Easy! Learn to Write Russian in 7 Baby Steps
Writing in Russian isn’t as hard as it looks.
And learning to write in Russian is essential to truly becoming fluent in Russian.
So stop putting it off: Proceed to Step One in my seven-step process and start writing in Russian today!
- 1. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet.
- 2. Learn to produce the letters yourself.
- 3. Learn Russian cursive.
- 4. Learn to type in Russian.
- 5. Start forming basic words with the letters.
- 6. Practice writing by copying text from Russian books.
- 7. Do online Russian exercises that involve writing.
1. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet.
If you have any experience with the Russian language, you already know that Russian has a different alphabet from English. While we use the Roman (or Latin) alphabet to write English, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which originated (fun fact) in the 9th century.
There is good news and bad news when it comes to learning the Russian alphabet.
The good news is that some of the letters look, and even sound, the same or similar to English ones. These include letters like A, K, M, O and T. Other letters look similar, but don’t (or don’t always) have the same associated sound as in English, such as C (pronounced like the English S), B (pronounced like the English V) and E (pronounced like “yeh”).
The bad (but definitely not super bad) news is that some letters will look brand spanking new. However, that is great news for your brain, which will definitely get a boost from all the new letters you will become acquainted with. These include Д (pronounced like a hard D, as in “dog”), Я, (pronounced like “yah”) and П (pronounced like a hard P, as in “pig”).
Resources for Learning the Russian Alphabet
You can find the full Russian alphabet here, and you can learn the Russian letters more efficiently by creating flashcards with the Russian letters on one side and the pronunciation using English letters on the other side. This will help you test yourself on the sound of each letter.
You can also purchase Russian flashcards as an alternative option. This set contains 33 cards that not only help you memorize letters, but offer a guide in pronunciation. Each card has the letter in upper and lower case, a pronunciation guide and a word that starts with the letter in Russian, along with an English translation. On the opposite side, you can find an image that starts with the letter to test your knowledge not only of the letter it starts with, but the Russian term for the image.
2. Learn to produce the letters yourself.
When memorizing foreign letters, we start by learning to pronounce a letter we see; however, to truly master a language, we have to reverse that process.
This requires listening to the letters said out loud and writing them down from memory. This is the only way to learn to write Russian on your own—by forming the letters in your mind and writing them without having a reference set in front of you.
Resources for Learning to Produce Russian Letters
Check out this YouTube video that teaches viewers the Russian alphabet.
The trick to utilizing this video for your needs is not to look at the screen! While this may seem counterproductive to using YouTube, this is a way of being able to test yourself and check your answers later. Listen to the letters pronounced a few times and write them down as fast as you can before the video moves on to another letter.
Another great resource is this Russian Learning Mat, which in addition to providing letter sounds, features a game that challenges you to find a letter based on its sound.
3. Learn Russian cursive.
The steps above have likely helped you learn the Russian letters and their associated sounds, so feel free to congratulate yourself. However, don’t celebrate too much yet, as you still need to learn a whole other script—Russian cursive.
While in America, we don’t use cursive as much as we used to, Russians still rely on handwriting as a method of communication quite a bit.
Resources for Learning Russian Cursive
Once you learn Russian printed letters, learning to handwrite them will be easier as you already know how they sound.
A few Russian cursive worksheets is really all you need for this step. That and practice, practice, practice.
4. Learn to type in Russian.
Although Russians still use pens and pencils to write, many are embracing the computer and typing away. Learning to type in Russian is essential for business purposes, finding Russian videos and other content and keeping up correspondence across the ocean.
Just as with learning cursive, learning to type in Russian will be fairly painless once you know the Cyrillic alphabet. All this will require is memorizing where Russian letters are placed on a keyboard and then working on your skills.
Resources for Learning to Type in Russian
MasterRussian.com provides access to a free Russian keyboard, which is fully functional. Simply type letters using your mouse, or using your own keyboard and looking at the keyboard in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen for reference, and see them written in the field on the page.
You can also purchase Russian keyboard stickers and use your own keyboard to learn the placement of the letters. When you are ready, you can find everything you need for setting up your keyboard to type Russian and practicing your Russian typing here. Like with learning cursive, this will be an ongoing process, and you will get more out of it after continuing with the steps below.
5. Start forming basic words with the letters.
The last four steps had you learning individual letters, but writing requires the ability to form the letters into actual words. Remember how you learned to write in English—you started with basic words, such as “mom,” “dad,” “cat” and “hat.”
Do the same when learning to write in Russian—form the letters into short words to start writing on your own.
Watching videos with subtitles is a great way to compare the words you hear with how they’re written. You could use auto-generated subtitles on YouTube (though be forewarned that they’re not always accurate), or try to find a channel with proofread subtitles. You can also use a learning platform like FluentU, which has expert-edited, interactive subtitles on all of the authentic videos in its Russian-language library.
Resources for Forming Basic Words in Russian
You can use the flashcards you made or purchased to form Russian words from letters. You can form any words you like, but here are some basic verbs to start with.
Or, you can make the process more fun with magnets. These Russian letter magnets offer a colorful and easy way to utilize a surface (your fridge) to play around with word formations without making a mess on the floor!
6. Practice writing by copying text from Russian books.
Russian words are infamous for being long, containing lots of hard consonant combinations and even letters that are very difficult to pronounce (such as hard and soft sounds).
As such, you can benefit from copying Russian text from books, magazines, blogs and other materials to familiarize yourself with proper Russian spelling.
Resources for Copying Russian Text
A dual language Russian to English book is perfect not just for this step, but for improving your Russian overall. You can use the Russian portion of the text to practice copying words and sentences. Then, you can read the English translation to understand what you are reading and work on your comprehension.
7. Do online Russian exercises that involve writing.
The web offers a multitude of Russian exercises that can help you improve your writing skills. The trick is finding reputable sources that won’t lead you astray in your learning efforts.
These can include quizzes that test your knowledge of the Russian alphabet, games where you can write in answers or anything else that gets you writing.
Resources for Russian Exercises for Writing Purposes
The best way to practice writing online for more intermediate and advanced purposes is finding exercises that ask you to write your answers instead of choosing from pre-set choices.
Reading comprehension tests are perfect for more advanced learners, as these allow you to see words written first in a paragraph, and then practice writing answers to open-ended questions. This site offers 24 different options for reading material, followed by questions to answer about what you read.
Remember that writing in Russian is required for really knowing the language.
Follow this seven-step approach to truly write in Russian like a native.
Renata Ilitsky is a professional content writer with over 10 years of experience. She specializes in creating unique and engaging content for any industry. To read some of Renata’s other work, please view her writing portfolio.