Lesson 001

Russian alphabet: vowels

Welcome to Learn Russian Step by Step! This is the place where you will start doing your first steps in the captivating journey of learning the Russian language. All you need to succeed in this endeavour is your motivation and a bit of patience and perseverance.

In this lessons, we start learning the Russian alphabet.

An introduction to the Russian alphabet

Russian alphabet was derived from the Cyrillic one and includes 33 letters: 10 vowels, 21 consonants and 2 letters that are neither one or the other.

You can divide all the Russian letters into four groups:

  1. Letters that look and sound like in English (A, O, T, M etc.),
  2. Letters that look like in English but sound differently (P [r], У [oo], B [v] etc.),
  3. Letters that sound like in English but look differently (Ф [f], И [ee], Л [l] etc.),
  4. And the last group of Russian letters includes new to an English speaker sounds and looks (Ъ, Ь, Ы).

Despite the fact the some of the Russian sounds are close to the English ones, you should not forget that they are not absolutely identical. You will need some practice to get a perfect Russian accent.

Russian Pod 101

Learn Russian vowels

Russian vowels form two groups – 5 pairs – where one vowel in a pair sounds like a soft version of the other.

Let’s start with the “not soft” ones:

А а[ a ] (like ‘a’ in ‘far’)

О о[ o ] (like ‘o’ in ‘not’)

У у[ u ] (like ‘u’ in ‘sugar’)

Э э[ e ] (like ‘e’ in ‘edit’)

Ы ы[ y ] (has no equivalent in English)

The Russian letter Ы causes a lot of trouble to those not having this sound in their native language. To pronounce the Russian Ы correctly, you need to place your tongue in the position between the positions for I in kit and U in sugar. Make a sound, somewhat close to trying to say U with your lips opens for I. The correctly pronounced letter Ы should remind you of the sound that one makes being hit in the stomach. 🙂

Now, have a look at the following list: there are 5 pairs of vowels, where the first vowel in the pair is already familiar to you, and the second one is derived from its counterpart by adding “y” to soften the sound:

А а [ a ]Я я [ ya ] (like ‘yu’ in ‘yummy’)

О о [ o ]Ё ё [ yo ] (like ‘yo’ in ‘yours’)

У у [ u ]Ю ю [ yu ] (like ‘yu’ in ‘you’)

Э э [ e ]Е е [ ye ] (like ‘ye’ in ‘yes’ or ‘e’ in ‘exit’)

Ы ы [ y ]И и [ ee ] (like ‘ée’ in ‘free’)

The only pair that does not really follow the pattern is Ы – И. Listen to the audio to feel the difference in the pronunciation.


And this is it for this lesson. In the next lesson, we will continue learning the Russian alphabet and have a look at the Russian consonants.

Update: we have also created the whole site to learn the Russian alphabet easy and free. Don’t hesitate to check it out!

The offline version of this lesson is available here

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29 comments on “001 – Russian alphabet: vowels”

  1. Concerned says:

    The link for the Russian alphabet site does not link to a site about the Russian alphabet. And the page it does link to is full of porn advertisements

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:


      Thanks for your message. We have let go of this domain name some time ago and moved the Russian alphabet site to another domain – https://russianalphabeteasy.com/ – but forgot to update the link.

      The link is corrected now.

  2. Oksana says:

    Thanks a lot. It is very good for beginners.

  3. pancake says:

    i want 2 be an astronaut when i grow up. So i have to learn russian. This is really hard 4 me. I feel like i cant do this. i need even more help. what site should i go to for free?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Pancake,

      Well, you can start with our site. It is totally free. Here you can get familiar with the Russian grammar and basic vocabulary.

      If you would like to get a better grasp on the Russian alphabet, we recomment this site: https://russianalphabeteasy.com/.

      To enrich your vocabulary: https://learnrussianwords.com/

      To practice Russian verb conjugation: https://russianverbconjugation.com/

      To find Russian friends: https://russianpenpal.com/

      And when you reach an intermediate level, this site will help you to boost your Russian even further: https://ochenporusski.com/

      Russian is not the hardest language. If you want to be an austronaut, you will have to learn much more complicated things. 🙂

      Good luck to you and may your dreams come true! 🙂

  4. Elif says:

    Where is the audio?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Elif,

      The audio to the lesson is under the blue button at the bottom of the screen.

  5. Georgios says:

    Hello, friends.
    I have studied the lessons, but I have a doubt. Are audios recorded by natives of the Russian language?
    I await answer.
    Many thanks!

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Georgios,

      Yes, all the audios are recorded by a native Russian speaker. What made you doubt it?

  6. Olivia says:

    Learning Russian is very hard! HELP!

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Olivia,

      Our site is designed for self-learning. The lessons are short and should take you just a few minutes a day.

      Of course, to master the Russian language just our site is not enough. You need to work on your vocabulary, i.e. learn a few Russian words a day. Good tools for that can be found online. For example, there is an app called Memrise, which we find quite helpful. We also created another site with the “Russian Word of the Day“. You can subscribe and receive a new Russian word of phrase in your inbox daily.

      You should also use any opportunity to practice. For example, set the interface of your phone to Russian, or try to find Russian movies, and so on.

      You can post your questions here when you have them, we are happy to help.

      In any case, learning any language is not like going for a walk. If it was easy, everybody would be a polyglot. It requires attention, and, most of all, motivation. When you are motivated enough, even Russian will not seem as such a hard language to learn. Good luck! 🙂

  7. Esmaeil says:

    I want to learn Russian and I need your help.
    I do not nothing


    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Esmaeil,

      Our site is designed for self-learning. All the lessons are available for free. Just follow them one by one: List of all lessons.

      You can ask your questions in the comments. Good luck!

  8. Фатима says:

    Где можно узнать the audio file of this lesson? I couldn’t find it. Can one help me please?
    Спасибо большое

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Fatima,

      The audio player for every lesson is fixed to the bottom of the screen.
      Аудио плеер для каждого урока закреплен внизу экрана.

  9. Amir says:

    Very nice and easy method of teaching Russian. Thanks alot!
    In Iran we do not access to PayPal. Hope you best wishes.
    Thank you again!

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi Amir,

      Welcome to the site and thank you for the comment. Feel free to ask your questions. Good luck!

  10. Milad Faragalla says:

    this is the first time learn Russian language i hope this site help me

  11. Srinivas says:

    I want all that stuff of alphabets used in russian language with all the sound and that grammer in russian language with the equal meanin gin english so that i can under stand russificate

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    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

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    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Robin,

      Thanks for your feedback.
      Welcome here and we hope you’ll find here a lot of useful learning materials.

  14. I can help you with your site. I’m living in Russia, and I know English.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

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  15. Barkallah Tahir says:

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  17. Kumaresan says:

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