Russian. Where do you start? The Cyrillic alphabet looks worryingly complicated to learn. The pronunciations are easy to get wrong and if think you’re saying simple names like Ivan, Vladimir and Boris correctly then check this first. Plus many Russians already speak English as a second language right? Well not exactly.
According to the Russian Census of 2010 found here in Wikipedia approximately 5% of the population speak English as a second language. That’s still a fairly substantial number of people at 7.5m but the chances are that if you’re planning a trip to Moscow you’ll need to know enough to get by. Russian is also widely spoken as a common language in countries that have a historic connection to the old Tsarist Empire or Soviet Union; Belarus, Ukraine and Latvia to name a few.
So, if your employer is considering partnering with companies or organisations in Russia or its neighbours here are a few tips. An ability to speak Russian will go a long way to demonstrating your credibility and commitment.
By far the best thing to do is book a private Russian tutor. Over the last ten years or so London’s Russian population has increased to around 150,000 and there are plenty of Russian-born teachers who can help you get off the ground. One-to-one lessons can be tailored to what you need to know rather than having to fit in with a large class. You’ll also get more practice by having to speak the language and conduct everyday conversations in Russian with your tutor.
Of course you may want to experiment with learning the sounds of the Cyrillic alphabet first and there are some useful resources online and many of them are free. It’s not as easy as it looks but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Russia Today also has an extensive set of resources to help you get started.