Shortcut to Reading Russian – Quickly Learn to Read Russian

September 28th, 2010 by masteradmin 1 comment »

Reading Russian can be an intimidating proposition, but it turns out the the Cyrillic alphabet (the official name of the Russian alphabet) isn’t so hard after all. Really, anybody can learn to read Russian fairly quickly given the right approach. If you look through the alphabet, you’ll see quite a few letters you recognize. Some of those a pronounced exactly as you would expect (for example, A – T – O – M spells “atom” in Russian and in English. And “k” is like our “k” as well. So, “Koma” is how Russians spell “coma”.

But other letters in the Cyrillic alphabet that look like English letters have unexpected pronunciations. H sounds like our “N”, for example. “B” in Cyrillic sounds like a “V” sound. So, although those can be confusing for your brain at first, they’re still easy enough. The toughest ones for beginners are usually the completely foreign-looking letters, like Ж and Э. But with the right method, those are easily absorbed as well. The trick is to see them in the context of other letters you know. For example:

The MiraЖ Hotel in Las Vegas is my favorite hotel.

Or: Why is my car on the street? You should have parked it in the garaЖ.

So, from context, we see that the Russian letter Ж must be pronounced as “zh”.

If I told you that the Russian letter “C” is pronounced like our C, in the words “Face” and “Citrus”, could you then read th following Russian word: Массаж

That’s right. “Massage.”

Is reading Russian really that tough?

Let’s try to learn one more new, alien-looking letter from context:

McDonalds is my фavorite фast фood restaurant.

Did you guess that the Russian letter ф is pronounced just like our “F”? So now, you should be able to read the following (or should I say, “фollowing”) Russian word:


As in, Can I borrow your camera? I want to take a фото of my dog and send it to Grandma.

So, фото is the Russian word for photo.

It’s beyond the scope of this article to teach you the whole Russian alphabet. But I simply wanted to show you that it isn’t hard, if you’re taught the right way. If you like this approach and would like to truly master reading Russian, please check out the Russian Accelerator course! I highly recommend it!

Russian Accelerator – Site Update and Learn Russian Workshop News

September 26th, 2010 by Mark 1 comment »

Russian Accelerator – Learn Russian Online has just unveiled its new corporate website, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their work on it. If you’re not familiar with Russian Accelerator, it’s the course we created to turn complete beginners into confident speakers of Russian. An important part of the site is all the video testimonials that are posted there. Proof of the effectiveness of the course. Who are the people making these testimonials?

Well, this past Labor Day, from September 3rd to the 10th, I played host to the first annual Russian Accelerator Live Workshop here in Sevastopol. It was a blast and everyone — the members, all our support staff, and certainly myself — had a great time. And the video testimonials are the interviews we shot of all the members who attended: John D, Neil, Luc, Jonny, and Peter. (And let me say once again, you guys all were very impressive, and we’re so psyched you made the trip out here!) Along with getting their opinions on the course, we also filmed lots of live video of these guys in action, using their Russian in various real situations: Ordering food, buying things on the street and in stores, and so on. We also did fun scripted routines, so they could run through a few of the dialogues from the course for all the other members to watch (and critique!)

There were so many highlights during the Workshop, but best of all were all the friendships that were made. I now know I have friends we can visit in Scotland, England, Montreal, Toronto and Tuscon….(and you guys are all welcome to come visit anytime!) Beyond the friendships, it was just so gratifying to see all the success all these guys have had with the Russian Accelerator course. And some have only been in for a few months! Incredible…to see these guys holding their own with native speakers, at ease with waiters in cafes, and sellers in the bazaar, and so on. So impressive, all of you.

So, please: Go check out the brand new Russian Accelerator website. There’s a lot to see there, and worth a long look around.

Russian Phrases For the Airport

March 7th, 2010 by Learn Russian No comments »
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

You just flew in to Moscow’s Sheremetevo’s airport. You’re exhausted and hungry, and yet now you have to deal with the hassle of passport control and getting your luggage, and possibly even making a connecting flight. Let’s prep you for this now, so you’ll be comfortable when you get there. Let’s learn some Russian phrases for the airport online:

Let’s greet the officer at Passport Control.

zdrast – vvooey – tyeh

(Listen to the sound file at the top of this article.)

