Learning Cyrillic

Learn Cyrillic and how to write your own name.

Learning Cyrillic is useful if you go to Bulgaria. If you are buying a property, it is nice to be able to read your own name on the contract. If you are buying an apartment, it is nice to be able to give other people your new address.

Learning Cyrillic is much easier than you may imagine. It is not like learning Bulgarian, which is hard work. Cyrillic is very close to the English alphabet, there is a one to one correspondence for most letters, and half of them are even in the same alphabetical order!

If you think that the Cyrillic alphabet looks like an alien script, then you may be surprised at how easy it is to learn. It is surprisingly close to the English alphabet. In fact you only need to learn the three letters in the following paragraph, and you will be able to read dozens of Bulgarian words.

Learning the Bulgarian language is a different matter however, it is hard work requiring a language course and hours of lessons.

Cyrillic is very close to the English alphabet, each Cyrillic letter has an equivalent English letter.

Many letters look the same, others look similar but deformed or hand written (D = Д). If you learn the following three letters:

* the letter ‘r’ is written ‘Р’ in Cyrillic,
* the letter ‘n’ is written ‘Н’ in Cyrillic,
* the letter ‘i’ is written ‘И’ in Cyrillic,

and if you remember that the Cyrillic letter “c” is always pronounced like “c” in “city”, then you will understand dozens of Bulgarian words:

атом администратор Америка идиот
Интернет адрес Канада зомби
модем директор дискотека акробат
диск банкер бар ескорт
рекорд бизнес караоке орнамент
радиатор дебит карате зебра

Each letter of the Cyrillic alphabet is only pronunced one way. For example the Cyrillic letter "c" is always pronounced like the English "s".

The English letter "c" however is sometimes pronounced like the letter "k" in "cat", or like the letter "s" in "city".

Once you have learnt it, you will be able to read Bulgarian, and even if you don’t understand what you are saying, a Bulgarian will.

In the following table, note that the letters from "i" to "u" are in the same alphabetical order in both alphabets!

Cyrillic Latin sounds like  
А а a a in alpha  
Б б b b in bravo  
В в v v in victor In Spanish, “v” is pronounced “b”
Г г g g in golf  
Д д d d in delta Да means “yes” in Bulgarian (and Russian)
Е Е e “e” in echo  
Ж ж zx s in pleasure In French, like “J” in Jean
З з z z in zulu Similar to a z in English when written with joined-up writing
И и i “i” in india The next 14 letters are in the same order as the English alphabet
Й й j “y” in boy In German, like “j” in ja
К к k “k” in kilo  
Л л l “L” in Lima Similar to an L in English when written with joined-up writing (with a flat bit on the top)
М м m “m” in Mike  
Н н n “n” in November This can be confusing
О о o “o” in Oscar  
П п p “p” in papa Looks like the Greek PI
Р р r “r” in roll Use Scottish rather than English pronunciation
С с s “s” in Sierra Easy to remember if you think of “c” in city
Т т t “t” in tango  
У у u “u” in put Also like “oo” in foot - but not like “u” in cut
Ф ф f “f” in foxtrot English: “v” comes after “u”; German: “v” is pronounced “f”; Cyrillic: “f” comes after “u”
Х х h “h” in hotel In Spanish, “x” is also pronounced “h” (think of “Don Quixote”)
Ц ц ts “ts” in cats  
Ч ч ch “ch” in chair  
Ш ш sh “sh” in ship  
Щ Щ st “sht” in shtook In German, like “st” in “stein”
Ъ ъ   “a” in a Not like “a” in cat. Like “a” in “a book, a pen, a …”. Like “er” in Peter. In French like “e” in le.
Ь ь q No sound Used as a separator. Looks like a normal lower case “b”
Ю ю ju “u” in uniform Combination of Й + У
Я я ja ya in yard Combination of Й + А. In German sounds like the word “ja”

The six vowels: А Е И О У Ъ

Once you have learnt Cyrillic, you will be able to do the following:

* Read a Bulgarian book or newspaper. (You may not understand what you are saying, but a Bulgarian person listening to you will).
* Use a Bulgarian - English dictionary.
* Read a map and street signs
* Understand about 60% of signs on shops.
* Know which train station you are at.
* Spell out names over the telephone.
* Write your name in Cyrillic.
* Recognise the address of the house you bought.
* Write the address on an envelope.

Here is some practice, many of these words you will see everyday in town, now you can read and understand them. A knowledge of German and French will help with a few of them. It’s even easier when they’re in context:

Хотел Такси Супермаркет Телефон
Офис сервиз компутър България
Кетчуп Кафе Бар Централна Абтогара
Хипербанд стерео тунер Контраст фаст Бургер хот дог
Бистро Министерство на финансите фитнес центрове солариум
Сауна масаж физиотерапия рехабилитация
Ибан Кино Аптека Каса
Kонтакти Банк информация Температура
бекон Паркинг Оптика ресторант
джакузи студио София Матраци
Факс Тенис Клуб Атлас базар етаж


Here are some common names, written in Cyrillic:

Donald Доналд Doris Дорис
Tony Тони Sandra Сандра
Martin Мартин Mildred Милдред
Tom Том Anna Ана
Tim Тим Nancy Нанси
Ken Кен Robin Робин
Mark Марк Marta Марта
Erik Ерик Betty Бети
Antonio Антонио Debra Дебра
Adam Адам Liz Лиз
Albert Алберт Karen Карен
Norman Норман Dona Дона
Andy Анди Karol Карол
Bernard Бернард Alice Алис

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