July 2, 2009 | Russian

Early Hurdles

I confront the Russian alphabet. Or rather, it confronts me.

This morning I realized that, although I was now fairly well set up with Russian books, a Russian dictionary, and Russian CDs, I was missing something critical, and that thing was: Russian TV. Therefore, the day began with a call to my local cable company, Time Warner.

Such calls I generally consider to be among life’s most unpleasant tasks, but by the end of the conversation, which, although uninformative and confusing, was surprisingly not hideous, I had signed up for $30 of Russian channels, five total. It is not cheap to dedicate yourself to Russian television. To make sure I was getting my money’s worth, I promptly began watching it.

Naturally, I couldn’t understand a word. Which replicated my experience with my print materials.

Russian Books for Rent, New York Public Library

When I opened those great books I got yesterday, they went straight into Russian grammar. I looked at the exercises and couldn’t read a word. Before I would be able to do anything, I needed to go more basic, a lot more basic, and learn the alphabet. Here is what I am up against:

А а    Б б    В в    Г г    Д д    Е е    Ё ë    Ж ж

З з    И и    Й й    К к    Л л    М м    Н н    О о

П п    Р р    С с    Т т    У у    Ф ф    Х х    Ц ц 

Ч ч    Ш ш    Щ щ    Ъ ъ    Ы ы    Ь ь    Э э

Ю ю    Я я

Russian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, has 33 characters. And for each letter, there is a capital as well as a lower-case version.

Fortunately, many of the lower-case letters are just mini-versions of the capitals. Still, that’s a lot of letters!

Comments (3)

Katherine • Posted on Tue, May 18, 2010 - 4:39 pm EST

This may be a terrible idea, but if you don’t want to pay for Russian television I have a suggestion.  There is a Russian reality TV show called House 2 (Дом 2) about singles in their 20’s living in a big house and trying to find love.  It’s as ridiculous as any other reality show, but, it has a pretty comprehensive website with clips from the show and also a small description of what happened in the clips in case you don’t understand what is going on.  If you can tolerate, it is a good place to find some unusual vocab for free.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, May 19, 2010 - 11:39 pm EST

On the contrary, this is a great idea. I should try to find things like this online for other languages. Thank you!

Mike • Posted on Thu, July 02, 2015 - 2:42 am EST

I know it has been years, but another good Russian TV program you can find on Youtube is Воронены, which is in essences Everybody Loves Raymond, but in Russian. Same episodes, same characters. Much easier to follow along with, even with some of the colloquialisms, than Dom-2.

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