10 interesting facts about the Russian language

Grant Robinson
Grant Robinson
R
Russian is the 8th most-spoken language in the world and one of the official languages of the UN. It has a unique script and grammatical rules that need to be understood to successfully convey your brand message.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

THE RUSSIAN LANGUAGE

As more parts of the world move their business ventures into the digital space, new markets are constantly opening up. Russia has a population in excess of 170 million people, with over 100 million already online. This massive e-marketplace has a lot of potential, but it requires a finessed hand to successfully target. Not only will your website and content need to be translated; it must be localised as well in order to successfully navigate linguistic and cultural barriers. For the marketer looking to tap into this burgeoning marketplace, Yuqo offers professional translation and localisation services into Russian.

Perhaps just as intriguing as Russia’s e-commerce potential is its distinct language. It is very unlike Western European Romance languages, which are based in Latin. Russia has twice as many vowels and some extra consonants that give it a unique melody all its own. Here are 10 facts about Russian to get intrigued.

 

1. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE TOTO

The Russian script is called Cyrillic or azbuka. The letters are entirely novel to Russian and other languages across Eurasia. It was developed in the 9th century AD, during the First Bulgarian Empire. Over 252 million people across Eurasia use Cyrillic, and it became the third recognised script of the European Union in 2007.

 

 

2. A-Z, AND THEN SOME

The Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters. 10 vowels, 21 consonants, and 2 which have no sound. It can be written in capitals, lowercase, and Cyrillic cursive. The vowels have 5 sounds and are written with different letters depending on whether they follow a hard consonant or a soft consonant. The vowel actually indicates whether the preceding consonant is hard or soft.

 

3. BLUE, BLUE, AND BLUE

The Russian language has more expressions for shades of blue than other dialects. It splits the descriptions into light shades—голубой, and dark shades—синий. Russian eyes aren’t better at distinguishing shades of blue, but their language is more adept at expressing them. This is particularly interesting as some languages don’t even differentiate between blue and green.

 

4. RUSSIAN IS THE LANGUAGE OF SPACE

If you want to become an astronaut, you will need to learn to speak Russian. Russian is known as the language of space. Outside of NASA, the Russian space agency Roscosmos is the largest in the world. Astronauts need to hitch a ride on the Soyuz docking craft to get to the ISS, where half of the components and systems aboard are in Russian.

 

Russian is known as the language of space.

 

5. LOTS OF PEOPLE SPEAK RUSSIAN

Russian is the 8th most-spoken language in the world. 170 million natives speak it, as well as another 130 million from former republics of the defunct Soviet Union. It is one of the three Eastern Slavic languages, the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian. There are over 100 minor languages spoken is Russia also. These include Tartar, Chechen, Chuvash, Bashir, and Mordvin.

 

6. SAYING NO TO THE A

Native Russian words generally don’t begin with the letter A/a. When Old Russian was transformed into modern Russian, a number of phonetic changes occurred. Words beginning with A/a were prefixed with the sound “й”. When a word does begin in A/a (and there are quite a few at the beginning of the dictionary), they are usually appropriated words from other Western languages, and are often nouns. Words with Asian origins often represent objects.

 

7. NAMES VARY WITH GENDER

Russian surnames change according to gender. The body of the name remains the same, but a gender-specific suffix is added. Russian names consist of a first name and a patronymic name. The suffix “ovich” is added for boys and “ovna” for girls. So, if Mr Ivan had a son, his last name would be Ivanovich; if he had a daughter, it would be Ivanova.

 

8. DON’T STRESS TOO MUCH

Similar to many East Asian languages, the stress patterns on Russian words can radically change their meaning. The word “я плачу” has the second syllable stressed and means “I am paying”. Whereas the word “я плáчу” has the first syllable stressed and means “I am crying”.

 

Russian surnames change according to gender.

 

9. USED AT THE UN

Russian is one of the six official languages used at the United Nations. The others are Chinese, Spanish, French, Arabic, and English. Arabic was added by special request, and the others are the languages of the founding nations.

 

10. DON’T BE SO TENSE

When speaking Russian, there is no future tense and first person together. The verbs do not have a future form. For instance, one would not say, as in English, “I will win”. Instead, you would say, “I will be the winner”.

 

CONSIDERING THE RUSSIAN MARKETPLACE

The Russian population is discovering the joys of online shopping. Runet, the Russian-speaking internet, has over 100 million subscribers and is certainly worth focussing on.