How to read Cyrillic alphabet?

Updated: Jul 21

You can get basic skills in reading the Cyrillic alphabet quite quickly. Mastering it will not take a lot of time, too. 2-3 lessons will be enough to read street signs and brand names.


There are 33 letters in Cyrillic alphabet.


The good news about it is that every character is just one sound: there are almost no combinations like English SH or CH. Some of the characters are similar to Latin characters, others - to Greek, and some are typical for Cyrillic only.

Six letters are pronounced very similarly to their Latin equivalents:

А = [A] like in CAR

О = [O] like in TOP

E = [e] like in METRO

M = [M] like in MOSCOW

T = [T] like in TRAVEL

C = [C] like in CITY (and never as K)

K = [K] like in KID

These five look similar, but are pronounced differently:

B = [v] like in VISIT

H = [n] like in NO

Р = [r] like in ROCK

Х = [h] like in HOTEL

У = [u:] like in DO

Knowing this you can already read some signs:





Other characters:

Б = [b] like in BANK

Г = [g] like in Gagarin (the first man in space)

З = [z] like in ZEBRA

Ж = [j] like in JOJOBA

Д = [d] like in DOG

Л = [l] like in LOOK

П = [p] like in PETERSBURG

И = [i] like in KISS

Й = [j] like in BOY

Ы = like [i] but more relaxed one, without stretching your lips - a lazy [i]

At this stage you are already advanced enough to read the most of signs and to recognize some international words:






Let's add more:


Ф = [f] like in PHOTO or FLAG

Ц = [ts] like in German KATZE

Ч = [ch] like in CHESS or CHEKHOV

Ш = [sh] like in SHOWER or in German SHWARTZ

Щ = [sch] kind of like in QUICHE

Э = [æ] like in THAT



The following four characters can be read in two different ways.

1. If such character stands first in a word or follows a vowel (or the Ь, Ъ characters) they are pronounced as double sounds:

Ю = [ju:] like in YOU or CUTE

Я = [ja] like in YOUNG

Е = [je] like in YES

Ё = [jo:] like in YAWN or YACHT

Now you can read the names of the Metro stations as most of them end with – CКАЯ: МАЯКОВСКАЯ, СМОЛЕНСКАЯ, АРБАТСКАЯ, ТВЕРСКАЯ:



2. If this letter stands after a consonant it

- softens this consonant

- is pronounced as У / А/ Э/ О respectively:

ДЮ = [d’u] like in dude

ДЯ = [d’a] like in whaddaya ;)

ДЕ = [d’e] like in demo

ДЁ = [m’ə:] like in dirge

Ь,Ъ have no sounds. They a) make the preceding consonants to sound softer. b) make Ю, Я, Е, Ё to sound like double sounds (as it was described in the point 1).

Attention! Do not confuse these four alike letters: Б, Ы, Ь, Ъ

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