Reading Cyrillic

You can get basic skills in reading the Cyrillic alphabet quite fast. There are 33 letters in the alphabet. The good news about it is that every character is just one sound: there are almost no combinations like English SH or CH. Some of the characters are similar to Latin characters, others - to Greek, and some are typical for Cyrillic only.

Six letters are similar to Latin:

А = [A] like in CAR

О = [O] like in TOP

E = [e] like in METRO

M = [M] like in MOSCOW

T = [T]  like in TRAVEL

C = [C] like in CITY

K = [K] like in KID


These five look similar, but are pronounced differently:

B = [v] like in VISIT

H = [n] like in NO

Р = [r] like in ROCK

Х = [h] like in HOTEL

У = [u:] like in DO


Knowing this you can already read some signs:

 Москва (Moskva) is how Moscow is in Russian.

РЕСТОРАН (RESTORAN) - can you guess the meaning?


Other characters:

Б = [b] like in BANK

Г = [g] like in Gagarin (the first man in space)

З = [z] like in ZEBRA

Ж = [j] like in JOJOBA

Д = [d] like in DOG

Л = [l] like in LOOK

П = [p] like in PETERSBURG

И = [i] like in KISS

Й = [j] like in BOY

Ы = like [i] but more relaxed one, without stretching your lips - a lazy [i]


At this stage you can read quite a lot of signs and can recognize some international words:



Let's add more:

Ф = [f] like in PHOTO or FLAG

Ц = [ts] like in German KATZE

Ч = [ch] like in CHESS or CHEKOV

Ш = [sh] like in SHOWER or in German SHWARTZ

Щ = [sch] kind of like in QUICHE

Э = [æ] like in THAT


The following four characters can be read in two different ways.

1. If such character stands first in a word or follows a vowel (or the Ь, Ъ characters) they are pronounced as double sounds:

Ю = [ju:] like in YOU or CUTE

Я = [ja] like in YOUNG

Е = [je] like in YES

Ё = [jo:] like in YAWN or YACHT


Now you can read the names of the Metro stations as most of them end with – CКАЯ: МАЯКОВСКАЯ, СМОЛЕНСКАЯ, АРБАТСКАЯ, ТВЕРСКАЯ:


2. If such character stands after a consonant it pronounced as one single sound and soften that consonant

ДЮ = [d’u] like in dude

ДЯ = [d’a] like in whaddaya

ДЕ = [d’e] like in demo

ДЁ = [m’ə:] like in dirge


Ь,Ъ – these letters have no sounds themselves. They  1) make the preceding consonants sound softer or harder. For now you might just ignore theses details 2) make Ю, Я, Е, Ё sound like double sounds (as it was described in the point 1).


Attention! Do not confuse these four alike letters:

Б, Ы, Ь, Ъ


Happy reading!