The Russian language is a complex language with many intricacies. It belongs to the East Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the eighth most spoken language in the world, with native speakers numbering 154 million, located in 18 countries, mostly through the Russian Federation, where 139 million speak the language. Russian is an official working language of the United Nations and an official language in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Many territories all over Eurasia, from Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Baltics and Eastern Europe speak the Russian language. Although unofficial, it is one of the widely spoken languages in Israel, Ukraine, Moldova and Russia. Total number of speakers of Russian in all countries is 265 million.
Facts and trivia about the Russian language
The language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. The alphabet, which originated from the alphabet used in Greece, includes some letters from Hebrew that are used for foreign sounding words.
Russian is generally phonetic and it’s only the complex stress system that gives rise to complications in the pronunciation. However, the stress system is not strict and the stress is movable, but while the rules might not be strict, it is one of the problems faced by learners of the language.
The language has formal and informal forms of address. To show deference, vy (plural, second person formal) is used. When speaking to a child and when told to use the informal form, ty (second person singular, familiar) is used.
It is said that persons who want to become an astronaut much learn Russian because it is the international language of space.
Based on dictionary entries, the Russian language has 150,000 words. It’s a small number compared to Korean that has 1.1 million words. English has about 171, 476 to around 470,000 depending on the dictionary. Surprisingly, the Chinese dictionary, Zhonghua Zihai, only contains 85,568 words. However, Russians do not use all the words that are entered into their dictionary (The Great Academic Dictionary of the Russian Language), which cause many words to have several meanings.
The English language might have more words, but the native speakers of the Russian language has many more terms for the color blue, because they divide the color into two separate categories – the dark blues or seeniy (синий) and the light blues or goluboy (голубой).
Many superlatives are given to the Russian language:
- Eurasia’s most geographically widespread language
- Most widely spoken among the Slavic languages
- Europe’s largest native language
- After English, it is the most widespread language used online
Using the Russian language
Some people say that Russian is a difficult language to learn while others say that the level of difficulty is the same as with other foreign languages. Considering that the Russian language belongs to the Indo European language family, there should be some similarity between English and Russian. However, as you have seen earlier, even in their alphabets, the two languages are vastly different.
Modern Russian has six cases, such as nominative, dative, instrumental, accusative, locative and genitive in the singular and plural forms of nouns and adjectives. It also has an imperfective aspect (incomplete action or action in process) and a perfective aspect or completed action for its verbs.
While its general clause structure is like English (subject-verb-object), its word order may vary depending on the elements that are already used in the discussion.
Effects on translation
Russian translation is likewise difficult to do and translators around the world usually face the same problems. It does not suffice that the translator knows the grammar and the slang because the language has so many intricacies that should be followed. For a client who does not speak the Russian language, here are some tips that could help you.
When translating Russian to any other language, understanding the context of the content is very important. The language is complex in itself and many words have different meanings, thus it is important to pay attention to the phrases and terms to ensure that they fit the level of understanding of the intended users of the translation. Russian concepts are different from English concepts.
The Russian language and its word endings
A professional Russian to English or any other language translator has to have a deep knowledge of the source language. A Russian word may have up to a few hundred variations, which means that managing Russian terminology could be very difficult. This also means that using a generic quality assurance tool might not be of much help.
In English, prepositions link words together in a specific structure. So in English you say, “I love resting under a tree.” But you cannot construct the sentence this way: “I resting under a tree like” or “Like resting I under a tree.” These two sentences would be considered grammatically incorrect. But in Russian, all three variations are acceptable because every word has a particular ending that upholds the meaning.
What makes them acceptable is the ending of the sentence. A particular ending links the words so the arrangement of the parts could be done in any sequence and it would still be grammatically correct.
This is supported by the numerous variations of the Russian words. English words have singular and plural forms only. Russian words however could have more than 12 variations depending on usage. Another difference is in the verbs, with English verbs having five. Russian verbs on the other hand have numerous variations. The ending of the verb depends on its tense, amount, gender and mood, which combine to produce word forms that are context-specific. Each variation makes the style of text different. It could also emphasize something else. You can vary the tone and mood of a sentence by just changing the position of two words.
Control of Russian terminology is difficult to manage. A glossary is helpful but it would not be practical for a client to insist that the translator has to follow the glossary. A professional Russian translator may have to change the words to fit the context because, as mentioned, the quantity of possible word forms is numerous, and what is included in the glossary might not be the perfect one for the content and the message it wishes to convey.
Insisting that the translator should follow the glossary explicitly could drastically lower the quality of the translation or could lead to translation failure.
Provide the context
To ensure the quality and accuracy of the translation, the client should provide the context as dictionaries do not provide exact translations. In English, when you say ”mother-in-law” it is understood that it is the mother of either the wife or the husband and the relationship is indicated in the conversation. In Russian, they use different words to indicate either the mother of the wife or the mother of the husband, thus, it would be difficult to simply say, mother-in-law.
It is also quite difficult to translate user interfaces (UI) and individual words without seeing the entire content. For example, ”email” is a word that can stand alone. But in Russian, it could either be a mark on a button for sending email, a technology used for communication or the email address of a person or company. Further, if the email is part of a full sentence, a different word ending might be needed depending on its context.
Thus, it is important for clients requiring Russian translation to provide the translator with the proper context and reference materials to avoid guesswork.
Placeholders are immaterial
When localizing websites, it is important for developers to avoid using placeholders where translators can insert the texts, especially if they are of limited size. In English, it is all right to use generic words such as <User> but in Russian, it has to be specific and gender has to be considered as well. Therefore, the size of the placeholder would have to be enough to include all the letters of the word and their variations.
The same could be applied to body text. It is important for web designers to prepare web pages correctly for localization as the character count could increase by as much as 20%. For example, the English word ”Send” becomes “Отправить” in Russian and the phrase, “Send message by email” (21 characters with spaces) translates to “Отправить сообщение электронной почтой” (38 characters with spaces).
Different punctuation rules
There is a big difference in the use of periods, colons, question marks and commas in Russian. Titles in Russian do not include colons. Russian uses chevrons instead of single or double quotation marks. The symbol of inch (“) is not used in Russian because the speakers are not familiar with the imperial system of measurement and would interpret it as quotation marks. Moreover, the $ sign is placed after the number instead of the before.
The good thing is there is only one standard variation when it comes to Russian translation. Other languages have to suit regional dialects. The language is regulated by the Russian Academy of Science and the grammar and vocabulary remain the same.
Although Russian is a difficult language to master, there is no cause for alarm. Day Translations, Inc. has a team of native Russian speakers who can translate your documents from and into Russian and over 100 other languages. Trust the human translators of Day Translations to deliver the most professionally written and 100% accurate translations all the time. Call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us anytime. We are open 24/7, every day of the year. You can rely on us to deliver your translations on time, anywhere you are in the world.
Congratulations to Russia! The country plays host to the 2018 FIFA World Cup
from June 14 to July 15, 2018. To the 32 teams competing, udachi!