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World Cup 2018: Useful Russian Phrases to Kick Things Off

With the World Cup in Russia kicking off in under a month, there’s never been a better time to learn some Russian! This guest post is from our friend Jesse from LiveFluent, who learned Russian himself from scratch, and is well-placed to offer some candid advice on how to grasp the rudimentaries of this fascinating language!

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Russia World Cup

How much do you know about Russia? Perhaps you knew already that it spans over 11 different time zones and Russians can trace their heritage all the way back to the 10th century. Artistically, the country has been a longstanding staple in the international arts scene, putting forward some of the best composers, writers, poets, and architects in the world. With all its vastness, history, and rich culture aside, something just as big and historic will draw people from around the world to Russia this summer… the 2018 FIFA world cup!

2018 will actually be the first time in history that Russia has hosted the World Cup, and the hype has been building for several years already. The competition will be hosted across 11 different Russian cities including the two largest: Moscow and Saint Petersburg. 32 teams from across the world have qualified to take part in the competition!

If you plan on attending one of the world’s largest sporting events, you might want to brush up on your Russian before you go. Interestingly enough, even with all of Russia’s international influence and historical heritage, only about 3% of Russians are fluent in English (though up to 30% claim at least some ability in the language).*

While the country and its host cities are no doubt making preparations to accommodate the incoming slew of international fans and competitors; knowing even a little Russian will help set you apart from the tourists, and ensure you get the most out of your World Cup adventures.

I know from experience that a list of basic phrases in Russian (or any language) can get long very quickly. It’s all too easy to keep adding words and phrases until your list becomes so large that it defeats the purpose of being basic enough to use quickly. The truth is that some words and phrases will be more helpful than others, and it’s always best to focus your time and efforts on the words that matter the most.

In this post, we’ve whittled down the list to create a phrasebook of the most important and practical words for a trip to the 2018 World Cup. It’s essentially a toolkit to help you navigate your way around the cities, embrace the culture, and converse with the people from the beautiful and historic country that is Russia.

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1. Common Courtesies

No matter what language you’re learning, it pays to be polite. Given that you will interact with many people, polite phrases such as “please” and “thank you” are likely to be some of the most common expressions you will hear and should use during your stay.

  • Thank you — Спасибо (spaseeba)
  • Please — Пожалуйста (pazhaloosta)
  • You’re welcome — Пожалуйста (pazhaloosta)
  • Excuse me — Простите (prasteete)
  • Good morning — Доброе утро (dobraye ootro)
  • Good afternoon — Добрый день (dobriy den')
  • Good evening — Добрый вечер (dobriy vyecher)

2. Sports vocabulary

Of course you’ll also want to know some football related vocabulary! Those of you learning Russian are in luck, as much of the vocabulary is similar to English.

  • World Cup — Чемпионат мира по футболу (Chempionat mira po futbolu)
  • Goal — Гол (gol)
  • Penalty — Пенальти (penal-ti)
  • To kick — Пинать (peen-nyat)
  • Final — Финал (feenal)
  • Ball — Мяч (meyach)
  • Pass — Пас (pas)

3. Getting around

Russians are proud of their country and are typically more than happy to lend a hand to a lost or inquisitive foreigner. Use these travel phrases to help you find your way through the streets and explore some of Russia's most beautiful cities.

  • Where is...? — Где…? (gdye)
  • Metro — Метро (med-tro)
  • Airport — Аэропорт (air-a-port)
  • Train station — Вокзал (vawk-zal)
  • Hotel — Отель (O-tel)
  • Stadium — Стадион (sta-dee-on)

4. Troubleshooting

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. Here are some phrases you can use if you and the person you’re speaking with, run head on into the language barrier.

  • I don’t understand — Я не понимаю (ya ne ponee-my-you)
  • Do you understand? — Вы понимаете? (Vee ponee-my-etay?)
  • What does ... mean? — Что значит ...? (shto znachit ... ?)
  • How do you say...in Russian? — Как сказать...по русски? (Kak skazat'...pa ruski?)
  • Can you repeat that please? — Вы можете повторить это? (vee mo-zshee-tey puff-ta-reet eta?)

There you have it — the essential words and phrase list for the ultimate 2018 World Cup experience! Remember that anytime you’re learning new words or phrases it’s practice that makes perfect. Why not take this list and practice them with a native speaker on Tandem now?

Jesse is a travel lover and language learning enthusiast. Though his first foreign language was Spanish, he started learning the Russian language while spending a summer in Ukraine, and he's been hooked ever since. In his free time he likes to blog and share his passion for language learning.

*According to Russia Beyond.

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