July 16, 2009 | Russian
Learning the alphabet all over again ain't easy.
One big challenge for me in Russian: there are five different letters that look like the letter b in English.
Here they are, in capital-letter form:
- Б – This sounds like the English language b. Confusingly, the lower-case version looks a lot like the number 6.
- В – This sounds like the English v. I constantly mess it up and pronounce it as a b.
- Ъ – This is known as the hard sign. It doesn’t make a sound. I am still trying to figure it out. The explanations I’ve read haven’t helped.
- Ы – Incredibly, this is a vowel. I don’t really understand yet how to pronounce it, but what I am hearing on Pimsleur reminds me of the sound made by the äu in the German noun Häuschen (little house). Or the oy in “boy,” though I haven’t seen any explanations of it in print that compare it to such a sound.
- Ь – This is called the soft sign. It doesn’t have its own sound, but it apparently tells you to “soften” the preceding consonant. I might be getting this right about 3 or 4 percent of the time.
In spite of eye strain, headaches, torturous dreams, and alphabet travails, I am really becoming attached to Russian. I feel quite fond of it.