I follow one Twitter account that has photos of fish — generally quite unusual fish. The account belongs to one Роман Федорцов — and now you can see this is a problem for me, because I’m not familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet.
Roman Fedortsov sails on fishing vessels and tweets about the fish they come across. Usually he tweets in both English and Russian, though replies are often only in Russian.
I hate not being able to make sense of the Cyrillic — I’d like to be able to pronounce the characters I see, at least in my own head. I’m not aiming to be fluent in Russian, or to talk with others, I just want to be able to sound out those unfamiliar words.
Part of my strategy for learning to do this is to use a nice little bit of software called Instant Translate, by Twopeople Software e.U.
I copy the text then paste it into the Instant Translate window and follow that with pressing the Return key. Moments later a translation appears. But check out the screenshot below, showing Roman Fedortsov’s Twitter profile: that speaker icon causes the computer to speak the text aloud.
Slowly I’m starting to recognise some of the characters. Sometimes I guess at the sounds first then listen to the text to see how well I did.
Another strategy I have is some reference windows for the letters and how they sound. I have a Keyboard Maestro macro I can trigger to show me the letters in 3 tables: all the letters, letters that look like English but sound different, and letters that sound alike but look different.
I’ve always loved languages, ever since I was a young kid and family members taught me odd bits of French and Japanese (an older sister at school, a dad who was a prisoner of war in the Japanese camps). I went on to learn (and forget) varying amounts of French, German, Latin, Japanese, Maori, Spanish.
I’d love to add Russian, Arabic, something from China, something from India to that list, though these days I’m no longer so keen on the hard work involved. In the meantime, discovering how to match sounds to the Cyrillic alphabet keeps me mildly entertained.