In Russia’s major cities, quite a lot of people (especially young people and those in customer service professions) speak English. However, it’s still very likely that you will find yourself in a situation where the person you’re talking to doesn’t know a word of English, especially if you’re traveling outside the big cities or off the beaten track. Here is a quick vocabulary guide to some of the words you need to know that will help you better connect with Russian culture during your travels.
- Don’t panic! Russian is notoriously difficult to remember and pronounce. Pick a few phrases and memorize them the best you can (or write them down). Most people will understand you even if you speak with a strong accent.
- I’ve listed both formal and informal versions of phrases. In Russia, it’s customary to address someone you don’t know using the formal versions, especially if they are older than you or in any customer service/public official situation.
- The stressed syllable is indicated by capital letters. E.g. In the word “PoZHAlusta” (please), the second syllable is stressed.
- The Russian “e” sound sounds more like the e sound at the end of the sound “ye”; it is not pronounced like in the English word “met” or “meet.”
- The Russian “g” sound is always hard (as in “garden” – not as in “vegetable”).
- If you see this symbol [‘] after a word, it means that you should soften the last consonant, as if you were going to add the letter “i” at the end of the word, but stop just short of it. For example with “den'”, imagine you were going to say “deni” but don’t actually pronounce the “i” sound, just the first half of it (this is not crucial to beginners’ pronunciation; you will likely be understood regardless).
Yes – Да (da)
No – Нет (nyet)
Please – Пожалуйста (poZHAlusta)
Thank you – Спасибо(spaSIbo)
You’re welcome – Не за что (ne za chto)
Enjoy (often used instead of “you’re welcome” for food) – На здоровье (na zdaROVye)
Excuse me – Прошу прощения (proSHU proSCHEniya)
I’m sorry – Извините (izviNIte)
I don’t understand. – Я не понимаю. (ya ne poniMAyu)
I don’t speak Russian. – Я не говорю по-Русски. (ya ne govorU po RUSski)
Do you speak English? – Вы говорите по-Английски? (vi govoRIte po angLIYski?)
Help me, please. – Помогите, пожалуйста. (pomoGIte poZHAlusta)
Where is the bathroom? – Где туалет? (gde tuaLET?)
One ticket (please). – Один билет (пожалуйста). (oDIN biLYET (poZHAlusta))
Greetings & Small Talk
Hello (formal)! – Здравствуйте! (ZDRAstvuyte)
Hello (informal)! – Привет! (priVET)
Good morning. – Доброе утро. (dObroye Utro)
Good afternoon. – Добрый день. (dObriy den’)
Good evening. – Добрый вечер.(dObriy VEcher)
How are you? – Как дела? (kak deLA?)
I’m fine, thank you. – Хорошо, спасибо. (haraSHO, spaSIbo)
I’m ok, thank you. – Неплохо, спасибо. (nePLOho, spaSIbo)
What’s your (formal/informal) name? – Как вас/тебя зовут? (kak vas/teBYA zoVUT?)
My name is … – Меня зовут … (meNYA zoVUT…)
It’s nice to meet you. – Приятно познакомиться. (priYATno poznaKOmitsa)
Goodbye. – До свидания. (do sviDAniya)
Good night. – Доброй ночи. (DObroi NOchi)
Until next time – До встречи (do VSTREchi)
Where is…? – Где …? (Gde…?)
Where is the metro? – Где метро? (gde meTRO?)
Where is the bus? – Где автобус? (gde avTObus?)
Is it far? – Это далеко? (eto daleKO?)