Friday, January 1, 2016

Q&A: How To Memorize Russian Alphabet

Hey so I was recommended to you about Russian alphabet learning tips and such. I'm trying to learn Russian and the alphabet is just giving me a lot of trouble, I've tried flashcards but they just don't work with me. Do you know of anything else?
First, I would suggest to draw all the 33 letters - each on a separate sheet of paper (half or quarter of a letter size sheet should be fine). While drawing, you’ll learn how the letters are built - it’s a very good, deep practice! And it is fun.

Then divide the letters into the following groups:
  1. Very similar in Russian and English (A, O, T, M, K, E)
  2. Specifically Russian letters; they look exotic and represent unique sounds or the ones that are made up of a combination of letters in English (Ы, Ц, Ш, Щ, Ж, Ч, Я, Ю, Ё)
  3. Look different, but sound familiar (Г, З, Ф, П, Л, Д, Э, Й, И, Б)
  4. Look familiar , but sound differently (У, Н, Х, В, Р, С)
  5. Mute letters (ъ, ь)
Now when you have the letters grouped, take a look at each group and figure out, which one gives you the most troubles. Focus on this group, learn about the history of some particularly difficult letters (it may help you to understand “the personality” of those letters). I would bet, the 3 and 4 are the most confusing, right? It is approximately ½ of the alphabet, which means another half is almost done!

Practice more with the letters that confuse you by memorizing Russian words for the international vocabulary, such as:
Банк, танк, Интернет, компьютер etc.
You wouldn’t need to memorize new words - just the letters in those words. Little by little, you’ll internalize the alphabet and start reading.

Writing letters and words by hand is extremely helpful - you’ll involve more of the neuron chains for that than when simply typing, and memorizing will go easier.
Here are a few links that you might find helpful:

- Russian alphabet at Russian For Everyone
- Reading practice at
- A special Russian Alphabet course at Memrise
- A slide show I created for my students
- Global Logos written with Russian letters

I don’t know for how long and how intensive you’ve been trying to learn the Russian alphabet, but I want to tell you one thing: it is okay if, after months of training, you still confuse some Russian letters from time to time. My students sometimes confuse some letters that look similar - л (L) and п(P), Latin B and Russian В etc. It’s fine! It should not discourage you from learning!

And, finally, consider these bookmarks. Visual aid really works, proved by my students.

Good luck!

Photo by Steven Mueller