Here are some words/phrases. Please let me know what other words/phrases I can add.
Please keep in mind -- Russian words are below are transliterations, Russian language uses Cyrillic characters -- see the link below.
Formal "hello" -- "zdrastvuite"
Informal "hello" -- "privet"
"thank you" -- "spasibo"
"sorry" -- "izvinite"
"you're welcome" or "please" -- "pozhalusta"
"how are you" -- "kak dela"
"my name is" -- "menya zovut"
"what is your name" -- "kak vas zovut"
"nice to meet you" -- "priyatno poznakomitsa"
"I" or "I am" -- "ya"
"how much does it cost" -- "skolko eto stoit"
"tell me please" -- "skazhite pozhalusta"
"what time is it" -- "kotoriy chas"
When travelling to Russia be prepared that almost everything is only written in cyrillic letters.
Only at airports, a few main train stations and the main sights you will find some English translations.
The metro for example doesn't have any English translations. Apart from that not many people speak English.
So when you are travelling without a guided group it is highly recommended to at least be able to read the cyrillic letters. It is helpful to know a few Russian words:
Thank you = spassibo
Please = poshalsta
Good day = sdraswstwujtje
Entrance = wchod
Exit = wychod
Beer = pivo
Abbreviations, the pest of the 20th century, can make any Russian confused, let alone an unsuspicious guest of the country.
For example, GAZ which may soon snap a chunk of your General Motors has little to do with Gazprom and its gas. GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod) stands for the Gorky automobile factory since 1932 and has acquired a neighbour and rival in AvtoVAZ (Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod) since 1970.
Both are located on the Volga River, but contrary to any logic it was GAZ in Nizhny Novgorod that had developed the Volga make, while VAZ makes what you know as Lada. The original name ‘Zhiguli’ which was deemed to complicated for the ears of foreign buyers, refers to the hills on the river’s right bank. It now is more often associated with the local beer brand. By the way, ‘Lada’ is ‘sweetheart’ in Old Russian – did you know that?
One may expect that MAZ is an automobile factory in Moscow, but this is not so, it is in Minsk, Belarus, they make heavy-duty lorries there. I am not an expert in commercial vehicles, but Belarusian dairy products are really good.
AZLK in Moscow (Avtomobilny Zavod Leninskogo Komsomola) – Automobile factory named after the Young Communist League, named, in its turn, after Vladimir Ilyich Lenin – that’s tough, folks! - makes, unless it files for bankruptcy in the nearest future, Moskvich (Muscovite) cars since 1930. That is, Moskvich is a he-Muscovite, while Moskvichka (she-Muscovite) is a network of shopping-centres – typical male chauvinism!
The other automobile factory in Moscow and the oldest in the country, as far as I know, is ZIL (Zavod imeni Likhacheva) – The Factory named after Ivan Likhachev, its first director. Yes, it’s the one that used to make Politbureau limousines, but also fridges for ordinary folks – my grandparents had one.
Will try to find more photos, too.
Zil photo - http://www.amo-zil.ru/company/history.htm
Some languages have a soft spot that make them pretty tricky to master: a consonant pronounced ‘softly' can make a very different notion – compare the lively French ‘belle’ and the down-to-earth Anglo-Saxon ‘bell’.
Maxim Gor’ky the writer is the example of that soft ‘R’ - and the city on the Volga now under its old name Nizhni Novgorod, and the cruise ship where your Ronnie and our Gorby had dined and changed the world, and, of course, the amusement park in Moscow which has neither spies, nor, frankly, much of an amusement.
Gorky with the hard ‘R’ is a most frequent geographic name, derived from ‘gorka’ (a tiny hill), which makes a typical Russian countryside. One such Gorky village became home to Lenin, the leader and the first prime-minister of the Soviet Russia in 1918, today it’s a museum.
When you ask the directions to ‘the Gor-ky’ museum, be sure you know which one you need, they are miles apart.
Everyone knows you should speak a little bit of Russian if you go to Russia. But if you don't... These are my observations. I found there are a few people there who speak English to one degree or another, but in all likelihood they won't be able to carry on a conversation. Managing simple transactions should be possible if there is a bit of patience. I expected German to be more widely spoken in Moscow, but generally found English to be more prevalent. My German is fairly good, but the German I heard from Russians tended to be quite poor, and often so heavily accented that it was nearly unintelligible. German speakers will be able to use their German, but the expectation should be that German will be used at or below the level of English. The single person I encountered who spoke Italian was completely incomprehensible. I encountered one French speaker who had not had an opportunity to speak any French at all, and I recall seeing a single menu and less than a dozen signs of any sort in French.
My (Japanese) wife, was asked, via a Russian speaking Australian, by a mall security guard in the GUM to translate for a Chinese for a man who had gotten separated from his tour. She wasn't able to do this, but from what she related, they were looking all over for a Chinese speaker, so my guess that Chinese is a no-go for a second language, too.
Those are my observations as nearly as I can observe. One helpful hint I found, was to know the name of the languages you do speak in Russian, because even if the person you are speaking to doesn't speak the language, they might have another person nearby who does. Angliski, Nyemenski, Yetalianski, Gollandski etc.
I'm sure many others have mentioned this before, but... anyone travelling to Russia should try to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. All signs, including place names, station names, street names etc. are in Cyrillic so it's essential if you want to know where you're going.
While it's quite a difficult language, it also goes a long way if you try to learn some of the basics. Greetings, how to ask for directions, how to order things etc. While most of the younger generation, especially in the cities, speak English - if you're venturing further afield or travelling without a local to guide or assist you, then it's advisable that you know the rudiments.
In addition to the benefits of knowing where you're going, making an effort to speak Russian will be appreciated.
I have attended a couple of courses, but still...I cannot say almost anything!!! The fact is that the language is sooo difficult! But at the same time it's fascinating, and the most fascinating and exotic thing is the cyrillic alphabet. ;) You might think it is difficult to learn, but it's not at all! It takes some days.....and believe me, it's the easiest part of learning Russian!!
In the picture you see the Russian alphabet with a brief explanation of how to read each sound.
Baltika beer is the best brand in Russia. Brewed in St.Petersburg, I believe, it is known pretty much everywhere. The beauty of Baltika, apart from the competitive pricing, is the variety of Baltika beers available.
They range from Baltika 1 (mild, almost non-alcoholic), to Baltika 9 which I think they use as fuel for the Sputnik missions. Baltika 3 (the blue tab) is the poison of choice. Many a good evening in Moscow started with a humble Baltika 3 in hand walking down the escalators in the Metro on the way to Kitai Gorod.
If you dont speak any Russian like me you will find it very difficult to communicate with people unless you are staying in a hotel that has English speaking people, fortunatly I had my friends who speak Russian but other than that it is very difficult to understand anythign as the language has a completely different alphabet.
I advise that you get hold of a loney planet guide and jot down the phrases that they suggest to you. All I can say is da - yes, necht - no and thank you - spa see ba - thank you !
I found Russians were flattered if a foreigner even tried to speak the native language. The thing I gathered from the then-Soviet people is that they felt hated by the rest of the world and could not understand why. So when an American came to visit and even tried to communicate in Russian, people were very considerate and patient.
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