Cyrillic Russian Alphabet mnemonics?


do you know any mnemonic system to learn the Cyrillic Russian Alphabet quickly?


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I’m a Russian learner, and I can help you. Here’s just something I threw together in maybe 15 minutes.

Аа - “ah”
Бб - sort of looks like an English b, which is its sound
Вв - half of a very violently divided violin - v.
Гг - gruesome gallows, gamma, a gun
Дд - d, this one is quite distinctive
Ее - “yeh”, yes, this one has been lying since yesterday
Ёё - “yoh” - the dots are yo-yos.
Жж - zh, usually, collision, pleasure, etc. I think of this as a bug saying “ZHHH!”
Зз - three zebras, z.
Ии - “ee” - imagine “EEEEEEEEEK” and your hair becomes this shape
Йй - like the y at the end of boy and day and hey, etc. The letter й is strictly a consonant/semi-vowel, whereas и is strictly a vowel.
Кк - same
Лл - a lopsided left leg
Мм - same
Нн - the middle bar is a NO ENTRY sign, or нет (no), so the sound is n.
Оо - same
Пп - a perfect portal
Рр - the rolled r, the word Russian in Russian (русский), etc.
Сс - s, like in ice, center, face, etc.
Тт - same
Уу - “ooh”. Maybe there’s a firework going up and it explodes in the shape of this letter, and you say “ooh”.
Фф - a… funny flamingo. The Greek phi.
Хх - like the German ch in Bach or the Spanish j. A person hitting the wrong answer button (X) and saying “ahahahahahahahaha”.
Цц - “ts”, the bottom right is a collection of warts.
Чч - “ch”, an upside down chair.
Шш - “sh”, perhaps the masts of a ship?
Щщ - a softer, hissier “sh”. The wart has slightly moved the sound forward in the mouth.
ъ - the hard sign
ы - a vowel not found in English, about halfway between the Russian и and у. Sounds like you got boxer punched in the stomach and are complaining from the pain.
ь - the soft sign, unless you’re into Russian phonetics you can probably ignore this.
Ээ - “eh”, like a backwards E. Do not confuse with Ее (yeh).
Юю - “you”, like the Ю.S.S. Enterprise.
Яя - “yah”, the last letter of the Russian alphabet.

Ultimately, you’ll need to repeat the letters and repeat them. Put the letters into a memory palace (there are 33 letters) and go through the alphabet in order.


For Ж, I pictured Jacques Cousteau doing jumping jacks (French “J”). I also used “chair” for Ч. :slight_smile:


I’m curious what you used for some letters. I find the row of ЦЧШЩ, ИЙ, and БВ tend to be the hardest parts to memorize.

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It has been many years, so I don’t remember all of the images I used.

That might have been spitting (“ts”) into a bucket or something like that.

Upside-down chair.

The first letter exists in Hebrew. It looks like a bow with an arrow in it (pointing down), so maybe “SHoot an arrow” would be a good image. I’m not sure if Macedonian has that second letter. (Russian has a few different letters.)

That letter exists in Greek, so I knew it from there. I don’t think Й exists in Macedonian.

“B” for bent (top). “B” and “V” are similar in some languages, like Spanish, so if “bent means b” then the other one is a “v”.

Excellent list of mnemonics.

I agree entirely with “like the y at the end of boy”. I respectfully disagree with the remainder of your description.

Think about it: the “y” in “day” is never pronounced. The word “day” might just as well be spelt “da”, as in “dame”, “data”, “David”. On the other hand, “boy” is pronounced “bo-ay”. The final “ay” has extremely short duration - but it still exists.

So, your example “русский” is pronounced “roo-sk-ee-y”.

I agree.

I see no resemblance between “the German ch in Bach or the Spanish j” and “ahahaha”. I suggest the mnemonic is "A German hitting the wrong answer button (X) and saying ‘Ach !’ “. A Scotsman would say “Och”. So you have the choice of visualizing lederhosen or a kilt. Another possibility, which contains a bit of lively action and competitive spirit, is the tobacco chewer who utters a tuneful “Ch-ch-ch-ch” just before aiming (hopefully) a nice gob of spit at the nearest spitoon.

IMHO, this consonant is pronounced as the double consonant “sh” followed by “ch” - as in “fresh cheese”. A famous example would be “Хрущёв”, which is transliterated “Khrushchev”, and pronounced “Kh-roosh-chov” (note the two dots above the Russian “e”.


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For щ, the pronunciation “shch” used to be very common and standard, but in the Soviet era, it increasingly became rural and nonstandard, and by the 1980s had almost entirely disappeared. The “soft ш” pronunciation is now standard.

Thanks for that.

My Russian is so old, it’s almost older than me.

No prob. I think the main reason щ is still taught as “shch” is both historical reasons and because it’s easier to explain to English speakers, despite it being inaccurate in modern contemporary Russian. I’ve seen modern post-Soviet textbooks for English speakers still do this!

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I like the Krushchev bit. Solved an issue for me. Thanks.

Thank you to everybody for all the suggestions!