Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Guide To Basic Cyrillic And Russian

When I was a kid, D told me that his father (my paternal grandfather) could read Russian Cyrillic. I remembered feeling curious about the alphabet system, but since there was no courses on Russian, I just let it pass.

The keyboard at Amr's home uses two alphabet systems: Latin and Cyrillic. And yes, it needs some cleaning too.
Learning new alphabet system is never easy. I've taken a course on Japanese hiragana-katakana during college and also tried to decipher Korean hangeul during my three-week stay in Seoul in 2010, all failed miserably. But when I landed in Ukraine, I was really captivated by the Cyrillic alphabet. 

The thing is although Cyrillic is different to Latin alphabet, it actually has letters that look familiar to people using the Latin. There is a mystery in Cyrillic, which looks like some kind of a code we need to break. Oh well, it's just me and my silly curiosity :).

Prior to my departure to Ukraine, I knew that in Cyrillic system, P is R, C is S, H is N and T is still T. Phew. At least, my initial is still the same. But of course there are other letters I did not know yet.
So when I had the city tour with Dima, I asked him about the Cyrillic letters that I had not known yet and started practicing it. He was pretty impressed to see my progress as I could slowly read some words on the building and the street signs (I felt like a four-year old again, hahaha).

During our way home, we passed a street sign that had Latin script. 
"Oh, we're already on Zhylianska street," I said. 
"Yes, we are," Dima said.
Then he talked in Russian with Sasha, who calmly said,"English."
Hahaha. I don't understand any words they said, but I could guess that Dima expressed his surprise that I could read "Zhylianska street" to Sasha, who could tell that I was actually reading the Latin version. In Cyrillic, Zhylianska does not even look like Zhylianska. It looks like this >> Жилянская  
"Hey, I can read some words in Cyrillic. But I'm not that good," I said, laughing. 

Anyway, once you remember the letters, reading Cyrillic is quite easy. Now, if you don't know Russian, then what good does it make? You can read it, but you don't know what it means :D. Here are some basic Cyrillic words.

Presa/Pressa. News stand. 

Notarius. Notary.
 Apteka. Pharmacy.

Posta. Post office.

Restoran. Restaurant. This is actually one of the first words I mastered. Either I made progress in foreign language or I was hungry. Oh well, it's probably the latter :P

Peron. Platform. In Indonesia, we also call platform as peron.

By the way, mastering Cyrillic will be an act of survival because not all street signs in Kiev use Latin alphabets. If Kiev, which is the capital of Ukraine, does not have street signs in Latin, then you can imagine the condition in Ukraine's big cities. It's mostly Cyrillic!

This is an information board in Lviv Central Train Station. I can only read the first two-line: Informacia automatichni kamery skowu. I don't have a slightest clue what that means. Must be something about information and automatic camera :P

The first Russian word I learned was spasiba (thank you). It was definitely a must-know word, for everytime I said it people would smile and replied back (perhaps saying "you're welcome"?). Then of course, other basic words, such as skolka? (how much?) and numbers, like one to ten. Oh, by the way, two in Russian is dwa, sounds like dua in Bahasa Indonesia and eta means this/that, sounds like eta in Sundanese (also means this/that). 

Trivia Time: Did you know that Sundanese traditional song Panon Hideung (Black Eyes) is actually an adaptation from Russian folk song Ochi Chernye (also means Black Eyes)? With my paternal grandfather also came from Sunda and could read Cyrillic, I wonder what kind of relationship Russia and Sunda had in the past.

Anyway, I enjoy learning Cyrillic and Russian. I hope I can learn more about the language and the alphabet system because now I'm interested to visit Кыргызстан.

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