Languages › Russian How to Learn the Russian Alphabet Share Flipboard Email Print izold / Getty Images Languages English as a Second Language Spanish French German Italian Japanese Mandarin Russian By Maia Nikitina Russian Language Expert M.F.A., Creative Writing, Manchester Metropolitan University Diploma in Translation (IoLet Level 7, Russian), Chartered Institute of Linguists our editorial process Twitter Twitter Maia Nikitina Updated January 10, 2020 The Russian alphabet is based on Cyrillic and Glagolitic scripts, which were developed from Byzantine Greek in order to facilitate the spread of Christianity during the 9th and 10th centuries. Some letters in the modern Russian alphabet look familiar to English speakers — Е, У, К, А — while other letters do not resemble any characters in the English alphabet. Russian Alphabet Sounds The Russian alphabet is relatively easy to learn thanks to its principle of one letter per sound. This principle means that most phonemes (sounds that convey meaning) are represented by their own letters. The spelling of Russian words typically reflects all of the sounds that are part of that word. (This will get more complicated when we move onto allophones—variations of possible pronunciations.) Get to know the Russian alphabet by studying all three columns below. The first column provides the Russian letter, the second column provides an approximate pronunciation (using English characters), and the third column gives an idea of what the letter sounds like, using an example from an English word. Russian Letter Pronunciation Closest English Sound А, a Ah or aah Far, lamb Б, б B Boy В, в V Vest Г, г Gh Guest Д, д D Door E, e Yeh Yes Ё, ё Yoh York Ж, ж Zh pleasure, beige З, з Z Zoo И, и E Meet Й, й Y Toy К, к K Kilo Л, л L Love М, м M Mop Н, н N No О, о O Morning П, п P Pony Р, р R (rolled) С, с S Song Т, т T Train У, у Ooh Boo Ф, ф F Fun Х, х H Loch Ц, ц Ts Ditzy Ч, ч Ch Cherish Ш, ш Sch Shhh Щ, щ Sh (softer than Ш) Shoe Ъ, ъ hard sign (non-vocalized) n/a Ы, ы Uhee no equivalent sound Ь, ь soft sign (non-vocalized) n/a Э, э Aeh Aerobics Ю, ю Yu You Я, я Ya Yard Once you have learned the Russian alphabet, you should be able to read most Russian words, even if you don’t know their meaning. Stressed and Unstressed Vowels The next step is to learn how Russian words are stressed, which simply means which vowel in the word is emphasized. Russian letters behave differently under stress and are pronounced more distinctly according to their alphabet sound. Unstressed vowels are reduced or merged. This difference is not reflected in the spelling of Russian words, which can be confusing to beginner learners. While there are several rules governing the way unstressed letters are pronounced, the easiest way to learn is to expand your vocabulary as much as possible, naturally acquiring a sense of stressed vowels along the way. Russian Vowels: Pronunciation and Usage How to Improve Your Russian Pronunciation 5 Tips to Make Learning Russian Easy What Does IPA Have to Do With the French Language? English Pronunciation: Does It Have Anything to Do With Spelling? Learn How to Pronounce Spanish Vowels Why That Squiggly Mark Over the Spanish Ñ? What Are Vowels and Vowel Sounds in English? What Makes Silent Letters So Tricky? Learn How to Pronounce the Greek Alphabet Rules for Latin Syllabification Learn How to Pronounce 2,500 Words With This French Audio Guide What Is the Most Common Vowel Sound in English Represented by ə? Everything You've Wanted To Know About the Spanish ‘E’ The 44 Sounds in the English Language for Spelling and Reading Do You Know How to Stress Syllables in English?