The people who made this ценник (price tag) clearly had no access to Ozhegov Dictionary or maybe they did, but couldn’t find the word естонский since the grammatically correct way of spelling and pronouncing it is эстонский (Estonian)
A few days ago I was at a weekly чаепитие (tea party) with my Russian friends when the conversation turned to Russian books. After discussing how difficult and expensive it is to buy интересные и качественно изданные книги (interesting high quality of print books), we talked about books we all brought with us years ago, when we moved from Russia. Not to date ourselves, but in those days of dial-up connections we brought lots of словари (dictionaries) with us.
Since then both our Internet connections and our English skills improved dramatically. I got rid of most of my printed dictionaries. Yet even to this day when writing and translating I have occasional brain freezes and need to look up words and phrases. Here are the tools that I use:
1. Викисловарь (Russian Wiktionary) – Rob has already covered this wonderful resource in his post about словарь Ожегова (Ozhegov Dictionary of the Russian Language).
2. Википедия (Russian Wikipedia) – ok, so Wikipedia articles in different languages are not necessarily translations of the original article. However, you can definitely use it as a reference for professional, technical terms or pop culture terms (it’s invaluable in figuring out Russian translation of the Star Wars saga). Besides, it’s a handy way to check whether the word in question is used in a given context.
3. Грамота.ру – this is one of the best sites for reliably accurate справочная информация (reference information). You do need to know some Russian as the interface is entirely in Russian and there are no images. But the site is so helpful that your efforts will pay off.
To begin with, you can check spelling and word stress of any word with the проверка слова (word check) function. Heck, you can even check entire sentences and paragraphs for errors with проверка текста (text check). However, keep in mind that this function works as a spell checker, alerting you only to орфографические ошибки (spelling mistakes), not to ошибки пунктуации (punctuation mistakes).
But the coolest фишка (here: uber cool feature) of this site is its справочное бюро (information desk). Once you зарегистрироваться (register) on and авторизоваться (log in) to the site, you can ask just about any grammar questions you can think of, including questions about punctuation, word usage, and style. If you don’t feel like registering, you can still search through extensive, over 250,000 entries, database of already-answered questions.
4. Multitran.ru – If all you need is a simple and quick online dictionary that would let you translate from your language into Russian and back, then Google Translate will do. Just don’t rely on it too much. But if you need a rich choice of contextual options, head over to Multitran. First, you will be prompted to ввести слово или фразу для перевода (enter word or phrase to be translated) and select a language from a drop-down menu. The default selection is английский (English). Next you click поиск (search) button and get an entire page of results with lots and lots of options to choose from.
The cool thing about Multitran is that the results are sorted into groups. Now you can choose the most appropriate translation based on a given context, whether you are working with a text about laws, gaming, engineering, cooking, etc.
The problem here is that the site uses lots of abbreviations for these groups. This might be an issue for a non-native speaker. So here are a few commonly used ones:
общ. – общее (general, non-specialized)
банк. – банковское дело (banking)
бизн. – бизнес (business)
вычурное (fanciful, mannered) Note: As Phil pointed out in the comments, выч. actually means вычислительная техника (computers) in Multitran. Thank you, Phil.
ЕБРР – Европейский банк реконструкции и развития (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)
комп. – компьютерная техника (IT, computers)
мед. – медицина (medical)
сл. – сленг (slang)
тех. – техника (technology)
экон. – экономика (economics)
юр. – юридический термин (legal terminology)
If you encounter a confusing abbreviation that’s not on this list, simply mouse over it and you will see its full name (in Russian).
Another классная штука (cool thing) that Multitran allows you to do is to search for translated phrases that use the word you’re working with.
The biggest drawback of Multitran is that it’s not always accurate. It’s a community-developed resource, but without apparent quality control mechanisms. Sometimes suggested translations are wildly off the mark, especially with slang terms, human resources, and some idiomatic expressions. When in doubt, go with translation options in the ЕБРР and Макаров groups.
5. Proz.com – Multitran falls short when it comes to translating entire phrases and idioms. It is also clumsy with неологизмы (newly-coined words and phrases), literary turns of phrases, and such. After all, it’s just a dictionary. That’s exactly why Proz.com is such a great resource.
Proz.com is a huge community of translators and interpreters. However, you don’t have to be one to join (and it’s free for basic accounts). Even before you join the site, you can search its extensive glossaries in the Terminology section and existing KudoZ questions. Once you join, you can start asking questions yourself. Here’s the twist – not only can ProZ members ask and answer questions, but rate other answers and comment on them.
These are some very powerful online translation resources. So use them wisely and да пребудет с вами Сила русского языка (may the Force of the Russian language be with you!)