Friday, September 24, 2010

7 Russian Words that are Fun to Roll off Your Tongue

As you may know, the national language of Ukraine is actually Ukrainian. Russian was the official language for over a century, many Ukrainians still speak Russian, especially the older generation and the major cities such as Kyiv. Since Ukraine gained its independence in 1992, Ukrainian has been promoted as the national language across the country.

Ukraine's Independence day is on August 24th.
Every Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Ukraine will either be assigned to learn Russian or Ukrainian during Training. If you have prior Russian language experience, it is most likely that you will be assigned to learn Russian. I have no prior Russian language experience, so I picked up a copy of Rosetta Stone in Russian (a Ukrainian version is not available yet). I've been trying to learn some basic conversational Russian from Rosetta Stone, and so far I've just finished Unit 2, lesson 2 of level 1. I've learned a lot of basic household nouns like random foods and a smattering of other random things that might be useful like the numbers 0-12, the colors, and some family words (parents, mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, etc). Once I get to Ukraine next week, there will be an informal language interview that determines whether I am placed in a Russian or Ukrainian language learning group.

In response to Bianca's blog challenge to me earlier this week, I've come up with a list of 7 Russian words that are fun to roll off your tongue. If you are a student of Russian or a native speaker, please pardon my creative transliterations (I was never any good at pingyin). Here they are the 7 words, in no particular order:

  • бутерброд (boot-ter-brod): sandwich
Rolling the double r's in this word was like a tongue twister when I first learned it, especially since I'm not great at rolling my r's (3 years of Spanish classes didn't help much with that).

  • хлеб (huleb): bread
This word is interesting because I've found that you have to say it really quickly, otherwise Rosetta Stone gives you the voice recognition fail noise. And for some reason, it reminds me of saying the word tulip.

  • яблока (ya-bla-ka): apple
Say it three times fast - yablaka, yablaka, yablaka! It just sounds so playful. This word is very similar to the Russian word for dog - собака (sabaka).

  • велосипед (vil-lo-sih-pee-ed): bicycle
This word probably has the most syllables of all the Russian words that I've learned so far... and I think it took me a few days before I could say it confidently enough to pass the Rosetta Stone voice recognition thing for this word. 

  • рыба (riba): fish
I've found that words that begin with the rolled r sound are easier for me to pronounce if I add a little ah sound before the r, thus this word becomes arriba! And Rosetta Stone's voice recognition seems to find that pronunciation of fish just fine :P

  • шляпа (schleppa): a fedora-style hat
I just like saying this word... and don't really have a good reason why. Schleppa!

  • их (ni-gh): their
This word is hard to transliterate, it basically sounds like "ni" with a little bit of an h sound added to the end to make it sound more guttural. I like saying this word because it reminds me of the Knights of Neep, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

With all the random words in my Russian vocabulary, I'm still working on how to put these nouns and things together in complete sentences and still struggling with the pronunciation on some of the words. Good thing I have a few extra days to practice before I'm totally immersed in the language in Ukraine!


Bi said...

"I would like bread, apple, and fish on my sandwich, please. I will bicycle away with my sandwich and wear my fedora hat in the rain!"

There, now you have two whole sentences you can use, hahaha!

I'm studying to take the GRE, and I hate to say this but some of the English vocab words I am learning look about the same as the Russian ones on your post. Ugh!

Keysmonaut said...

I love these! Right now my favorite Ukrainian word is "Sh-cho?" for "What?" I have a feeling I'm going to use it quite often...

Alexander Woodall said...

It's common in Slovak languages to space a random "ah" sound between words or thoughts, and Их Is pronounced like ikh or eekh not with n, that just depends on the context it's being used but it will be spelled like Них instead like с них means "with them"

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