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Lesson One

Talking about yourself

You will learn

  • common greetings in Russian
  • to introduce yourself and people you are with
  • to ask somebody’s name
  • to ask and reply to simple questions about nationality, etc

and you will read about the different forms a Russian name can take and when each is used

Before you begin

Always listen to the dialogues at least once before following them in your book. Don't worry if you can't make out every word. Try to follow the gist without being distracted by unfamiliar words. The more accustomed you are to the sound of the Russian language, the easier it will be to read the script. So don't hurry, and above all do not despair - all will fit into place!

In Unit 1 you will hear people greeting each other, introducing themselves and asking about others. We will be introducing the Cyrillic alphabet over the first five lessons with all dialogues in both Cyrillic and Latin scripts. Before turning to the first dialogues, you will find it useful to read the section on the alphabet. See how many of the Russian words you can make out.

And now: желаем успеха! [zhilayim uspyekha] we wish you success!
Note: The stressed letter/sound is marked as bold or it will be in italic if it is already bold.

Study guide

To help you check your progress, mark off the Study guide list as you complete the tasks in each lesson.

Dialogues 1, 2: listen without the book
Dialogues 1, 2: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 3, 4: listen without the book
Dialogues 3, 4: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 5-7: listen without the book
Dialogues 5-7: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Study the Key words and phrases
Read and practice writing the Alphabet
Study the Grammar section carefully
Read Did you know?
Do the exercises in Your turn to speak
Listen to all the dialogues once again straight through

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1. Tanya greets a woman in the service bureau

Tanya Здравствуйте. Zdrastvuytye.
Woman Добрый день. Dobry dyen'.

здравствуйте [zdrastvuytye] is the most common way of saying hello in Russian.

добрый день [dobry dyen'] good day
At different times of the day one can also say:
доброе утро [dobraye utra] good morning
добрый вечер [dobry vyecher] good evening

2. Katya arrives at Anna Sergeevna's house

Katya Здравствуйте, Анна Сергеевна. Zdrastvuytye, Anna Sergeevna.
Anna Sergeevna Здравствуй, Катя. Zdrastvuy, Katya.
здравствуй [zdrastvuy] is the familiar form of 'hello' used with people you know well or with children.

Practice what you have learned

The exercise below is to help you become accustomed to the various forms of greeting. Concentrate on listening and clearly distinguishing each one.

1. Listen to the recording and see if you can match the voices to the pictures below.




3. Irina introduces herself, then asks Anna Ivanovna her name

Irina Здравствуйте. Zdrastvuytye.
Anna Ivanovna Здравствуйте. Zdrastvuytye.
Irina Меня зовут Ирина. А как вас зовут? Minya zavut Irina. A kak vas zavut?
Anna Ivanovna Меня зовут Анна Ивановна. Minya zavut Anna Ivanovna.
Irina Очень приятно. Ochin' priyatna.

меня зовут... [minya zavut...] my name is... (the Russian in fact means 'they call me'). This would answer the question как вас зовут? [kak vas zavut?] 'how do they call you?' i.e. what is your name?

You may have noticed that in the word зовут [zavut] the first vowel is not pronounced as it looks. It's not a mistake! In Russian о when not stressed sounds much closer to [a] than to [о]. (It's called 'akanye'!)

The a which begins Irina's question means 'and' in a contrastive sense, as in That’s my name. And (but) what's yours?'

4. Maria Dmitrievna introduces herself to her new students

Maria Dmitrievna Здравствуйте, ребята! Zdrastvuytye, ribyata!
Students Здравствуйте! Zdrastvuytye!
Maria Dmitrievna Меня зовут Мария Дмитриевна. А как вас зовут? Minya zavut Maria Dmitrievna. A kak vas zavut?
Olya Меня зовут Оля. Minya zavut Olya.
Maria Dmitrievna А тебя как зовут? A tibya kak zavut?
Lena Меня зовут Лена. Minya zavut Lyena.
Maria Dmitrievna А тебя? A tibya?
Volodya Меня зовут Володя. Minya zavut Volodya.
Maria Dmitrievna А тебя? A tibya?
Kolya Меня - Коля. Извините, а как вас зовут? Minya - Kolya. Izvinitye, a kak vas zavut?
Maria Dmitrievna Меня зовут Мария Дмитриевна. Minya zavut Maria Dmitrievna.