Here is my passport.
Вот мой пасспорт.
vote moi passport.

Once he’s stamped your passport and handed it back to you, thank him:

It’s time to search for your luggage. Let’s keep things simple for now and just ask:

Where — baggage?

Где багаж?
gdyeh bagazh?

Let’s say you need to buy a ticket to your next destination. These airports aren’t as big as their U.S. and European counterparts, so you’ll find the ticket counters easily enough. Let’s buy a ticket:

One ticket to ____, please.

Один билет в ____, пожалуйста.
Odeen beelyet v ____ pozhaluista.

It’s important to know things like when boarding is, and when the departure is, so let’s ask:

When does boarding begin?

Когда начинается посадка?
kogda nachinaiesta posadka?

When is departure?
Когда вылет?
kogda vweelet?

Hopefully the person you’re speaking with will know some English. In airports, at least some of the personnel usually speaks some English. Still, though, I thinks it’s best to ask them: “Can you write that down, please?”

Напишите пожалуйста.
Napisheetyeh, pozhaluista.

Be sure to make a writing gesture, in case they have trouble understanding you. Anyway, ticket in hand, you head off to find your gate.

You’ve checked the monitors, which have writing in both English and Russian, so you’re feeling pretty confident that you’re waiting in the right area to board your next flight. Still, you want to be sure. Let’s ask someone:

Is this the flight to ____ ?

Это рейс в _____ ?
eto race v ____ ?

For example: Is this the flight to Ekaterinburg?

Это рейс в Екатеринбург?
Eto race v Yihkaterinburg?

You’re boarding the plane now. Let’s confirm that you’re about to take the right seat. Ask the stewardess:

“Is this my seat?”

Это моё место?
Eto maiyo myesto?

Hopefully she’ll say, “Da” which means “Yes.”
If she says, “Nyet,” (No), she’ll probably lead your to the correct seat.

After this next flight, after you’ve collected your bags, you might want a taxi. Luckily, the word for taxi always seems to be TAXI no matter where you go. The only difference is that Russian moves the emphasis. We say “TAxi” with emphasis on the “a”, they say, ‘tahk-SEE’ with emphasis on the “ee” at the end.

There you have it. Some of the most useful Russian phrases for the airport.

Enjoy your flight!
Russian Phrases For the Airport

The Best Way to Learn Russian

February 21st, 2010 by Mark 1 comment »

I get asked that question a lot: “Say, what’s the best way to learn Russian?” What a lot of people will say, almost flippantly, is, “Go live in Russia.”

Gosh, thanks buddy. Real practical advice.

And you know what? Even if you could easily just move to Russia, that would NOT be the best way to learn, at first. I know many American and British men who live here in Sevastopol, and they all know scarcely a word of Russian between them. So, living here is not going to do anything. You can learn Russian right at home, where you live now. It’s not where you live, it’s how you learn and how you study that makes the difference.

First, you need a multiple-attack plan for learning. You don’t want one of those Audio Only courses, nor do you want one of those only Pictures programs. No One Trick Pony is going to work. You need to be learning on different levels, with different approaches. For example, some words are best learned through mnemonic devices. (See my learn Russian phrases PowerPhrase videos, for example.)

But there’s lots more words that don’t fit neatly into such sentences. You need to learn them — and all words, really — through the contextual method. (Click here for some articles about Contextual Learning and how it helps to learn Russian.) Not that learning Russian has much to do with learning words.

Yes, I probably need to repeat that: Learning words is not the same as learning a language. Language has rules for how words need to change, and how they can go together. These rules are called grammar. If you really want to learn the language — to be able to have conversations and to understand what people are talking about — you need to be shown Russian grammar correctly.

Unfortunately, most courses either ignore teaching grammar (because it IS devilishly hard) or teach it totally wrong, using charts and tables as if it were chemistry.

