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Monday, 13 July 2015

Reading Cyrillic, one of the most used writing systems

Disclaimer: The characters listed below are non-exhaustive and the whole Cyrillic alphabet can be found here.

Ever felt confused when you saw such signs and they seemed Greek and Latin to you?(Well, it's Cyrillic, actually)

The Cyrillic script is an alphabetic writing system employed across  Eastern EuropeNorth and Central Asian countries. It is the basis of alphabets used in various languages, in parts of Southeastern Europe and Northern Eurasia, especially those of Slavic origin, and non-Slavic languages influenced by Russian. Cyrillic is one of the most used writing systems in the world.

At first glance it may seem really difficult to read the text in Cyrillic. But there are some really basic rules which can make these obscure looking-symbols really easy to read. Hopefully, within the next 5 minutes you can read sign-boards and basic words in the Cyrillic script.

1. Many of the letters are similar to those in the Roman script (English) . The Cyrillic letters A, K, M, O, and T are close relatives of their English counterparts. The Cyrillic letter Б (which looks like a lowercase “b”)  also makes a “b” sound. The letter “C” always makes the “s” sound, like in the English word “cite.”

2. Others are closely related to Greek. People who have taken math/physics classes already know the letters Г (gamma), P (rho), П (pi),  and Ф (phi), which are the English equivalents of “G”, “R”, “P”, and  “F”, respectively.

Easy so far, right? Check out a few examples:
кафе́ = cafе́
бар = bar
о́пера = opera
ро́бот = robot

3. Some letters are pretty humbug. The letter “H” makes the “N” sound, “y” makes the English “oo”  sound, and “B” sounds like the English “V.” This letter, И, which looks  like a backwards “N”, makes the “short i” sound, as in the English word “pin.” The Russian letter “Я” sounds nothing like it’s mirror image in  English. Instead, it makes a “ya” sound, as in “yacht.”

Here are a few more Russian words you already know.
Интерне́т = internet
CпyTHИK = Sputnik
POCCИЯ = Russia

4. You probably have only seen the rest of the letters in some movies with a Russian back drop or a Russian space shuttle.
Ц = “ts” as in “boots”
Ш = “sh” as in “shore”
Л = “l” as in “lamp”
ж = “zh” as in “pleasure”
Д = “d” as in “door”
З = “z” as in “zoo”
Ю = “oo” or “yu” as in "use"
Ч = “ch” as in "chat"

a. You’re in St. Petersburg and you see a restaurant with this written on it: MAKДOHAЛД’C. Where are you?
b. You’re in a Moscow bar and would like to drink something authentically Russian. Someone suggests Bо́ДKA. What are you having?
c. You’re applying for your Russian visa and a form asks whether you’ve ever criticized the Russian президе́нт. What’s it asking? 

The characters listed above are non-exhaustive and the whole Cyrillic alphabet can be found here.

FYI: The first image in this answer is the logo of Pepsi-Cola and the second one (yeah, you guessed it right) is McDonald's.


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