ребята [ribyata] is an informal way of addressing a group of children or teenagers.

Maria Dmitrievna has used здравствуйте [zdrastvuytye] because she is addressing a group (while the children use this form because she is their teacher!)

как тебя зовут? [kak tibya zavut?] what is your name? You would use тебя [tibya] addressing a child.

извините [izvinitye] excuse me. More often than not you will hear извините, пожалуйста [izvinitye, pazhalsta] excuse me please.

Practice what you have learned

A journey by train through the Russian Federation gives ample time to become acquainted! Listen to the snatches of conversation on your recording, then decide which corresponds to each of the pictures below.




5. Misha wants his mother to meet a friend.

Misha Мама, это мой друг. Mama, eta moy druk.
Dima Здравствуйте, меня зовут Дима. Zdrastvuytye, minya zavut Dima.
Anna Sergeevna Очень приятно. Анна Сергеевна. Ochin' priyatna. Anna Sergeevna.

это... [eta...] this (is)... Introducing somebody can be very simple in Russian. You just need это... [eta...] and then a name or description of the person. To find out who somebody is, you ask кто это? [kto eta?] who is this?

мой друг [moy druk] my friend. If Misha's friend was a woman, he would say это моя подруга [eta maya padruga]. Note that мой [moy] is used talking about a man and моя [maya| about a woman.

Remember what was said above about о when not stressed. When written down, мой and моя are obviously closely related, unlike their transliterated versions!

6. Tamara asks Pavel his last name and where he's from

Tamara Павел, как ваша фамилия? Pavel, kak vasha familiya?
Pavel Моя фамилия - Величенко. Maya familiya - Velichenko.
Tamara Вы русский? Vi russky?
Pavel Нет, я украинец. Это украинская фамилия. Nyet, ya ukrayinets. Eta ukrayiskaya familiya.

как ваша фамилия? [kak vasha familiya?] what is your last name? Фамилия [familiya] may not be a person, but it is a feminine noun (see the grammar section on this page below).

вы русский? [vi russky?] are you Russian? нет, я украинец [nyet, ya ukrayinets] no. I'm Ukrainian. If he was Russian, he would answer: да, я русский [da, ya russky].

A few more nationalities:
англичанин [anglichanin] Englishman, англичанка [anglichanka] Englishwoman; француз [frantsus] Frenchman, француженка [frantsuzhinka] Frenchwoman; американец [amerikanyets] American (male), американка [amerikanka] American (female): немец [nyemets] German (male), немка [nyemka] German (female).

это украинская фамилия [eta ukrayinskaya familiya] it's a Ukrainian last name.


Tamara До свидания, Павел. Da svidanya, Pavel.
Pavel До свидания. Всего вам доброго. Da svidanya. Fsivo vam dobrava.

до свидания [da svidanya] goodbye (lit. 'until our next meeting’)

всего вам доброго [fsivo vam dobrava] all the best.

Practice what you have learned

3. Tanya is in a very cosmopolitan hotel (hotel "Cosmos" on the pictures below). Can you work out the nationalities of the people she speaks to?


(а) англичанка [anglichanka] (b) русский [russky]
(с) итальянка [ital'yanka] (d) француз [frantsus]

4. This time listen for the professions of each of the four people.

I. Sergey
II. Tanya
III. Pavel
IV. Larisa

(а) математик [matimatik]
(с) журналистка [zhurnalistka]
(e) экономист [ekanamist]
(b) студент [studyent]
(d) студентка [studyentka]

Key words and phrases

Here are the words and phrases you have met so far. Do make sure you're confident with them before going further. The best way to learn them, we think, is to say them aloud as often as possible. The transliterated forms are as close as we could get to the Russian, but you should listen to how they sound on the recording, paying particular attention to where the stress falls. This can make an enormous difference to how a word is pronounced and spelled.

