Russian Business Seminars. Issue #SE-02  [13Feb06]

Russian alphabet is phonetic, or nearly phonetic. This means that every SOUND in Russian language has a corresponding LETTER in the alphabet. As a matter of fact, most of the writing in other languages is phonetic.
     The exception is English language, where same SOUND can be spelled in several different ways. For instance "through" and "thru" is pronounced the same way. There is no 100% correspondence between spelling word and the way it is pronounced. This is why English speaking schools have subject Spelling. When a language has a phonetic spelling, there is no need for special subject Spelling, since the key to the pronunciation is in the writing itself.
     In Russian language some Russian letters have one to one correspondence between Russian and English letters, when applicable.

    0         1          2               3
    12345678 90 1234567890 12345 6 7   890 12 3

Also, some Russian letters do not have have equivalent English letters. As a matter of fact different countries that use Latin alphabet translate Russian letters differently. Below are given examples of English, French and German translation:

         V, FF, W
         J, Y
         H, KH
         C, TS
         CH, TCH, TSCH 
         SH, CH, SCH 
         Hard sign, cannot be translated
         I, Y
         Soft Sign, cannot be translated
         YU, JU
         YA, JA

What does this all mean? This means that the same Russian name can be written with Latin letters in several different ways. Most popular translation these days is English, since a lot of business is done in English. On the other hand, Russian equivalent to our State Department issues passports with French translation. At the same time business people prefer English spelling on their Business Cards.
     As mentioned earlier, the result is that the same name: person, company or made up product name, in Russian can be written only in one way and pronounced also only in one way and with Latin alphabet it can be written in several different ways.
     A very interesting consequence of the above facts is that sometimes one can determine from the way Russian last name is written, to which country that person moved first, from Russia. As the political situation was changing, people moved from Russia to Poland, or Yugoslavia, or France, or Germany, or USA etc. From the way Russian name is written in Latin alphabet one can see that that person (or his parents) moved from Russia say to France. At that point Russian name was for the first time written in Latin alphabet, and this spelling stays with the person permanently or until he decides for some reason to change it.

Learn Russian Alphabet in Two Hours (SE-03)

Russian Business Seminars. Issue #SE-02 -
"Spelling of Russian Names"
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