So, you need a course that teaches words and phrases in various ways, depending on the words themselves. And a course that teaches grammar as simply and clearly as possible. This is done via Pattern Recognition. You are shown the patterns of the language, and learn how to extrapolate. But what you don’t need to be bogged done with are all the laborious names and nomenclature for grammar. Do you know what modal verbs are in English? Perhaps not, but you certainly are a master at using them, even new verbs, because you understand the patterns.

Finally, you need a course that takes careful review into account. By careful, I don’t just mean a course that asks you the same question each week. No. You can (and should) do that on your own study time. The course itself needs to have you work with your Russian vocabulary. Ask you questions where you are forced to use existing vocabulary in new ways.

That’s what a superior course in Russian should do, and is in my opinion the best way to learn Russian fast, or any language for that matter.

Don’t settle for less.

How to Learn Russian: Contextual learning Part 2

February 20th, 2010 by Mark No comments »

Let’s learn some new words online today related to language. We’ll be doing this by seeing the words in context and deducing the meaning naturally. if you missed the first part of this series called How to learn Russian contextual learning part 1 check it out. Here goes part 2…

I didn’t know the meaning of the word “obsequious” so I looked it up in the slovar.
(Pronounced: sluh-VAR)

English is my native yihzik, but I’ve been studying the Russian yihzik for seven years now and speak it almost fluently.
(Pronounced yih-ZEEK)

I always forget how to spell the slovo “tomorow.” Are there two R’s or just one?
(Pronounced: SLOW – vuh)

Z is the last bukva of the alfaveet.
(Pronounced: BUKE-vah and al-fah-VEET)

In this restaurant the other day, I was very unhappy with the food and the service, so I told the waitress, “Excuse me, I’d like to govoreet with the manager.”
(Pronounced guh-var-EET)

I always have the Russian news station playing on my satelite radio because it’s important to slushat to lots of Russian speech.
(Pronounced SLEW-shut)

Let’s review those words.

What is a slovar? A slovar is a book which has the definition of virtually every word in a particular language.

What does yizik mean? A yizik is a systematic means of communicating using sounds or written symbols.

What is a slovo? A slovo is an utterance, or its representation in writing, which communicates a particular meaning based on context.

What is a bukva? A bukva is a written symbol which represents a spoken sound, or part of a sound, and is a component of an alphabet. A bukva doesn’t usually have meaning on its own, but is placed together with other bukvi to spell words.

What is an alfaveet? An alfaveet is the letters of a language, arranged in order by custom.

What does govoreet mean? Govoreet means to express something with speech.

What does slushat mean? Slushat is when we make an effort to hear something.

Let’s use them in new contextual situations. “Mom, how do you spell the slovo ‘exaggerate’?” — “I don’t know. Look it up in the slovar.”

The English alfaveet has 26 bukvi, but the Russian alfaveet has 33. The spelling, though, of Russian is easy. It’s the grammar that makes it such a difficult yizik.

When the telemarketer called, a little girl answered the phone. He told her, “Hi, I’m calling from Wizard Marketing. Can you give the phone to your mommy, I need to govoreet with her.”

The guitarist turned away from the stereo to yell at his noisy roommates. “Hey, can you guys be quiet? I need to slushat to this song, because I’m performing it next week.”

Note how we didn’t actually define what these new words meant. We used them in context, which is the only way Russians know these words, too.

Learn Online Travel Phrases for Sochi 2014

February 18th, 2010 by Mark 2 comments »

The Winter Olympics are coming to Sochi, Russia in 2014. This article will give you the basic travel phrases you’ll need if you planning on attending The Games.

The word for “taxi” is the same in Russian as in English, but the accent changes. They say it like this, “tahk-SEE”. If you say the word correctly, the driver will assume you speak some Russian, and will ask you, “kuda?” (”koo” as in koo-koo, plus “da”, which sounds like “dot” without the “t”). Kuda means “Where to?”

Tell him, “Gostinitsa” if you want to head to your hotel. Let’s sound out that word:

“Gos” rhymes with the beginning of “ostrich”.
The “ti” sounds like “tea”.
“Nit” is pronounced like “neat”.
And the “sa” rhymes with “duh”.

