Languages

The official language of Kazakhstan is Kazakh (Qazaq). It is becoming the language of State government and is replacing Russian in many businesses and local government establishments. Russian however remains the language of inter-ethnic communication.

Both the Kazakh and Russian languages use the Cyrillic (or Russian) alphabet.  It was created during the 9th century by two Byzantine monk brothers from Thessaloniki, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius.  However the Cyrillic alphabet you see today has been modified numerous times over the past 1,000 years.

Whereas English may be spoken in offices where expats work as they are often European or American companies, it is not spoken by a large segment of the general population in Aktau.  The young Kazakh and Russians are more likely to speak some English since they often study it in school.  It will be beneficial to learn the Russian alphabet and some key phrases in order to be able to communicate more readily.  The local people will attempt to help you very often if they see you are trying to speak even just a few words in Russian.

Fortunately in this electronic world we now live in, there are many ways to learn Russian, such as language software, online language courses, online translators and of course language dictionaries and grammar books.  Language courses and private language tutoring are available in Aktau too.

Here are a few suggestions for software or websites to learn beginning Russian:

www.rosettastone.com

www.livemocha.com

http://listen2russian.com

There are a lot of other sites and products on the market, so you can even find sites on the internet where you can watch them speak on video and hear it at the same time.

Since language learning takes time and practice it would be advisable that you begin your language study before you arrive in Aktau, however if that does not happen, you will be able to pick up useful phrases once you are in the city.  Buying a good English/Russian dictionary and getting some useful grammer and/or phrasebooks in your own country is a good idea as they are not readily available in Kazakhstan.

There are some other useful tools, for example the iPhones have a translator app which can be good for a few words or short phrase translations while shopping or doing other activities.  Carrying a printed copy of some key phrases and a list of the Russian alphabet with you in the beginning will be helpful.  The local people will even see you have a dictionary and ask to see it so they can show you the word in English so you can understand each other.

Using the internet, you can google “You Tube, Travel Linguist, Russian 101” there are a series of Russian videos where you can see and hear the Russian speaker saying common phrases used in everyday greetings, shopping and dining.  Russian is a phonetic language, so if you learn the alphabet first, it makes reading it and speaking it much easier.  Also, if you practice reading the signs, labels and other written forms, it helps you learn faster.

Although Kazakh is also spoken here, as expats it is highly unlikely that you will be expected to know Kazakh, so this is why we are advising you to study Russian first, and if you have time later on, you can learn some Kazakh.  We believe it may be confusing if both languages are studied simultaneously, however if you are a strong linguist and already know several languages, you may choose to study them at the same time.

If you write down words in Russian on a piece of paper in advance of going to the store, it can be helpful if you just show your note to the sales staff.  We have found that even if we cannot speak much Russian, if we have a good attitude and smile and we are humble, the local people will respond by being helpful.

As in any overseas assignment, it is their country, their language is dominant and it is up to the expat to help bridge the gap by being interested in communicating in the local language.  If they can see you are trying, they will be happy to help you.

RUSSIAN ALPHABET WITH PRONUNCIATION (courtesy Russia-Ukraine Travel):

Russian Letter Letter’s Name Pronounced Transliteration Vowel
in Russian
А “ah” a in car a x
Б “beh” b in bit b
В “veh” v in vine v
Г “geh” g in go g
Д “deh” d in do d
Е “yeh” ye in yet ye or e x
Ё “yo” yo in yolk yo x
Ж “zheh” s in pleasure zh
З “zeh” z in zoo z
И “ee” ee in see i x
Й “ee kratkoyeh” y in boy i or y or j
“short ee”
К “kah” k in kitten k
Л “ehl” l in lamp l
М “ehm” m in map m
Н “ehn” n in not n
О “oh” o in folk o x
П “peh” p in pet p
Р “ehr” r in roll r
С “ehs” s in see s
Т “teh” t in tip t
У “oo” oo in boot u x
Ф “ehf” f in face f
Х “khah” h in house kh or h
Ц “tseh” ts in sits ts
Ч “cheh” ch in chip ch
Ш “shah” sh in shut sh
Щ “schyah” sh in sheep sch
Ъ “tvyordiy znahk”
“hard sign”
Ы “i” i in ill y x
Ь “myagkeey znahk”
“soft sign”
Э “eh” e in met e x
Ю “yoo” u in use yu x
Я “yah” ya in yard ya x


COMMON RUSSIAN PHRASES:

Key to abbreviations: inf = informal, frm = formal.

You can see these phrases in many other languages by clicking on the English versions (courtesy Omniglot.com).  By clicking on the Russian words in brown, it will give you the pronunciation.

