Russian Day 1

I feel like I should give a more serious push for Russian. I’ve been taking a course on Memrise and I guess I can speak a lot, but I really want to reach fluency, so I’ll be trying to reach that in five to six months. And I guess I can help some people out too by doing this. Let’s start, shall we?

So Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, which was created by Cyril and Methodius. To simplify this, I’ll make a phonetic transcription for each word.

Ok, so let’s start with some greetings.

Привет [priv-jet’] - hello.

Note: I will be writing this in IPA and should there be any parts which one normal person can’t understand, I shall explain it. Here, the [j] is pronounced as a “y” like in “yellow.” Also, the “r” in Russian is rolled, but you probably already knew that.

Imagine a child in his room with his pet turtle and his mom suddenly comes to him and greets the turtle, and the child says: “Not yet mom! He needs his privacy!” 

как дела [kak’ dje-la’] - how are you? 

Note: the apostrophe marks the stress. Russians are big bullies and they want to see us suffer so they thought of making the stress pattern irregular. Thanks a lot, Russia.

This phrase is actually a shortened form of как твои дела [kak’ t-voj dje-la] which means how are your things. I feel like this has some communist influence, though I might be wrong.

Now we can say, «привет, как дела?» to ourselves, since we don’t have any friends. Anyway, we’d also want to say “I’m fine” since, you know, you’ll never know when a Russian guy steps into your home and asks you how your things are, and you’ll never know if he’s your soul-mate or some stalker who’s been at you since the Russian-Ukrainian war. Anyway, to say this we go:

я хорошо [ja’ xɐ-ra-ɕo] - I’m well. 

Note: the “x” and the “ɕ“ sounds are ones we don’t have in English. For the “x” sound, position your mouth kind of like a “k” and blow air out like a fricative. The ɕ sound is basically like a normal “sh” in “shin” but more frontal. The “ɐ“ sound is like the one in father, except that it isn’t stressed at all. You might have noticed that the “o”s here are being pronounced as “a”s. Rule of thumb, only pronounce “o”s when they’re stressed. You can get some reference for the x and ɕ sounds here and here

Enough of that. Now, let’s explain some stuff here. «Я» [ja’] here means “I” and «хорошо» means well, so really, you’re saying “I well.” The “to be” verb in the present tense is implied, as with many languages. 

A ты? [a’ ty’] - and you? 

Note: y is pronounced…. weirdly. Say the “i” in pin and kind of… pucker your lips. If you’re Swedish, the sound is kind of like the “y” in kyckling. 

Now here’s the confusing part, in Russian, there are two ways to say “and.” «A» and «и». You use и when listing stuff and a while making a different statement. You won’t have to worry about this for now. 

So anyways, ты is the Russian word for “you.”

Now we can say:

Привет! Как дела?

Я хорошо! А ты?

Я хорошо.

Maybe Я хорошо will be our always.

- The Fault in Our Russian.

Okay, so now let’s go over some words to describe ourselves.

Автор [av’-tar] - author (think of the author of the Avatar series writing while holding some tar.)

Читатель [tɕi-ta’-tel] - reader (think of a library in a Citadel where a student cheats on his homework as the librarian yells for him to go quiet.)

Актёр [ak’-tjor] - actor 

Человек [tɕe-lo’-vjek] - man [Imagine a man on a balcony with a guitar and he’s serenading a wo/man named “Che” and he’s all like “Che! Oh, Che! I love ye!”

Женщина [ʑjen’-ɕi-na] - woman [Ms. Zhang has seen a woman before]

And some other words:

Очень [o’-tɕen] - very (Oh! His chin is very big!)

Но [no’] - but (But no, mom! I don’t want to go to bed!)

Спасибо [spa-si’-ba] - thanks (thanks for the tasty spacey bar!)

Он [on’] - he

Она [ana’] - she

And your first verb:

Гоборить [ga-va-ritʲ’] - to speak

Note: See that little “j” over the “t” there? That makes it palatal. Say the “y” in yellow and make a “t” with it. That should do the trick. 

Now, the first rule of the verb is to take out the “ть” and add the endings.
Я starts with a “y” sound, so the verb ends in a “y” syllable to.

That would be a: Я говорию [ya gavarju] but the “и” is already there in front of the “y” sound and it’s really useless, so we just remove it. So, it becomes: Я говорю. Easy peasey!

Rule of thumb: Russians don’t really like the “i” before a “y” sound, so if that’s so, just remove the “i” and keep the “y.”

So, now, let’s go to the 3rd POV. In English, that would be he, she and it. To conjugate the verb to this form, remember “it” in English and add it to the verb. Simple as that!
Он говорит [on gavarit]

Remember as well that if the stem (verb without the ть) ends in “и,” all you’ll need to add is “-т [t]”

Last, I cannot make a mnemonic or a memorization technique for this. Anyway, to change a verb to the 2nd POV singular form, “you” form, you add “-ish” to the end. Same rules apply as above.

Ты говоришь - you speak

Now we’re almost done. But what are verbs without something to affect?
Let’s put in a couple languages:

английский [aŋ-glis’-ki] - English

Note: “ŋ” is the “ng” sound in “gang”

русский [rus-ki] - Russian

французски [fran-tzus’-ki] - French

По- - in a way of…

The По- can be hard to explain. But, just remember you put it in front of a word to achieve the same effect of adding an “-ly” to the end of an adjective in English.


Я говорить по-русский

Ты говоришь по-английский

Она говорит по-французски

One last thing, all verbs ending in “ть“ follows the rules above. So, I’ll leave in some additional words:

Читать [tɕi-tatʲ] - to read

Любить [ljub-litʲ] - to like [turns into я люблю in the 1st person, but otherwise regular]

Книга [k-ni’-ga] -  book (singular, subject)

Книги [k-ni’-gi] - books (plural, subject)

Книгы [k-ni’-gji] - books (plural, direct object)

Kни́гу [k-ni’-gu] - book (singular, direct object)

And with this cliffhanger, I shall now leave. Goodbye and see you tomorrow!