So: gos – tea – neat -suh…But better to spell it, “Gostinitsa.” Hotel.

If you are headed over and didn’t have time to learn Russian, there are some online courses you can try of course. For now though, some more basics.

After you get to your hotel, you’ll soon be wanting to catch the Games. Here’s the main arenas and how to pronounce them. Also, bear in mind, The Games will be organized within two clusters, a coastal cluster in Sochi and a mountain cluster in Krasnaya Polyana. (KRAHS – nai – yah Pahl – YAH – nuh.)

“Bolshaya ledovaya arena” is the Big Ice-Rink, and the “Malaya ledovaya arena” is the Small ice Rink. Let’s look at the pronunciation:

“bahl – SHAI – yuh leh – DOH – vai -yuh ar – YEN – uh.” Practice saying it fast.
Meanwhile, the word “Malaya” is pronounced: “MAH – lai – uh.”

Speed Skating takes place at: “Konkabezhni Tsentr”

Figure Skating takes place in the “Ledovi Dvarets Sporta” (Lit: The Ice Palace of Sport.) The accent is on the “o”…Leh -DOH-vi Dvar-ETS.

If curling is your thing, you can catch all the heart-stopping action at the Arena For Curling, called “Arena Dlya Kurlinga”.

The Olympic Stadium itself also sounds very similar in Russian: “Olympiski Stadion”.

And the Main Olympic Village is called “Glavnaya Olympiskaya Derevniya.”

Sports like bobsledding and skiing take place in another main region, the Krasnaya Polyana.
For bobsledding, the main word you need is, “Bob-sleigh”. Say that to someone, and they’ll help you find the right place. And for ski events, you’ll want to know the word “Leezh-nee”. From that word, just add a little body language as to whether you ‘re interested in watching cross-country, or downhill.

Of course there will be brochures in English, but won’t you feel better knowing some of these words and using them when you’re there. It’ll be like your own form of participating in the games.

Oh, and one last word, after the sports are done for the night: Pivo (pronounced “PEE-vuh”) is the Russian word for beer.


Apartment Fire… Close Call

February 17th, 2010 by Mark No comments »

It started at around 1am. Dasha was in the bedroom sleeping, and I was in the main room finishing some work. That’s when I smelled the smoke. I open the door that leads to the little hallway, at the end of which is the apartment door — the only door out. The smoke in the hall hit me immediately. I coughed my way to the door and opened it.


Not good. I couldn’t see two feet. Back inside — close the door.

“Dasha, I’m sorry but you need to get up,” I said, as I pulled the blanket off her. “There’s a fire.”

She sat bolt upright. “Fire?!”

You could hear the yelling, now. A neighbor urging people to wake up and get out, get out!

No, this is definitely not good.

Dasha’s getting dressed and I look at myself…Yes, street clothes. Good idea. But looking back, that’s probably when we lost our chance to get out.

She scurried to the main door — “No, don’t open it, sweety,” I told her. “It’s bad.” She put her ear to the door, trying to hear what the people were yelling. “Fire,” she repeated. “That lady is saying get out. Mark, what do we do?”

You don’t find yourself in many situations like this in life. The mind moves fast. “Can you get me the towels your mom gave us, honey? The thick ones.”


“Soak them good in water and put them at the base of the door.” While she did that, I started packing the essentials: Passport, money, laptop, medicines. It’s funny the things you grab when you have only thirty seconds to pack. For some reason, I grabbed all the pens on my desk and stuffed them in the bag. I guess I figured good writing utensils were hard to come by in Ukraine.

Bag packed, I headed to the balcony. I looked down: twenty feet to the pavement. You don’t realize how high up you are until you contemplate jumping. A fall this high, you’re lucky if you only break your legs. Jumping was going to be an option of last resort.

2floors up
Dasha joined me on the balcony. She needed the fresh air. I peeked back into the main room and noticed she’d also put wet towels by that door, too. Good girl.

That’s when the power went out.