English Русский (Russian)
Welcome Добро пожаловать (Dobro požalovat’)
Hello Здравствуйте (Zdravstvujte) – frm, Привет (Privet) – infАлло (Alló) – on phone
How are you? 

I’m fine, thanks. And you?

Как дела? (Kak dela) – infКак поживаешь (Kak požyivaješ) – infКак поживаете (Kak požyvajete) – frm
Спасибо, хорошо. А у вас? (Spasiba, horošo. A u vas?)
Long time no see Сколько лет, сколько зим! (Skol’ko let, skol’ko zim)How many years/summers, how many winters!Давно не виделись (Davno ne videlis’)
What’s your name? 

My name is …

Как тебя зовут? (Kak teb’a zovut) – infКак вас зовут? (Kak Vas zovut) – frm
Меня зовут… (Men’a zovut …)
Where are you from? 

I’m from …

Oткуда вы? (Otkuda vy) – frmOткуда ты? (Otkuda ty) – inf
Я из … (Ja iz …)
Pleased to meet you Очень приятно (Očen’ prijatno)
Good morning Доброе утро (Dobroe utro)
Good afternoon Добрый день (Dobryj den’)
Good evening Добрый вечер (Dobryj večer)
Good night Спокойной ночи (Spokojnoj noči)
Goodbye До свидания (Do svidanija) – frm, Пока (Poka) – inf
Good luck Удачи! (Udači)
Cheers/Good health! На здоровье (Na zdarov’e)Будем здоровы! (Budem zdorovy) – Let’s stay healthy
Have a nice day Хорошего Дня (Xaroševo dnja)
Bon appetit Приятного аппетита! (Prijatnovo appetita)
Bon voyage Счастливого пути (Sčastlivovo puti)
I don’t understand Я не понимаю (Ya ne ponimaju)
Please speak more slowly Вы не могли бы говорить помедленнее?(Vy ne mogli by govorit’ pomedlennee?) – frmПомедленнее, пожалуйста! (Pomedlennee požalujsta!) – inf
Please write it down Запишите, пожалуйста (Zapišite, požalujsta)
Do you speak Russian? 

 

Yes, a little

Вы говорите по-русски? (Vy govorite po-russki) – frmТы говоришь по-русски? (Ty govoriš’ po-russki) – inf
Да, немного (Da, nemnogo)
How do you say … in Russian? Как сказать … по-русски?(Kak skazat’ … po-russki?)
Excuse me Извините! (Izvinite) – frm, Извини! (Izvini) – inf
How much is this? Сколько это стоит? (Skol’ko eto stoit?)
Sorry Простите! (Prastite) – frm, Прости! (Prasti) – inf
Thank you 

 

Response

Спасибо (Spasiba)Огpомное спасибо (Ogromnoe spasiba)Большое спасибо (Bol’šoe spasiba) Благодарю вас (Blagodarju vas) – frm
Не за что (Ne za čto) Пожалуйста (Požalujsta)
Where’s the toilet? Где туалет? (Gde tualet?)
This gentleman/lady will pay for everything Этот мужчина платит за всё (Etot mužčina platit za vsë)Эта дама платит за всё (Eta dama platit za vsë)
Would you like to dance with me? Хотите потанцевать (Xotite potancevat)
I love you Я тебя люблю (Ja teb’a l’ubl’u)
Get well soon Выздоравливай(те) (Vyzdoravlivaj(te))Поправляйся / Поправляйтесь (Popravljajsja / Popravljajtes)Выздоравливай скорее (Vyzdoravlivaj skoree) – inf 

a Выздоравливайте скорее (Vyzdoravlivajte skoree) – frm

Leave me alone! Оставьте меня в покое! (Ostav’te menja v pokoe)
Help!Fire!Stop! Помогите! (Pomogite!)Пожар! (Požar!)Стой! (Stoj!)
Call the police! Позвоните в милицию! (Pozvonite v militsiju)
Merry Christmas*Happy New Year С Рождеством Христовым (S Roždestvom Khristovym)С наступающим Новым Годом (S nastupayuščim Novym Godom)
Happy Easter Христос воскрес (Xristos voskres) Christ resurrectedВоистину воскрес (Voistinu voskres) – reply – truly resurrected
Happy Birthday С днем рождения (S dniom roždenija)
Best wishes Всего наилучшего (Vsevo nailučševo)
One language is never enough Одного языка недостаточно (Odnovo jazyka nedostatočno)Знать один язык недостаточно (Znatʼ odin jazyk nedostatočno)Знать один язык – это недостаточно (Znatʼ odin jazyk – eto nedostatočno)
My hovercraft is full of eels Моё судно на воздушной подушке полно угрей(Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey)

 

* Christmas is celebrated on 7th January by Orthodox Christians.

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