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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 have the possibility to use the devices, instead of learning the whole language yourself. We have compared many English-Russian pocket translators and found the most powerful and useful for travelers to be the new Ectaco iTRAVL NTL series devices, which have won the Innovations 2008 Design and Engineering Award from the Consumer Electronics Association (CES).

Ectaco iTRAVL NTL-2Ru English-Russian electronic pocket translatorNow you don't have to learn hundreds and thousands of foreign words by heart or study any grammar rules.

You have instant access to over 14,000 most common travel phrases with human clear native speaker Russian voice for all of them. The topics include: first need phrases, introduction, apologies, restaurant, hotel, transport, sightseeing, bank, food, drinks, shopping, repairs, sport, health, beauty care, police, post office, telephone, customs, booking, baggage, and much more.

Listen to the Ectaco iTRAVL phrasebook in English | in Russian.

Within the selected audio phrasebook topic you can use the speech recognition function to pronounce one of the standard built-in phrases in English aloud and the device recognizes it from voice, displays on the screen together with its translation and pronounces it aloud in Russian language.

The same way speech translation works fine from Russian voice to English native human voice.
Each topic also includes the "You may hear" section with the most common answers you can get in each travel situation.
In the quiet places this speech-to-speech phrase translation works well.

Use the iHELP section for instant access to emergency and frequently used phrases which can be spoken immediately. You can also create and save your own phrases with voice tag.

If you wish to translate some particular word, you don't have to leaf through the paper dictionary any more. Just take a pocket translator and start typing the first few letters of the necessary word (using standard QWERTY), the list of the appropriate words appears below. You choose the word by stylus and see the written translation in Russian language.
Now more, click on the Say button and you hear the word pronounced aloud in Russian language.
Of course, you can translate words from Russian to English language back as well. The Ectaco iTRAVL NTL-2R pocket translator includes over 1,000,000 words in English<->Russian dictionary.

If you wish to translate not only a single word, but any sentence, you can type it in the full-text translation section, and get the translation in seconds with all grammar cases and tenses applied correctly. And you can press the Say button to hear the pronunciation of the complete sentence in Russian language. The vice versa Russian to English full text translation is available with pronunciation as well.

If you wish to remember some words, you can use the built-in language learning games and tests to study the words of your choice with pronunciation. You can also add your own words with translation to the dictionary and learning exercises.

In the Language Teacher section you get a picture dictionary with words, phrases and dialogues that you can hear and repeat. The device gives you a mark on the pronunciation, using the speech recognition engine. So, the iTRAVL language teacher involves your visual, written, audio and physical memory to speed up the learning process. The iTRAVL repeats the phrase as much as you need and becomes your personal teacher any time you wish.

The Ectaco iTRAVL NTL-2R includes the MP3 player, so you can hear the music and relax or upload your own audio courses in MP3 format.Indispensable travel resources are included in the built-in Fodor’s Travel Guide with maps and essential information for 50 cities and CIA World Factbook for 180 countries around the world: Maps, Country Profiles, etc.

The iTRAVL series is very practical as you can add one of 40 other languages using the SD cards (Ukrainian, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French, German, etc).

Click here to see the detailed descriptions of the Ectaco Russian translators


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