здравствуйте [zdrastvuytye] hello
здравствуй [zdrastvuy] hello (to a friend, or child)
добрый день [dobry dyen'] good day
доброе утро [dobraye utra] good morning
добрый вечер [dobry vyecher] good evening
как вас зовут? [kak vas zavut?] what is your name?
как тебя зовут? [kak tibya zavut?] what is your name? (to a child)
меня зовут... [minya zavut...] my name is...
очень приятно [ochin' priyatna] pleased to meet you
извините (пожалуйста) [izvinitye (pazhalsta)] excuse me (please)
это... [eta...] this is... / it is...
мой друг [moy druk] my friend (male)
моя подруга [maya padruga] my friend (female)
как ваша фамилия? [kak vasha familiya?] what is your last name?
моя фамилия... [maya familiya...] my last name is...
вы русский? [vi russky?] are you Russian?
да, я русский [da, ya russky] yes, I am Russian
нет, я украинец [nyet, ya ukrayinets] no. I’m Ukrainian
это украинская фамилия [eta ukrayinskaya familiya] it's a Ukrainian name
я бизнесмен [ya biznismyen] I am a businessman
до свидания [da svidanya] goodbye

The Russian alphabet

The Cyrillic alphabet is named in honour of St. Cyril (in Russian Kyrill), a 9th-century Macedonian monk, who, with his brother St. Methodius, is credited with creating a writing system for the Slavonic languages. The two monks worked as missionaries, bringing Christianity to Slavs outside the Byzantine empire, and an alphabet was required to translate liturgical books and the Bible into Slavonic. Two original writing systems are known to have existed and whether in fact Cyril and Methodius' alphabet is the one we now call 'Cyrillic' is a matter of some conjecture among scholars.

The alphabet which developed into present Cyrillic shares many letters with the Greek and Latin scripts. Among its 33 letters there are, however, some which are quite different. You may find it useful to practice writing them out (try your name, and your friends' names!). Try also to follow as much as possible of the dialogues in Cyrillic, though there will be a transliterated version for the first five units while the alphabet is being introduced.

Beside each letter you will find the character, or characters, in Latin script which most closely correspond. They will seldom correspond entirely, so listen to Andrei as he pronounces the Russian letters.

There are five letters in Russian which need no introduction:

[as in car]
[as in wore]

One letter is almost the same:

з [z]

Some letters are deceptively familiar:

[ye as in yet]
(oo as in boom)

And then there's Я [ya] - an extremely important letter to remember since it can also mean 'I' or 'I am' in Russian.

Can you recognize these words?


Now listen to Andrei as he reads the letters aloud. You will notice that some letters, in particular o, do not always sound as they look. Mostly this is a question of stress, but we will explain particular discrepancies along the way.

Try writing the words printed above. If you feel confident with those, see if you can fill in the missing letters in the next exercise.

как вс зоут? what is your name?
мен зовут Вpa my name is Vera
вот реторан here is a restaurant
вот Сеa here is Syeva (a man's name)
вот метo here is the metro (subway)
мo мма русская my mother is Russian

And now a little passage to read through.

— Как вас зовут?
— Меня зовут Вера.
— А как вас зовут?
— Меня зовут Сева.

Would you be able to write down the reply if the people's names were Anna and Zoya? What about Olya and Vanya? Svyeta and Katya?



One can talk about Russian grammar a lot, some people do it endlessly! However you can communicate in Russian without knowing all the ‘rules’ and we have therefore kept discussion of complexities to a minimum. The notes here and in the following lessons will give you the basic structure of the language. They will help you to understand and build on what you hear in each lesson.

Please don't worry if something baffles you, or if you can't remember it all. You can leave it, and still understand the unit. You'll probably find later that you can't remember why you were confused!

Grammar should be an aid, a tool in learning Russian. Remember though that very few grammatical mistakes will be serious enough to prevent you from being understood.


In Russian nouns have a gender - masculine, feminine or neuter. Sometimes the choice will seem obvious - мама [mama] can hardly be anything but feminine! More often, however, there seems to be no reason, good or otherwise, for the gender of a particular noun.

Fortunately in Russian the gender is normally clear from the ending of a noun.

