handy speech to speech pocket translator instead of learning the whole language yourself. See our pocket translators here.


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