At first glance Russian looks like the most impossible language to pronounce. There are lots of Cyrillic letters that appear strange to English speakers, like the ones that look like backwards ‘R’ and ‘N’ and the letter that resembles a spider.
In most languages the easiest word of all to say is “hello”, but in Russian even when the word is written in latin letters it still looks intimidating: zdravstvuyte! Don’t let that put you off – Russia and Russian might seem tricky at first, but as Intrepid’s Tara Kennaway explains, you’ll get the hang of it and then there’s so much to enjoy…
“Travelling on the Russia and Beyond trip, our Russian leader Masha helped us to get our minds and tongues around a few of the basics. Her technique for teaching us to read the Cyrillic alphabet had our train carriage attendant a bit nonplussed however – she used a whiteboard marker to write on the train windows! By the time we had crossed into Siberia I thought I was doing pretty well. That was until I asked the name of the little village where we would be staying on Lake Baikal. Instead of answering she wrote it and had us try to read it out loud: Bolshoye Goloustnoye.
One by one we all tried and failed miserably to get our mouths around that mouthful of consonants and vowels to the delight of our carriage attendant, who was by now regularly tuning-in for our Russian lessons and stifling her giggles outside our door.
After spending a few days in Bolshoye Goloustnoye we were still struggling with the name a little, but had completely fallen in love with the place. Our homestay hosts, Faiya, Misha and their son Zhenya, not only taught us a lot about their Buryat culture and took us hiking, swimming and boating on the lake, they also showed us the hospitality Siberia is famous for and made sure we all left more than a few kilos heavier full of Faiya’s home cooking!
We were sad to say “do svidaniya” to our new friends and once back on the train I asked our leader if Bolshoye Goloustnoye is the longest, trickiest name to pronounce of all Intrepid’s destinations in Russia. Surely! I almost fell off my seat when she said that on the White Nights Adventure we stay in a village called Morshchikhinskaya!”