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Cyrillic vs Latin Transliteration

Is there any point in me learning Russian without learning and using the Cyrillic alphabet? Surely if I only use the Latin transliteration I won't be able to read anything written in Russian outside of Duolingo?

November 4, 2015



Learning Russian without a cyrillic keyboard is like a Russian learning English with only Cyrillic and then realising they can't read anything in English :D


Дуде, тхат ис со труе! :)


Actually, whatever keyboard you use has nothing much to do with whether you can read a language or not - reading is not writing.

You can learn to read Russian in Cyrillic and still use a Latin keyboard - your ability to read has very little to do with your ability to write.

Also, being able to type on a Cyrillic keyboard does not mean that you can 'write' Russian; it just means that you have learned a new keyboard layout... it's only useful if you do really need to be able to 'type' Cyrillic often.

Learning to write Cyrillic Russian requires using a pen and paper - I highly recommend it - writing cursive Cyrillic Russian can be quite delightful...

But, in using DUO, transliteration does have its advantages... you still have to learn to read Cyrillic (good), but inputting your answers using transliteration can be much quicker and more convenient in many situations (good) - it's a double win!

[deactivated user]

    Attn Verben--: Yes typing in latin charachters is an input method, that is all. I am happy to see someone else agrees. People have gotten into arguments over this issue, myself included.


    I think there is little point unless you only want to try a few first skills.

    You got the main disadvantage perfectly: people don't write Russian using the Latin alphabet IRL, unless forced to. You will be extremely limited in your selection of learning materials if you do not know the alphabet. But if you know it, any textbook and any material on the web is your potential source of knowledge :)


    Actually, may I ask why the transliteration was even included, not to mention made default? It seems pretty much useless if you want to learn Russian.


    I highly recommend switching to Cyrillic and sticking with it. And yes, if you only use the transliteration, you'll struggle to cope with any written Cyrillic.


    I think a lot of the fun of learning Russian is being able to read texts written with the Cyrillic alphabet, and it's not hard to learn.


    I don't know why but transliteration always hurts my eyes. Plus, I believe that someone who is learning Russian should not only stick with Cyrillic, but also should write in cursive while taking notes etc. It's not hard at all to get used to it, and it's quite fun. :)


    It's not hard for a beginner to write in Russian cursive?? Wow, now I feel inferior..


    If you are used to writing cursive in English, adopting several new letterforms would not be a problem. They are constructed mostly from the same standard elements. Reading someone else's handwriting, on the other hand, can be a challenge.


    Most English people don't write using the proper English cursive. Presumably the same can be said for most North Americans and Australians.


    After a week of practice my Russian cursive was better than my English cursive has been since 4th grade (the last time I was ever required to write anything but my name in English cursive; after that I switched to a public school). I still can't get the tiny loops on letters like ц to look pleasant but other than that it's very easy.


    Well you've inspired me to give it a go. Tomorrow, though. Always tomorrow.


    I agree with HartzHandia. Reading someone else's handwriting is definitely challenging for a newbie (like me). I always have difficulty reading them. Yet again, I believe one should at least start practicing if they're committed to learning this language. :)


    I like the spirit :) As a bonus, here's a Russian expression used when someone has extremely bad handwriting.

    Он пишет, как пьяный врач, который едет на разбитой телеге, ручкой, украденной на почте.

    It is long and may be challenging but try to work it out, it's worth it :)


    I will practise by handwriting that phrase 1000 times.


    I read Russian Cyrillic very well, but with my computer I need to write the transliterated form. With the Cyrillic letters not having an equivalent in Latin I find it very hard to guess what the correct transliterated version of some words is? This slows my progress in Duolingo Russian and I can't take the tests very well at all. Is there a guide of equivalence of Cyrillic with Transliteration I can get/ memorize? Thanks!


    Hi. This Wikipedia article has a table showing all of the main Russian transliteration systems:


    I'm not sure exactly which system DUO employs, but it seems to be close to that of the BS or BNG model.

    Hard and soft signs (represented by apostrophes) seem to be optional and can generally either be used or omitted.

    In general, the DUO transliteration system works quite well and systematically. So far (after completing half of the tree), I have found one bug - the Russian word есть does not seem to transliterate for some unknown reason. It should be rendered as either [est] or [est'], but the system never seems to accept it.

    Fortunately, this word seems to appear less frequently as the course progresses.


    Thank you all for your input, which was pretty much what I feared I was going to hear. So it looks like I am going to have to grapple with Cyrillic after all. I've got as far as setting up the keyboard for typing input and making myself a chart to see which letters are where. Now for the difficult part - to match them to the sounds!


    Cyrillic really is the least-difficult part of learning Russian. Hard to believe when your eyes see the letters for the first time, but have faith. It's not Chinese! :O


    For more practice,

    • you could try this FAST course, lesson 1. Note that the text for the course is an ebook right there on the page, and the audio is given, lesson by lesson, on the right. Try doing the exercises as a kind of dictation.
    • You can use the Duolingo text-to-speech voice as a way to practice dictation. Every time the voice says something in Russian, try to write it in Cyrillic and then check yourself.
    • Ch. 1 of this old primer has some exercises, and also rather exhaustive discussion. The book is easier to read if you download it.

    Shady_arc provides lots of help.

    You are definitely right--learning and using the Cyrillic alphabet is the way to go. The only reason not to use it right away would be if it was just a bit too much, and you would quit because of overload. In that case tackling Cyrillic could be deferred for a little while, until some of the Russian was learned.


    Thank you so much for these links. Can't wait to check them out when I get home from work!

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