How to learn the Russian alphabet fast?

So you've decided to learn Russian! That's great! The first logical step is to learn the Russian alphabet. There're many videos on YouTube that can help you, many online resources with wealth of information. But how can yo actually memorise the alphabet quickly?

A very effective way, many find, is to use associations and pictures. 

Here how it works


  • Russian Alphabet Overview

The Russian alphabet is called the Cyrillic alphabet. That's its official name. It contains 33 letters in total, of which

  • 5 letters are the same as in English.
  • 6 letters are similar in the Greek alphabet.
  • 6 letters are also used in English, written exactly the same, but pronounced in an entirely different way. These are the so-called “false friends”.
  • 16 letters are really Russian. 2 of these letters don’t produce a sound of their own.
  • True Friends

Out of 33 letters, you already know 5! They're t, m, o, a, k. You can remember these letters by memorising a sentence: The man orders a kiwi.

It’s just one short sentence! The man orders a kiwi. Have you ever ordered a kiwi? I haven’t.

Now, imagine a guy who really likes kiwi, he goes to a Russian restaurant and orders one... . This is quite strange!? But I bet you will remember these 5 letters next year if someone asks you about it. The man orders a kiwi.

  • False Friends 

These are so-called "false friends". There're 12 of them. They're already very familiar to you because they exist in the English language.

Russian letter р   r as in tennis racket

This is the first false friend that we will see. It looks like our p, but it is pronounced not the same. It's pronounced like R but more “rolling” than in English. Imagine, the engine of your motorbike revving.

Whenever you see the р, think of a (tennis) racket. It looks like one. Russian women are world-class level in tennis. Think of Anna Kurnikova.


Russian letter е   ye as in yell

The Russian е is not pronounced like our e, but it is quite close.

Whenever you see the letter е, think of a Russian man that is yelling like crazy. The man in the picture looks like Boris Yeltsin, the former Russian president (right before Putin).


Russian letter д   d as in design

This letter looks like the Greek letter d (delta), but is not exactly the same. With some imagination you can transform the shape of this letter into a designer lamp.

I admit, the asymmetric design is a bit odd, but that is what it makes a designer lamp.



Russian letter и  ee as in eel

This is the first truly Russian letter that you encounter.  It looks like a reversed capital letter N.

Whenever you see the и think of an eel (sort of fish) that is swirled around the letter. Don’t know what an eel is? Then imagine some fish that screams “ee!”.


Russian letter с   s as in snake

Whenever you see the c think of a snake, with his tongue coming out of the letter.

Do you remember the letters CCCP that the Soviet Union put on the side of their space ships and on all the outfits of their sports teams? You can now impress your friends by saying that this should be pronounced sssr.


Russian letter н   n as in netball.

Whenever you see the н, think of a game of netball. It's not a particularly popular sport in Russia. 

Imagine girls playing it! Then I bet you will remember this letter! 🙂


Russian letter в   v as in very big boobs. 

It seems insane that you should think that! It's totally inappropriate! But I can guarantee, this letter you will NOT forget now, as you can't unsee this... 



  • Recap

You already know 12 out of 33 letters. By now you can read all these words:

  1. такси
  2. диск
  3. анекдот
  4. ананас
  5. ресторан
  6. водка
  7. ветеринар
  • New Friends