русский язык

А Б В Г Д Е Ж ...

...I am trying to learn Russian... casually. The first step, of course, is learning the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

I love this kind of stuff. It was a lot of fun with Devanagari (
देवनागरी), and I'm enjoying it so far with Cyrillic. (Damn, even pasting that Devanagari text in there has me wishing I spent more time with it. It's a way-cool writing system... until you get to the blasted ligatures...)

It's a bit tricky for the English-writer, though. For example, some letters are the same (
А), some are similar (Б is like our 'B'), others are new (Ж is 'zh')... all well and good. But then there are letters that we use that sound different, like В, which is actually a v-sound! Makes the brain work a little harder.

There's a neat application out there that lets you type some of the Russian letters on the keyboard to hear them, if you're interested...

And, Victor, since you're reading this... I don't know if you recall a conversation we had where I was saying Russian has a cool vowel that's high in the center of the mouth, which English speakers have a really hard time with? It's
Ы. Most people say it's like the i in 'bit', "but further back in the mouth"... which is kind of accurate, but a bit misleading.

До свидания


Victor said...

Yup, that's the one... The fun word to have a native English speaker pronounce is 'лыжи' (skis). The second vowel is also pronounces as 'ы', even though it's 'и'.

The alphabet is the easy part. it's the grammar that's hard. in Russian, you can combine together prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and endings in countless ways to give many different shades of meaning. For example, the word 'прохаживалась' roughly means 'she used to walk by periodically without putting much effort into it'.

The simple concepts take longer to express than in English, but you get all this subtlety and richness of meaning for free.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Russian sounds like a really fun language.

Long ago, when I was learning Swedish, I was told that one of the sounds (a strange 3-letter cluster) can't be made unless you started speaking the language as a child... without speaking it as a kid you wouldn't end up with your nasal cavity shaped right to speak it as an adult. Don't know how true that was, but after my classes and the month in Sweden I still couldn't pronounce it. "Sjo" (with 2 umlauts over the O). It's pronounced sort of like... umm... I guess like "hywoou" if that were something you ever pronounced, but coming simultaneously from the top of your nose and the back of your throat. Gives me headaches just trying it, but it does clean out the sinuses at least.

What Silence said...

A co-worker is named Sjoberg. He pronounces it "SHOW-berg". Perhaps I'll ask him about it sometime.

What Silence said...

The sound r_b_b is talking about is the Voiceless palatal-velar fricative. It's actually somewhat of a disputed sound among linguists, in terms of how it is articulated.

Interesting stuff. I'm glad he mentioned it. ; )