General Question

quarkquarkquark's avatar

Can you get by speaking Russian in other Slavic countries?

Asked by quarkquarkquark (1695points) May 7th, 2009

i.e. Bosnia, Serbia, Slovakia, Montenegro… I know that the Cyrillic alphabet is used in these places. Is Russian understood?

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10 Answers

eponymoushipster's avatar

Some of them might understand, might. but they aren’t very fond of Russian or Russians in those places. Some see it as “the language of the oppressor”. In some cases, they might understand, but refuse to speak it.

The languages are similar but they aren’t Russian.

Jack79's avatar

Older people have learnt Russian at school to start with (even in places such as Hungary or East Germany). Slavic languages do have similarities, and you’ll find that if you’re fluent enough in one of them, you’ll understand quite a bit in others. But younger people may not necessarily understand you (or want to).

There are also social reasons. For example, in Poland it’s a lot easier to communicate in English than in Russian, but the reason for that is more political than linguistic.

Overall though, I’ve found that my few words of Russian and my basic Czech meant that I at least understood some basic words wherever I went and was able to pick up the local language a lot faster.

(btw only Bulgaria still uses Cyrillic as far as I remember).

wundayatta's avatar

@eponymoushipster—it’s true that they remember the Russians as the hated overlords, although already, so many people have been born since then and they don’t have that experience.

However, my question is whether they would be so snippy about it when it’s an American that is trying to communicate with them?

In my limited experience, I’ve found that the other slavic languages are close enough so that one could get along, in necessary, in Russian. However, I suspect @Jack79‘s point about people speaking English may hold true enough across Europe, and so it may not be necessary to use Russian.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@daloon yes, it’s true an American gets more leeway, typically. But that’s not always the case.

yes, there are some similar words (it seems the numbers have the same sound – i can understand polish numbers, as they’re very close to russian and ukrainian.), but not entirely.

i think in the Baltics you’ll be fine with English, since those places are currently the “cheap” European vacation sites.

Tobotron's avatar

I can tell you Ukrainian is very similar to Russian many young people are bi-lingual, you’ll also find most young people speak very good English at least I didn’t really have any problems myself in the past…however countries such as Croatia hate Russia so much they abandoned the Cyrillic alphabet for a Latin one. I think this is the same in several east block countries…however seeing as Russian is so widely understood and its good to read the Cyrillic alphabet so you can at least pronounce place names right, it’s defiantly worth learning Russian over anything else…I’m traveling there in June, Siberia July August so I’ll let you know first hand ;)

eponymoushipster's avatar

@Tobotron they are, but don’t tell a western Ukrainian that. they’re likely to stone you!! :)

Tobotron's avatar

By the way if your American and traveling to Bosnia, Kosovo etc you should perhaps not advertise that your American after the odd bomb that got dropped out there…this being based on an experienced whereby just for speaking English I was refused service and faced some hostility before they realized I wasn’t from the US and this was in Irkutsk-Siberia :S…again its probably just a minority of people.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

Well, I’m hoping to eventually speak Russian well enough to pass for one. I’m 3/4 Russian and I look fairly Slavic. Americans are increasingly less popular, and eventually may be even less popular than the Russians in these places.

Tobotron's avatar

Russia is defiantly taking some hold on its old friends again, I think this was written about in the Economist not that long ago. My blood line is German and I stood out like a sore thumb in Siberia, yeh they were bemused that I was living and working there which was great haha…good luck I’ve been learning Russian for a year now and my Russian girlfriend laughs at me because I speak like a 5yr old haha…

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s changing. The younger generation picks English as their first second language.

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