If you are planning a trip to Russia, you need to make an effort to prepare yourself. Practicing drinking vodka is a good start, but you will need to know some basic Russian terms.
Russia is a unique and amazing country. Having lived there for a year, I can tell you it is like nothing you will experience in Europe or anywhere else. The culture is entirely different as is the language. The language, in particular, is the first hurdle you will face.
The Russian language is based on the Cyrillic Alphabet. From the sound of individual letters to their combined essence, everything is different than what you are used to. If you try to wing it, you are going to be in for big trouble. To help you out, here are some basic words and phrases you should know.
The first phrase I mastered while in Russia was “ya ne gavaru puruski.” This phonetic mess can be translated to “I don’t speak Russian.” Trust me, you should learn this. I became so good at ripping it off that many people thought I actually spoke Russian, but was just being a jerk!
“Privyet” is probably a familiar word. It means hello or hi and is common greeting. The phrase is pronounced easy at the beginning and hard at the end – privYET. That being said, I mumble constantly and nobody seemed to object to just about any pronunciation.
“Tak” is a word used to buy time or give the impression you are thinking deeply. A Russian will often pause and say tak…tak…tak and then respond. It is the equivalent of hmmm in the English language. You can use it to sound intellectual or during negotiations over a purchase.
“Nuzhnik” is one of those important phrases. It is an informal term used when trying to find a toilet. Keep in mind this is very informal, as in “where is the can?” I don’t know why, but it just stuck in my mind.
Obviously, there are a few zillion different phrases of Russian you will need at some point in your trip. At least now you can you say, “Hi. I don’t speak Russian…hmmm…I need to find the can!