The Russian Language
Русский язык
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The Russian Language - Русский язык

“The Russian language is great and mighty” – wrote Lev Tolstoy (Leo Tolstoy). That is the first thing that comes into the head of a Russian when they talk about their native language.

The Russian language belongs to the Indo-European language family. It is included to Slavonic group. It has many relative languages. Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Polish, Serbian are among them. These languages have much in common. Russians easily understand Belarusian and Ukrainian and also conversely. The others are harder to understand. Though they are connected with pronunciation and accent in some way. If you were to write down phrases, for example, in Bulgarian then it will be possible to see more in common with its Russian equivalent.

The feature of Russian is that it uses Cyrillic. So the Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters. It contains 10 vowels and 23 consonants. Alot when compared with the Latin alphabet which has only 6 vowels, by the amount of vowels makes Russian language melodious. The rules of reading are quiet simple because all the letters are usually read. There are only few exceptions from the reading rules. Probably the hard sign and the soft sign are the most unusual letters in the alphabet. They don’t carry any sound themselves but they define the pronunciation of the letter standing before them in the word.

Foreigners have alot of difficulties with suffixes. There are so many of them in Russian that to learn all the words this way is just impossible. Frankly speaking, you must feel it. There is no other way to define where and what suffix is better to use. So if you are not absolutely sure in your language knowledge you’d better not to experiment with it or you could get to an awkward situation. By using the same word with a different suffix you can sometimes make a compliment and sometimes offend.

Maybe the changing word order in sentences will surprise those who learn Russian. Though who knows, maybe it will even simplify the language learning. Quiet often the meaning doesn’t change in this situation. Anyway in Russia there is the word order considered to be standard. It requires first using of subject and second using of predicate and other members of the sentence. Any other order is called a return one. But it can’t be considered as a mistake. Besides, not any words in a sentence can be removed. Removing some of them also requires removing the words connected with them.

Also in Russian schools, they pay alot attention to punctuation. It is very complicated. Even Russians make lots of mistakes. There are many rules for punctuation mark arrangement. To learn all of them is practically impossible. Besides there are many exceptions. Often you are lead by intonation. And sometimes only intuition can help you. In classical literature you can also meet the so called author marks. These are marks not much coordinated with existing rules. But they are used by author to make a special impression on the reader and to place the accents necessary for that.

In the Russian language there are only 3 tenses. They are past, present and future tenses. Maybe that makes it a little easier to learn.

Of course Russian has its official form. It’s considered to be the right one. It is called The Russian Literature Language. You will hear it if you watch Russian news. The dictionaries of The Russian Literature Language are compounded. The most famous of them are Dal’s and Ozgegov’s dictionaries. Also there are many dialects of the language.

If to speak about officially right accent then it’s considered to be Moscow accent. Its main peculiarity is pronunciation of not stressed vowels. In Moscow and in the area surrounding it they pronounce “A” instead of unstressed letter “O”. And in the northern regions unstressed “O” is pronounced like an “O”.

English has had a big influence on Russian lately. Professions, business-lexicon, firm names, technical novelties – everything is given English names. Sometimes already existing word are changed by its English analogs. Here it’s very fashionable. Some people think that using of such words is more prestigious. English names often raise sales of firms.

Sometimes that leads to funny things. Some people use words like the adjective “chitabelny”. If anyone said that the material is chitabelny it means that it is quiet friend and understandable for reading, written in accessible language. That adjective is created in an absolutely unnatural way. More precisely by integration of Russian verb “chitat” which means “to read” in English, but the suffix “-abel-” coming from the English “-able” has nothing in common with Russian. So how do you define now if the origin of the word is English or Russian? It's would be interesting to know how philologists would answer that question.

And don’t forget that when you address a person in Russian you can use pronouns “Ti” or “Vi” (meaning 'you'). The choice of the noun is usually defined by the status of a person you talk to. If you don’t know a person much, he is older than you, you communicate with him formally or just want to show him your respect then you’d better address to him with “Vi”. And if you are speaking to your friend or a child then it’s OK to use “Ti”.

As you can see the Russian language is not the simplest in the world. I wish you good luck learning it.

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Recommended Books For Learning Russian

A Comprehensive Russian Grammar - A great reference on Russian grammar.

The New Penguin Russian Course: A Complete Course for Beginners - Probably the best course in a book.

The Big Silver Book of Russian Verbs - A great reference book of conjugated Russian verbs.

Russian Learners' Dictionary: 10,000 Russian Words in Frequency Order - A simple but powerful concept. Expand your vocabulary by learning the most used words first.