Russian Has World-Wide Appeal
The Russian language is the most spoken native language in all of Europe, with over 144 million speakers. Combined with those who know Russian as their second tongue, the language has over 260 million speakers worldwide as of 2012.
The language is not limited to Europe, however, as it is the most spread out language in the Eurasia region. Countries with Russian as an official language, besides Russia, include Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Countries that have large numbers of Russian speakers, but don’t list the language as an official means of communication, include Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, and most of the countries that formed the former Soviet Block.
Considered a language of the East Slavic family, Russian is unique from other language branches. Consonant phonemes are distinguished by whether they have a palatal secondary articulation. They are labeled into “hard” and “soft” sounds. Russian also features a reduction of unstressed vowels. Variations of stress do exist, depending on the word and its meaning. Yet sometimes, as with many other languages, the rules are native to the speaker without much [understood] rhyme or reason.
Russian also features an alphabet separate from the Latin and Semitic families. This alphabet is known as Cyrillic. It has 33 letters that vary in upper and lower case forms, like the Latin-based alphabet. Some of the letters are merged sounds that are distinguished as their own mark. It can be difficult to transliterate the Russian alphabet, as some sounds do not have Latin counterparts. Still, linguists do their best to convert the letters into rough estimations of the sound. For the most part, the Russian alphabet is phonetic, meaning the letters usually carry the same sounds throughout their use in various words.
The first Russian dictionary was released between 1789 and 1794. It features 43,257 words of both old Russian and Church Slavonic. The third and final edition of this “Academic Dictionary” was released in 1847. By then, the word count was up to 114,749.
Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of land mass. Its language has followed suit, spreading to all corners of the globe. In terms of native speakers, Russian is the 8th most spoken language in the world.