I will not lie and try to tell you that you will be able to understand the structure of the Russian language and speak it fluently in one month. But, I want to show you that you already know thousands of Russian words even if you only just started taking classes and that you currently only know the Russian alphabet. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?


The magic lies in a few simple secrets; just remember that to become a professional Russian wizard, you have to be careful with them.



Secret number one


A lot of the names of electronic devices both modern and old tend to be similar for both Russian and English. Some are exactly the same, the only difference being that they are pronounced with a Russian accent.


Remember to change the o sound to an а when it is unstressed. Don’t aspirate t, р, or k, and pronounce any rolled r at the end of a word.


Here some examples:


  • компьютер (computer) which is pronounced [kɐmʹpju:tər]
  • принтер (printer) which is pronounced [ʹprʲintər]
  • телефон (phone) which is pronounced [tʲilʲiʹfon]
  • сканер (scanner) which is pronounced [ʹskɐnər]
  • навигатор (GPS car navigator) which is pronounced [nɐviʹgatər]
  • телевизор (television) which is pronounced [tʲilʲiʹvizər]
  • логин (log-in) which is pronounced [lɐʹgʲin]
  • подкаст (podcast) which is pronounced [pɐdʹkast]
  • блог (blog) which is pronounced [blog]
  • спам (spam) which is pronounced [spam]


There are many words that follow this pattern, but remember that magic comes at a price: you can make a mistake if using this trick excessively. Here are some words that may be misleading:


  • мышь (computer mouse) [mɨʃ] which actually means the animal mouse in Russian.
  • планшет (tablet) [planʹʃet]



Secret number two


It will be very easy for you to learn names of the many professions in Russian because a lot of them sound just like they do in English. Some other professions differ slightly, but just a little.


Here are some examples:


  • инженер (engineer) pronounced [inʒiʹnʲ er]
  • доктор (doctor) which is pronounced [ʹdoktər].
    • Remember, you can also use the word врач (doctor) [vratʃ]
  • мэр (mayor) which is pronounced [mɛr]
  • менеджер (manager) which is pronounced [ʹmɛnədʒ er]
  • бизнесмен (businessman) which is pronounced [bʲiznəsʹmɛn]
  • дилер (dealer) which is pronounced [dʲilʲer]
  • дизайнер (designer) which is pronounced as [dʲizʹajnʲir]
  • спортсмен (sportsman) which is pronounced [spɐrtsʹmʲen]
  • журналист (journalist) which is pronounced [ʒurnɐʹlʲist]


Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for all the professions, for example:


  • учитель (teacher) [uʹtʃitʲelʲ]
  • официант (waiter) [əfʲitsiʹant]


Some of these words form the feminine variant of the profession with the help of the suffix –ка. Simply being able to construct feminine words from masculine words will double your vocabulary, for example:


  • журналист – журналистка (journalist)
  • спортсмен – спортсментка (sportsman)
  • официант – официантка (waiter)
  • студент – студентка (student)



Secret number three


You may be surprised to know that you already know the words of numerous sciences in Russian; many of them are derived from ancient Greek and are similar in many languages.


Thus, everything that ends with –logy in English finishes with –логия [logʲija] in Russian:


  • астрология (astrology) [əstrɐʹlogʲija]
  • филология (philology) [fʲilɐʹlogʲija]
  • физиология (physiology) [fiziɐʹlogʲija]
  • биология (biology) [bʲiɐʹlogʲija]
  • антропология (anthropology) [ɐntrəpɐʹlogʲija]
  • зоология (zoology) [zɐɐ ʹlogʲija]


The names of other sciences that do not finish with –logy but same sound very close in English and in Russian are, for example:


  • математика (mathematics) [mətʲiʹmatʲikə]
  • физика (physics) [ʹfʲizʲikə]
  • география (geography) [geɐʹgrafʲia]



Secret number four


The names of foods typical to a specific area (or which have non-Russian origins) usually preserve their original names:


  • пицца (pizza ) [ʹpʲitsa]
  • гамбургер (hamburger) [ʹgamburgʲər]
  • кофе (coffee) [ʹkofʲe]
  • манго (mango) [ʹmanga]
  • киви (kiwi) [ʹkʲivʲi]


So, as you can see, there are thousands of words adopted from other languages in Russian. Linguists do not have an exact number of adopted words because languages are constantly changing, with more and more adopted words appearing.


Regardless, if you already speak English, then you already know a lot of names of professions, sciences, computer term, and names of electronic devices as well as everything from exotic fruit to political and economic terms in Russian. You only need to work at your pronunciation with your italki teacher to be able to pronounce them accurately.



Secret number five


Secret number five is the so-called suffix transformation. This is a trick with which you will be able to produce many Russian words from English ones.


Here is an example: in the Russian language there are about 50 000 words with the suffix –ция (is read as [ʹtsija]). The good news is that this suffix corresponds to English -tion. I will not list all of these words here, but below are some examples to give you an idea what it is all about.


  • эволюция (evolution) read as [əvɐʹlʲutsija]
  • нация (nation) read as [ʹnatsija]
  • информация (information) read as [infərʹmatsija]
  • плантация (plantation) read as [plɐnʹtatsija]
  • анимация (animation) read as [əniʹmatsija]
  • революция (revolution) read as [rivɐʹlʲutsija]
  • манипуляция (manipulation) read as [mənipuʹlʲutsija]
  • операция (operation) read as [ɐpʲiʹratsija]
  • интонация (intonation) read as [intɐ ʹnatsija]
  • реформация (reformation) read as [rifɐr ʹmatsija]


Be careful, though; this rule works well, but not always. Here are some words which do not fall under its influence:


  • образование (education) [əbrəzɐvanije]
  • решение (solution) [rʲiʹʃɛnije]


Another interesting suffix is the English –sion which becomes –сия or -зия in Russian.


  • профессия (profession) [prɐʹfʲesija]
  • иллюзия (illusion) [iʹlʲuzija]
  • сессия (session) [ʹsʲesija]
  • version – версия [ʹvʲesija]
  • mission – миссия [ʹmisija]


You can use these tips to quickly enrich your Russian vocabulary. But don’t forget that learning a language means understanding its structure as well as understanding the culture of the country, and the practise of speaking the language too.


Try to find time to study and practise every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes per day, you will still be using the language, which helps your brain make connections and associations. Words and phrases will sink deeper and deeper into your memory every day. Watch films and read books, articles or magazines that are of interest to you. Remember that learning a language can be a challenge, but it can also give you a great sense of pleasure in your accomplishments.


Hero image by Clem Onojeghuo (CC0 1.0)