Foreigner’s dictionary Basic phrases to help you travel in Russia
Russian language is admittedly a difficult language, but for everyday communication focus on a few important words and basic phrases. Especially since few people speak English in the Russian regions.
In Russia, strangers are usually addressed according to their gender: “devushka” [dEh-voosh-kah] (young woman) and “molodoi chelovek” [ma-la-dOi chie-la-vIEk] (young man) or “zhenschina” [zhEn-schee-na] (woman) and “muzhchina” [mu-schEE-na] (man), when it comes to older people. However, these formulas can sound both neutral and rude. It’s better to start the phrase with “prostite” [pras-tEE-tie] (excuse me) — a stranger is usually readily forgiven for his confusion or an awkward request.
Try to memorize Russian numbers — taxi drivers and sellers can try to cheat and charge a foreigner extra compared to the regular price.
Going to a bar
Besides the international "vodka", you will need "pivo” [pEE-va] (beer) and "povtorit” [pa-fta-rEEt] (repeat) here, as well as “zazhigalka” [za-zhee-gAl-ka] (a lighter) and colloquial "sizhki" [sEEzh-kee] (ciggies) if you smoke. If everything goes well, in the morning you will get acquainted with another word — "pokhmelye” [pakh-mIE-lye] (hangover).
In some Russian cities you are likely to travel by marshrutka (minibus). Learn the names of the necessary transport stops and say them right at the entrance. Drivers may not stop even where they are supposed to, so remember the phrase “na ostanovke, budte dobry” [na us-ta-nOf-kee bOOt-tie dab-rEE] (at the stop, please).
In addition, you’ll need the word “sdacha” [sdA-cha] and a bag of change to pay for the fare.
Never use the taxi that you did not order — use Uber or Yandex.Taxi. To communicate with taxi drivers, keep in mind the words for directions — left, right, straight, forward and backward. Not every car has a navigator and not every taxi driver knows exactly where to go; be ready to engage in the dialogue and explain the road with words and gestures. In complex cases, use Google Translate.
A few words about Russian small talk: as a rule, it consists of the question “kak dela?” [kag dee-lA] (how are you doing?) and the answer “normalno” [nar-mAl-nuh] (fine). Note that here everyone is ready to turn a short chat into a heart-to-heart conversation. Learn "ladno” [lAd-na] (okay) and "konechno” [ka-niE-shna] (of course) for agreement — and their more common synonyms “da” (yes) and “okay”.
Russian obscene language
Most of the Russian obscene words are formed by only three roots, but this is enough to express the whole range of emotions. However, do not rush to share new knowledge with the others: you will need obscene words not to say them, but to listen — and determine in time, when the situation changes from fun to danger.
Watch out when in the middle of an emotional conversation you are told “ty chyo?” [ti chIO] (something like “whaat?!”) (Not to be confused with a caring "ty kak?” [ti kak] (how are you?). If the interlocutor has called you with the word “slysh!” (hey!), it’s better not to listen, but to run. It’s also worth doing so if you are asked to lend a smoke on a deserted street in some remote area.
Each Russian city has its own dialecticisms — words used only in that region. It might be a challenge to find their meaning in a dictionary. Consult the list to understand the locals.
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