The hardest thing in learning any foreign language is the ability to sound natural in everyday situations. Can you go to the pharmacy or a hair salon and strike up a conversation naturally; or can you successfully get your question across to the handyman fixing a leak in your washroom? Today I want to talk about another situation which could make you nervous -- a birthday party.


Let us just say that you can express yourself in Russian for the most common of situations; so instead, let's shift the talk toward informal meetings. For these situations, you're expected to be able to not only speak clearly but know the basic rules of politeness as well (on top of the social trends and what not, sheesh). So let’s imagine that you’re invited to a birthday party or simply to a Russian friend’s home. Below you’ll find some useful phrases and cultural tips which you can use in these situations.


Firstly, let's have a look at how a typical invitation could sound like, so please spend a couple of minutes practicing these short dialogues:


  • Привет, Эмили! - Hi Emily!
  • Здравствуй, Джеймс! - Hi James!
  • Рад тебя видеть, как дела? - Glad to see you. How're you doing?
  • Спасибо, хорошо. Как ты? - Thanks, I'm good and you?
  • Тоже хорошо. Я хочу пригласить тебя на День рождения! - I'm good too. I want to invite you to my birthday party!
  • Здорово, спасибо! А когда и во сколько придти? - Thanks, that’s great! Where and what time shall I come?
  • Завтра вечером в семь часов - Tomorrow in the evening at seven.
  • Отлично. Приду с удовольствием! - Great. I’d love to come!
  • Пока! - Bye!


And let's look at another situation where you can't accept an invitation for some reason. Imagine that this is a phone call:


  • Алло, Olli? - Hello, Olli?
  • Кто это? - Who’s speaking?
  • Это Дима - This is Dima.
  • А, Дима, очень рад тебя слышать - Oh, Dima, glad to hear from you.
  • Я хочу пригласить тебя в гости сегодня вечером - I would like to invite you to visit me tonight?
  • Спасибо за приглашение, но к сожалению сегодня не смогу - Thank you for the invitation, sorry to say, but I can't today.
  • Жаль. Может быть, можешь завтра? - What a shame! Maybe, you can come tomorrow?
  • С удовольствием - I’d love to come.


So, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Russian friend’s home, you should keep in mind that it is good mannerisms to bring some kind of treat or small gift. It could be some fruit or a pack of biscuits. Or if your hostess is a woman, a small bouquet of fresh flowers would be appropriate. Now one of the most confusing things (even for native speakers!) is how to give these presents? What could you say except for Вот, возьмите - Take it? To sound natural and polite, it’s better to say:


  • Это Вам, небольшое угощение - It’s for you, it’s just a small treat.
  • Это Вам, от всего сердца - It’s for you, from my heart.


Then, the next step is to give a compliment about the house and your host (or hostess). It’s always nice to hear something like:


  • У вас (тебя) прекрасный дом! - You have a beautiful house!
  • Здесь очень уютно! - It’s very cosy here!
  • Какая приятная квартира! - Such a nice apartment!


For the last part of this article, let’s move on to some birthday wishes. The traditional greeting is днём рождения! - Happy Birthday! But during a party, there could be a time when all guests are expected to give some form of wish or toast to the birthday guy or gal. Russians usually wish for, among other things,: good health, happiness, and longevity for the person celebrating their birthday. Let's have a look at some very basic phrases that pretty much covers all the different special occasions and would also work well for birthdays:


  • Желаю, чтобы все Ваши мечты сбылись - I wish that all your dreams come true.
  • Желаю всего, чего Вы сами себе желаете - I wish you all that you wish for yourself.
  • Желаю счастья, благополучия и светлого неба над головой - I wish you happiness, prosperity, and a clear sky overhead.


Just to remind that you can replace the formal Ваши (your) with the informal твои (your) for a close friend or for children.


If you would like to toast your friend, you can use one of the above greetings as a toast but with slight changes. Always start with:


  • Я предлагаю поднять бокалы за - I propose we drink to…


So, therefore, the above well-wishes can be slightly adapted for shared toasts like:


  • Я предлагаю поднять бокалы за то, чтобы все ваши мечты сбылись - I propose we drink to all your dreams coming true.
  • Я предлагаю поднять бокалы за ваше счастье, благополучие и светлое небо над головой - I propose we drink to your happiness, prosperity, and a clear sky overhead.


That’s it for today. For more tips and exercises, please book a lesson! :) Good luck and enjoy the party!


Hero image by Sergei Soloviev (CC0 1.0)