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What Other Languages Can You Understand If You Know Russian?



Let’s be honest: Russian is a hard language to learn. A native English speaker needs to spend approximately 1,100 hours, practicing and working with a tutor, to achieve fluency in Russian. But once you’ve achieved fluency, what other languages will you be able to understand?


Slavic Languages and the Similarities Between Them

Russian belongs to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. If you speak Russian, it will be easier for you to understand other Slavic languages, which include Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Slovene.


Ukrainian and Belarusian are the closest languages, as together with Russian they form the East Slavic group of languages. These three languages have an 86% lexical similarity; that is, they share 86% of the same words.

If you can speak Russian fluently, you will be able to understand 77% of Polish words, while Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, and Slovene have a 74% similarity to Russian in terms of vocabulary, which decreases to 71% for Serbian.


Spoken Versus Written Language

In most cases it will be easier for you to understand the written languages, because pronunciation can differ very much. But remember that some words may look and sound similar yet denote different things in different languages. For instance, although the Czech word “pozor” and the Russian word “позор” (pozor) resemble each other, in Czech the word means “attention,” while in Russian it means “shame.”

Nevertheless, you’ll be able to guess the meaning of words in other Slavic languages if you speak Russian very well. In Croatia, people say “dobro,” which means good or well; “Добро” (dobro) in Russian means “goodness.” So, if you know the context, you can easily understand what people are saying.

Now you have one more good reason to learn Russian: improving your understanding of 10 other languages. Work with us to unlock the world of Slavic languages.

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