Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which is named in honor of Saint Cyril (Kirill), who together with his brother Methodius, brought Christianity and literacy to the Slavs in Central Europe in the middle of the 9th century.
The modern Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, 21 consonants, 10 vowels and two signs. The letters have both names (like ABC, in English) and sounds that they represent. There is no traditional “alphabet” song in Russian, although you can find different versions on the web. Here is one example from the Russian version of Sesame Street:
In the course of this unit you will learn to recognize all of the letters, connect them to the basic sounds that they represent, and read and recognize Russian words. We will talk about writing in Russian script a little later in this unit.
Что де́лать: Review the letters that you have seen so far, clicking on the sound file and repeating the sound as you read through the tables.
Russian letters that look and sound like English letters
|К к||[k]||as in kite, like|
|М м||[m]||as in mama, Moscow|
|Т т||[t]||as in Tom, stop|
Russian letters that look like English letters, but sound different
|В в||[v]||as in vase, invite|
|Р р||[r]||as in rate, rose (slightly trilled in Russian)|
|Н н||[n]||as in night, note|
|С с||[s]; never [k]||as in cell, soda, sand|
Russian letters that look and sound like Greek or Hebrew letters
|as in ah, father||[a]||А а||Я я||[ya]||as in yacht|
|as in era, met||[e]||Э э||Е е||[ye]||as in yes|
|as in oh, rope||[o]||О о|
|as in loop||[oo], [ou]||У у||Ю ю||[yu]||as in university|
|И и||[ee]||as in beet, sheet (long [e])|
Notice how the vowel letters come in pairs, with я, е, ю consisting of an initial glide “y” followed by а, э, у respectively. Learning to pair Russian’s 10 vowels in this way will help you to make sense of some major features of Russian grammar and spelling. In the table above are the eight vowels you have already seen. The remaining two will be introduced soon.