February 5, 2011

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Origin of Character
  • Middle English caracter
  • From Latin character mark, distinctive quality
  • From Greek charaktēr
  • From charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch

Yesterday I showed you the five Russian characters that look and sound exactly like their twins in the English language. Today I will move on to the ones that look exactly the same but sound different.

  • B - V as in very
  • E - YE as in yet
  • H - N as in noon
  • P - R as in real*
  • C - S as in sailing**
  • Y - OO as in oops
  • X - J as in jota*

Impressions of these characters vary greatly. Some believe that they are easy to learn because they are easily recognizable letters and therefore all you need to learn are their new sounds. Others find them to be some of the most difficult because they do indeed look just like our alphabet, and re-learning their sounds can prove to be difficult.

I tend to fall into the latter category. When you're first learning to read and have mastered the thirty-three characters/sounds, you start to read just a little bit faster - more like you read English. That is when these letters sneak up on you and trick you. Our native languages are very ingrained in our minds and using them is very natural to us; therefore, we are inclined to use the sound known best/longest instead of the one recently learned.

A few explanations, for the characters above that are starred:

* both of these sound like Spanish letters. The character P make the sound of a rolling R in español. Real is the Spanish word for Royal. The character X makes a guttural English H sound, like the end of the word loch and like the Spainsh letter J, called jota.

And just for information's sake, a jota is also a Spanish dance.

**The character C makes one, and only one, of our English sounds for the same letter. In Russian it makes the S sound, never the K. For the hard sound, they have a K...much like we do.

Why we insist on having TWO letters that say K is beyond me and yet one tiny example of how English is a confusing and difficult language to learn.

Words that you can now read/say/know in Russian:


  1. Mama, Toronto, sauce, restaurant
  2. Mars, metro, rum, tractor
  3. cat, theater, cocoa, cosmonaut
  4. Vienna, Moscow, sugar, cassette

Look at you go!

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