Music Monday: “We Sing the Russian Alphabet”

The Russian alphabet has thirty-three letters: ten vowels, twenty-one consonants, and two “signs” that indicate the sound of the preceding letters in a word (translated to the “hard sign” and “soft sign”).

Using Cyrillic letters, developed by Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century, the current version of the Russian alphabet is actually pretty simple to master once you recognize the letters. There are a few letters that directly match the English alphabet; others look like English letters, but have different sounds; some letters are completely foreign to the Latin script. But it isn’t as intimidating as some may think.

Here is a song on the Russian alphabet, which gives the names of each letter. I’ll write out each letter (uppercase and lowercase), the name of the letter, the sound that they make, and an example of that sound in English.

Аа …….. ahh  …….. /a/ …….. father
Бб …….. bey …….. /b/ …….. beach
Вв …….. vey …….. /v/ ……..  very
Гг …….. gey …….. /g/ …….. game
Дд …….. dey …….. /d/ …….. day
Ее …….. yey …….. /yey/ …….. yes
Ёё …….. yo …….. /yo/ …….. yogurt
Жж …….. zhey …….. /ʐ/ …….. measure
Зз …….. zey …….. /z/ …….. zoo
Ии …….. ee …….. /i/ …….. feed, seat
Йй …….. ee kraskaya …….. /j/ …….. toy,
Кк …….. kah …….. /k/ …….. cat, kangaroo
Лл …….. el …….. /l/ …….. lime
Мм …….. em …….. /m/ …….. mom
Нн …….. en …….. /n/ …….. nun, name
Оо …….. oh …….. /o/ …….. ocean, more
Пп …….. pey …….. /p/ …….. pay
Рр …….. err …….. /r/ …….. running
Сс …….. ess …….. /s/ …….. sun
Тт …….. tey …….. /t/ …….. tan
Уу …….. oo …….. /u/ …….. soon
Фф …….. eff …….. /f/ …….. fun
Хх …….. xhah …….. /x/ …….. loch
Цц …….. tse …….. /ts/ …….. sits
Чч …….. chey …….. /č/ …….. chip
Шш …….. shah …….. /š/ …….. ship
Щщ …….. shchah …….. /šč/ …….. fresh cheese
Ъъ …….. tvyordey snahk …….. (no sound)
Ыы …….. eey …….. /eey/ …….. roses
Ьь …….. myakey snahk …….. (no sound)
Ээ …….. ey …….. /e/ …….. met
Юю …….. yu …….. /ju/ …….. youuse
Яя …….. yah …….. /ya/ …….. yard

Note that the letters Щщ and Ыы have no exact English equivalent sound, so the examples I use are approximate.

After the alphabet, it is sung:

“Я последняя стоит, вот весь русский алфавит
Алфавит, алфавит… буквы тридцать три хранит
Песню мы про них поём, буквы вместе узнаём.”

“Я” stands at the end, here’s the whole Russian alphabet
Alphabet, alphabet … it keeps thirty three letters.
We sing a song about them, to learn the letters together.”

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