ECTACO Info: The Russian Alphabet

Electronic dictionary and translators.

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The Russian alphabet is derived from the Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced si-'ri-lik). In turn, the Cyrillic alphabet was developed at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire in the 9th century. It was later formalized by a Greek monk St. Cyril. The contemporary Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, some of which were borrowed from Greek and Hebrew.
You will find it relatively easy to get started with the Cyrillic alphabet because many letters remind those in English. There are six exact sound and look-alikes (A, E, K, M, O, T) while many other Russian letters are similar to their English counterparts by either how they look or sound. However, keep in mind that Russian and English sounds are never absolutely identical and only constant practice will help you acquire the perfect Russian accent.
The Russian alphabet is traditionally listed in the order from A to Я as shown here. To help you learn the alphabet faster, we have grouped the letters by look and sound and compared them with their English counterparts below.

Group 1: Same look and sound as in English

There are six Russian letters that match their English counterparts by both pronunciation and form -- A, E, K, M, O and T.
А аsounds like "a" in after, ask. In pronouncing this sound, the mouth is open a bit wider as compared to English
Е еsounds either like "ye" in yes or like "e" as in ebony . It is pronounced with preceding y in the beginning of a word or after a vowel.
К кsounds like "k" in kite, making, like. Try to avoid the puff of air after the sound typical for the English language.
М мsounds like "m" in mobile, dome.
О оsounds like "o" in more (without the 'r' sound). Try protruding and rounding your lips a bit more than you do in English.
In unstressed positions, this letter sounds like "u" in under, but more lax.
Т тsounds like "t" in task, tardy. The tip of the tongue touches the lower teeth, as opposed the upper gum ridge in English.

Group 2: Sound-alikes but different look

There are sixteen Russian letters that do not exist in English but have familiar pronunciation. The include Б, Г, Д, ё, Ж, П, Ф, И, й, Л, Ц, Ш, Щ, Э, Ю and Я.
Б бsounds like "b" in buy, blue. Try to avoid a puff of air after the sound typical in the English language.
Г гsounds like "g" in get, guard.
Д дsounds like d in double, did. In pronouncing this letter, the tip of the tongue touches the lower teeth.
Ё ёsounds like "yo" in York or like "o" in copy, obvious depending on the position in a word.
Ж жsounds like "s" in usual, pleasure.
П пsounds like "p" in compassion. Try to avoid a puff of unvoiced air after the sound as typical for the English language.
Ф фsounds like "f" in fasten, fact.
И иsounds like "ee" in free, meet.
Й йsounds like "y" in oyster, soy.
Л лsounds like "l" in lock, chill.
Ц цsounds like "ts" in that's.
Ш шsounds like "sh" in ship, crush but with the tongue farther back in the mouth
Щ щsounds like "shsh" in rush-ship. When pronouncing it, try to place your tongue higher and more forward in the mouth than in English.
Э эsounds like "e" in ebony, edit. When pronouncing this sound, try opening the mouth a bit wider than you do in English.
Ю юsounds like the word "you" but faster. In some cases it sounds like "oo" in oodles
Я яsounds like "yu" in yummy. In some cases it sounds like "a" in after, ask.

Group 3: Look-alikes but different sound

The following eight Russian letters look like their English counterparts (or even digits) but have different pronunciation--В, З, Н, Р, С, У, Ч, Х.
В вsounds like "v" in voice, visit
З зsounds like "z" in zodiac. This letter might look like the number three (3) but it only conveys a sound and has nothing to do with digits.
Н нsounds like "n" in noon, nose. Like with the Russian letter T, the tip of the tongue touches the lower teeth when pronouncing this letter.
Р рsounds like "r" in "rest" but rolled.
С сsounds like "s" in sun, sale. Unlike in English, the tip of the tongue touches the lower teeth.
У уsounds like "oo" in oodles. This sound is pronounced shorter than in English, with lips more rounded and protruded.
Ч чsounds like "ch" in church, cheek. Do not confuse this letter with the number four (4).
Х хsounds like "ch" in loch when pronounced in Scottish manner. It remotely reminds "h" in hoopla.

Group 4: New look and sound (or no sound)

The last group includes letters that do not exist in English and either represent unfamiliar sounds or have no sound value (Ы, Ъ, Ь).
Ы ыNo English equivalent. To produce "Ы" sound, notice the positions of the tongue when pronouncing English sounds i as in kit and u as in sugar. Then place your tongue in between and emit a voiced sound.
--ЬThis letter is called the "soft sign" and has no sound value. It is used to modify the pronunciation of the preceding consonant by making it soft (palatalized). A consonant becomes soft when it is pronounced with the middle of the tongue raised towards the roof of the mouth.
--ЪThe "hard sign" has no sound value. It occurs only between a consonant and a vowel as in the word "въезд" (entry). It is used to show that the consonant should not be palatalized and that the consequent vowel is preceded by the the "y" sound as in yes.

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