ALPHABET / АЛФАВИТ

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ирина мозелова

The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters. 10 of them are vowels, 21 are consonants. And there are two silent signs (ь and ъ).

In the brackets you can see how they sound using the English letters.

Some letters are very similar to the English letters, and they are easy to guess (а, с, т, о, к, м, е, з). Some of them look absolutely different from the Latin letters, but they sound like some English sounds (б, ё, г, д, ж, ш, ч, ц, ф, ю, у, н, п, й, х, э).

But some letters can be really confusing because they look like some English letters, but they give a completely different sound. For example, Russian letter “в” sounds like English [v], or the Russian letter “р” (looks like English “p”), but it sounds like [r].

And there are really few new sounds which do not exist in the English language. These are “щ”. It is a soft version of the sound “sh” in English. To help you to make this consonant softer you can add a short sound “i” after. For example, in the word “ship”, if you drop the last “p”. You might hear this sound in the word “борщ” (Borsch)—the most famous Russian soup.

And also, sometimes the letter “ы” can cause troubles in the beginning of learning the Russian language. First of all we need to mention, that it doesn’t have a capital letter. It is never at the beginning of words. It sounds like a hard version of [i]. In English there is a similar sound in words like “ill” or “quick”. Normal “i” (и) for Russians is longer like in words “sleep” and “eat”. And it also softens the consonant before.

These are two silent letters. We call them “hard sign” (ь) and “soft sign”. Which means they don’t have a sound, but they affect the consonant they are following. Nowadays we do not use a lot of hard signs because all consonants are already hard without marking it. But sometimes we need to make soft consonants. And for that we use the soft sign.

For example, in the Russian word “коньяк” (cognac) we pronounce soft “n” because of the soft sign after the Russian “n” (н).

 

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