Author: Ivana Dronjak
Photo source: images.unsplash.com
Did you know that you cannot be an astronaut without knowing Russian and that there are almost no native Russian words that start with an “A”? You can read about this and other interesting facts on one of the most popular languages in the world.
1. It is estimated that around 260 million people worldwide speak Russian since there is a large number of immigrants who are still using it. It is spoken in the countries of the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine) and of course in Russia. It covers the greatest geographical reach out of all the languages in Eurasia.
2. If you know English, you would understand only 10 percent of the language. There is only a small portion of words similar to Russian and the words are written in their official alphabet, Cyrillic.
For example, sometimes you will hear in Russian:
Таргет = target
Паб = pub
Тренинг = training
Пассворд = password
Уикенд = weekend
Кул = cool
3. Did you know that every foreign astronaut must speak Russian and at a level no lower than Intermediate High? In the event of an emergency, instructions are given to astronauts in Russian and they even had to spend some time in Moscow so that they could learn the language better and quicker. What is interesting is that there is also Runglish, a Russian-English macaronic language, which was popularised in 2000 as a name for one of the languages aboard the International Space Station.
4. How many shades of blue are there? Well, the study has shown that native Russian speakers distinguish more shades of blue than English speakers. This is due to the fact that the Russian language splits the colour blue into two completely different categories – синий (“seeniy” meaning dark blue) and голубой (“goluboy” meaning light blue).
5. The word for German in Russian is “немецкий” (nemetski), which means “those who can’t speak”. The root of the word originates from the Russian word meaning “mute”, which incidentally also means “stupid” and “inarticulate”. At first, the Russian word nemetski was used for all those foreigners who did not speak Russian and most of the foreigners around there at that time were Germans so that’s how they got this name.
6. For some reason, Russian has very few words starting with the letter “A”. There are of course some exceptions, like the word азбука (alphabet) and авось (perhaps), but be sure that if you hear words starting with an “A”, they will most likely be borrowed from another language. Similar to the words starting with “A”, words starting with “F” are also borrowed. When Pushkin wrote his poem “Сказка о царе Салтане” (The Tale of Tsar Saltan), he took great pride in the fact that there was only one word there starting with “F” and that word was “флот” (fleet).
7. Have you noticed that Russian surnames vary by gender? Their names consist of a first name, a family name, and a patronymic name, which is the father’s name plus the ending -ovich for a son and -ovna for a daughter. So if a father named Ivan has a son and a daughter, his son’s patronymic name will be Ivanovich and his daughter’s will be Ivanovna.
8. Unbelievably, it is impossible to “win” (победить) alone. You don’t believe me? Try to say “я победю” (I will win). Wrong! “Побежду”? Also wrong! We can only win together.