Russia has always been a major power in the world – politically, culturally, scientifically and academically. The Russian language is widespread throughout Eastern Europe. And it’s a major diplomatic language.
With 160 million speakers, it’s the seventh most widely spoken tongue in the world – with active communities in most countries.
It’s the official tongue in these countries:
And there are many other countries where it’s the dominant second language.
Russian is a member of the East Slavic languages, and is derived from Old East Slavonic – surviving documents from the 10th century show it’s development from these roots. It is thought to have come from a specific dialect of Old East Slavonic, known as Old Novgorod. Somewhere around the fifteenth century, it formed into a distinctive language in its own right.
Its development was also influenced by Church Slavonic, which was used extensively by the Orthodox Church.
Russians write using the Cyrillic script, which can be traced back to the Greek alphabet and other influences. For English students used to the Latin script, this can be initially daunting. However, once you understand the Cyrillic phonetics, it’s relatively easy to read.
The biggest stumbling block is letters that look familiar – but have a totally different sound. Mastering the alphabet should be an early goal for students.
The grammar is also more complex than English. Learning the correct verb conjugations takes practice, but it is essential to communicate effectively.
Fortunately, there are many resources online for students to practice with. Russia has a huge online presence, and you can find plenty of web pages, streaming audio and video.
Learning the Russian language opens the door to a new and vibrant culture – and is essential if you plan to do business in the country. Although a large number of Russians are fluent in English, they appreciate people who take the extra effort to talk to them in their native tongue.