Berlin,

Babbel, the online service for language learning, now offers courses in Russian – the first language with non-latin characters to be added to the company’s portfolio. Russian’s cyrillic alphabet is often the first big hurdle for beginners . Babbel solves this issue with the help of a transliteration table and thematically incorporates the entire cyrillic alphabet into a new Russian beginner’s course. Everyday speaking situations like greetings or visiting a restaurant give users a knowledge of Russian they can start using instantly.

Russian is the seventh most common language spoken worldwide, with 275 million speakers. It is no surprise then, that Russian is high on the list of Babbel’s most-requested languages. In order to satisfy these requests, the Babbel team began preparing and implementing the Russian beginner’s course months before its release. The linguists, native speakers and product designers at Babbel faced several problems however: How does one learn the cyrillic alphabet on a latin keyboard? And how can these new letters be conveyed so that they can be used immediately in the context of a conversation?

Barbara Baisi, Project Manager for Russian at Babbel, says, “It was very important to us to convey the 33 characters of the cyrillic alphabet in context so that users immediately practice first words and entire phrases that they can use in daily speaking situations. We were beta testing until the last stages of the course design in order to be sure that learning would be easy and motivating even with a latin keyboard.” The problem of writing with a latin keyboard is solved with the help of a transliteration table. Certain latin letters or letter combinations represent cyrillic characters in Russian (e.g. a = a, n = н and ya= я). Users of the Babbel app have it even easier – they will be shown a cyrillic keyboard on their smartphone or tablet.

When learning Russian, one can quickly see some commonalities with the Germanic languages. Even if the latin and cyrillic alphabets at first seem completely different, six letters resemble each other in both languages (A, E, K, M, O, T). Some Russian words were taken directly from English and vice versa: “tundra” and “mammoth” are just as familiar in English as “computer” and “lounge” are in Russian. Fortunately, Russian does not present some of the difficulties of the German language, such as the articles “der,” “die” and “das”.

Berlin,