Why You Shouldn’t Rely On Other Slavic Languages to Understand Russian Posted by Maria on Nov 10, 2014 in language
Russian is a Slavic language, so it shares some of its grammar and vocabulary with other languages from that family. Much as we like to rely on similarities among languages to expand our knowledge, I would like to warn you against using your knowledge of Russian to communicate with speakers of other Slavic languages — and vice versa!
I do not actually speak any other Slavic languages, so I will rely on other sources. Feel free to add/correct any examples.
Ukrainian (украинский язык — mind the word stress) is an East Slavic language just like Russian, meaning its latest shared ancestor with Russian is relatively recent. As a result, there is a lot of shared vocabulary and grammar. However, many words have taken on completely different meanings, so you should not rely on the one to converse in the other.
|другой – other||другий – second|
|место – place||місто – city|
|неделя – week||неділя – Sunday|
|родина – homeland||родина – family|
|час – hour||час – time|
Polish (польский язык) is a West Slavic language, so it is not as closely related to Russian as Ukrainian. A few German loan words came to Russian via Polish. For example, the word for a market, рынок, comes from the Polish rynek, which comes from the German Ring.
The two languages have diverged considerably from their shared roots. If you are an English speaker, you may also want to be mindful of Polish loan words in English — do not use them to decipher Russian words. For instance, if you want some pierogi in Russia, you should ask for пельмени for the meat kind or вареники for the cheese/vegetable/fruit kind. Asking for пирог will get you a piece of pie.
|милость – mercy||miłość – love|
|наглый- fresh, disrespectful||nagły – sudden|
|пироги – pies||pierogi – dumplings|
|урод – freak, ugly person||uroda – beauty|
|вонь – stench||woń – smell, aroma|
Bulgarian (болгарский язык) is a South Slavic language. It is relatively accessible for speakers of Russian as it uses the same Cyrillic alphabet. However, this seeming similarity may trick you.
|гора – mountain||гора – forest|
|направо – to the right||направо – straight ahead|
|дыня – melon||диня – watermelon|
|ягода – berry||ягода – strawberry|
|майка – tank top, cami||майка – mother|
Czech is another West Slavic language, and some of the words mean the opposite of their Russian cognates!
|град, город – city||hrad – castle|
|овощи – vegetables||ovoce – fruit|
|позор – shame||pozor – attention|
|хитрый – cunning||chytrý – intelligent|
|злодей – villain||zloděj – thief|
Have you had any confusing experiences with Slavic languages? Do you know any other Slavic languages?