  • Masculine nouns most often end in a consonant:
    друг [druk] a male friend
  • Feminine nouns usually end in -a or :
    подруга [padruga] female friend
    фамилия [familiya] last name
  • Neuter nouns end in -o or -e:
    вино [vino] wine

We will leave neuter nouns for the moment since they don't crop up so often. The reason for mentioning anything about gender is that any word describing a noun has to 'agree' with it.

мой друг [moy druk] my (male) friend
моя подруга [maya padruga] my (female) friend

Any word describing a noun changes, for example:

украинская фамилия [ukrayinskaya familiya] a Ukrainian last name

You could have украинский друг [ukrayinsky druk] and украинская подруга [ukrayinskaya padruga]

If that seems complicated, it may be some consolation that you now know enough to construct full Russian sentences. The verb 'to be' ('I am', 'you are', etc.) is not used in Russian. To say that he is Ukrainian, Pavel simply uses the word for 'I' - я [ya] (not capitalized in Russian) and украинец [ukrayinets].

And a statement can be made into a question by simply changing one's intonation ('putting a question in the voice'):

Это украинская фамилия? [Eta ukrayinskaya familiya?]
Is it a Ukrainian name?
Да, это украинская фамилия. [Da, eta ukrayinskaya familiya.]
Yes, it is a Ukrainian name.

Did you know

The polite way of addressing somebody older or whom you don't know very well is by name and patronymic. The patronymic is formed from one's father's name with different endings for a man or woman. In the dialogues you met Anna Sergeevna. Sergeevna indicates that she is ’the daughter of Sergey’. Her brother Nikolai would be Nikolai Sergeevich.

There are titles like our 'Mr' or 'Mrs' in Russian. However, these have traditionally been used when addressing foreigners. Other titles, some in common usage before the 1917 revolution, are beginning to reappear, but it is too early to judge whether these will endure.

You will probably have noticed that the patronymic is not always used. It would not be used in addressing a child or young adult, and probably only used on formal occasions about a person in his or her 20s or 30s. Instead the first name only, or, more probably, a shortened form, is used (Katya for example is the short form of Yekaterina).

It all depends very much on the situation and on how well you know a person. This may not be of great comfort to beginners, but in fact you shouldn't have much problem. Listen to how a person introduces him or herself. And if you can't make it out the first time, you can always ask them again:

Извините, пожалуйста, как вас зовут? [izvinitye, pazhalsta, как vas zavut?] Sorry, what is your name?

Заместитель главного редактора
газеты «Московские новости»

Москва, Тверская ул., 16/2 229-82-18

Deputy Editor-in-Chief
"Moscow News"

16/2 Tverskaya St., Moscow tel: 229-82-18

Have you ever tried reading a Russian novel and had the strange sensation that characters are multiplying before your eyes? They’re not! Since it is not always easy to match up a name with its short form, here are some of the more common Russian names.

Women's names

Full name Short form

Men’s names

Full name Short form

This is by no means a definitive list. A name may have a number of possible short forms, as well as other forms used for expressing affection, etc. (Lyenachka, Natashenka and many more).

Борис Михайлович

Кандидат технических наук

Москва, 119034
Хилков переулок, 1/2
Тел. 233-46-81

Research Complex "Textile"
Cand. Sc. (Technology)

1/2 Hilkov Lane,
Moscow 119034
Tel. 233-46-81

Your turn to speak

5. The last exercise in this lesson will give you a chance to practice what you have learned. You will need the following phrases:

меня зовут... [minya zavut...]
вы русский? [vi russky?]
да, я русский (da, ya russky]
это мой друг [eta moy druk]
это моя мама [eta maya mama]
как вас зовут? [как vas zavut?]
очень приятно [ochin' priyatna]
моя фамилия... [maya familiya...]
я бизнесмен [ya biznismyen]

Now don't look on the phrases and listen to Andrei's prompts. Remember you can always go back and listen again if it seems difficult the first time.

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+2 # лера 20.02.2015 16:50
Добрый день!!! Подскажите пожалуйста для самых тупых, как скачать весь аудикурс русского языка??
+4 # -Creat!ve- 20.02.2015 22:00
Were it possible, you would have already known how to do it. The rest of the information is on the main page, in English.