BOOM — total darkness. That was one of the worst feelings, because Dasha truly was terrified. People are screaming, the place is filling with smoke, and now it was dead black inside the apartment. The heart rate triples. Fight or flight.

I knew Dasha had my phone, because she tried calling the fire department while she was dressing — but alas you can only call from a land-line. But I wanted the phone as a makeshift flashlight…”Dash, use my phone. It makes light.”

She fumbled with it. Panicking. “It’s not working! It won’t turn on!” The darkness was crushing her. She was crying, now.

“Let me try?” I asked, as calmly as possible. I turned my phone on, and finally we could see a bit. “Candles, honey. The ones my mom gave us. Where are they?”

“In the kitchen. Above the stove to the left.”

“Ok. Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

I took a last breath of fresh balcony air, opened the door to the hall — phoo, smokey! It was that stinky, industrial smoke. I hurried to the kitchen, and grabbed the candles and a box of matches. Wait! The flashlight. It was in one of my jacket pockets. As I searched for it there by the apartment door, I listened, too. It worried me that there were no sounds in the stairwell. I suspected no one was leaving because no one could leave.

I joined Dasha back on the balcony and gave her the task of lighting the two candles. I think giving her something to do took her mind off the fear. A little.

“Next, sweety, I need some thin towels. Are there any in the bedroom closet?”

“Yes.” She went to get them.

I took one from her and turned on the flashlight. “I’m going to see how far I can get down the stairs. Do you remember how many flights of stairs to go down? Three flights, or just two?” I know — I’ve been living in this apartment for a year, I should know whether there are two flights of stairs or three. But I guess I was panicking a bit, too. And I wanted to be sure. She closed her eyes and counted. “Three.”

Damnit. “Ok. I”ll be right back sweety.”

“No!” She was crying freely, now. It hurt to look at, let me tell you. I hugged her tight and assured her everything was going to be fine.

I put the thin kitchen towel over my mouth, opened the apartment door and stepped out. The flashlight penetrated maybe two feet into the smoke. I couldn’t see my own feet, and had to guess where the steps were. I took a step to the left, to the stairs, and was swallowed by the haze. Could I hold my breath and make it down? Three flights? How was I going to hold the rag over my mouth, hold the flashlight, and hold the railing, too?

I hurried back inside.

Shit. This could be a problem.

Before heading to the balcony, I zipped into the kitchen and opened the windows there. At least get as much clean air into the apartment as possible. I wasn’t really worried about the smoke, because leaning out the balcony, there air was fine. But Dasha learned from the people yelling outside that the fire was in the basement — two floors below us. People saw flames. And if the flames came up…
We needed another way out.

“Sweety? I know we have lots of different sheets. Can you find me the two longest ones?”

“Yes, I know which ones.”

I can’t believe I was even considering such a move. Tying together bedsheets? Does that even work? But at the moment, I liked the idea a whole lot better than jumping. Dasha did, too, judging from how quickly she found them. “Help me make a knot.”
sheets and radiator
After we tied the two sheets together, I tested them. “Pull as hard as you can, Dasha. Stand by the bed in case they untie.” But they didn’t. I doubt we had 200 lbs of pressure on those things — no where close to my body weight, in other words — but it was something. Luckily, below the bedroom window there’s one of those archaic solid iron radiators they still use here to heat apartments. That’s where I tied one end. Then I unraveled the rest out the window. The bottom sheet dangled maybe six feet above the pavement. It would be good enough. If it came to it, we’d toss the mattress out the window as a cushion.

“Mark, I don’t think I can climb down. My arms are weak. What if I fall?”

“We’ll tie a second one around your waist, ok? If the knot slips on one, the other will hold you. It’s not far. You’ll go fast.”

And there we waited, sitting on the bedroom floor, huddled under a blanket. It wasn’t that cold, especially considering it’s the middle of February, but the worry makes you cold, I guess.

In the end, the fire department showed up and we were able to get out — down the stairs — at about 4 am.

And what I learned from this? Be prepared. Have a plan, and have a backup plan. Keep fresh batteries and water in the house. And don’t panic.