Did you know that there are thirty-three wonderful, tricky little letters in the Russian alphabet?
There are letters that are the same in Cyrillic as the Latin alphabet: а, е, and о. There are letters that look the same as their Latin counterparts, but have different meanings in Russian: р (r) and н (n). There are the ones that are pretty much indistinguishable to the non-Russian ear: ш (sh) and щ (sch). There are those that are super tricky for the unfortunate foreigner to pronounce: ю (a soft yu) and ы (an “ee” sound somewhere around the back of your throat). There are even those ones that don’t have their own sound: ь (soft sign) and ъ (hard sign).
Don’t even get me started on written Russian, where the favored cursive script totally changes the game.
Despite all of this madness, I really do like the Russian language. Russian is such a far departure from the Latin-based languages that it’s really a challenge to even come close to being passable in it, but that’s half the fun. I guess that makes me a linguistic masochist. I’d feel bad but I know there are lots of others like me. Right? Right?
I’m going to go with yes. In celebration of the torturous Russian alphabet and language masochists everywhere, here’s a little test. Can you decipher any parts of these Russian signs? I’ll even start you off with an easy one:
OK, how about this one? Anything readable to you?
And how about this? (Just the first line — the rest is not Russian and a bit tricky!)
I’ll offer up some small prize (a postcard? Russian candy bar? my undying love?) to anyone who can decipher these signs first. RUSSIANS AND RUSSIAN SPEAKERS, SHHH! Instead, share an interesting Russian word that everyone should know. I’ll start: достопримечательность (dostoprimechatelnost): attraction, place of interest.