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Magic Formulas

Although Moscow today has certainly become more bilingual, there are still several signs that are only in Russian, hence the interest in learning the Cyrillic alphabet, which is a lot easier than it looks. On moving to Moscow, it’s equally important to find one’s bearings. CREF, as is our wont every September, has taken the opportunity, provided by the arrival of new expatriates, to share a few useful expressions that offer a window into life in the Russian capital.

Будьте добры – Boodtiye dabree (Please…)

A more refined way of making a request than можно (mowzhna), which literally means “possible”. Here, the equivalent is asking someone to “be so kind as to”, and it is a more sophisticated way to start a conversation when one wants to ask a question or make a request.

Как пройти до метро? – kak praeetee da metro ? (How to get to the subway station?)

The Moscow metro is, without a doubt, beautiful and convenient. But the stations are half as numerous as in Paris, and the entrance is not always easy to find. It is, therefore, useful to know how to ask for directions to the nearest metro station.

Где по близости аптека? – Gdeeye pa blizusti apteyka? (Where is the nearest pharmacy?)

Fortunately, there are almost as many pharmacies as there are beauty salons in the Russian capital. Should you have difficulties finding one, this simple questions can help you find what you need.

Здесь есть проход? – Zdiyes yest prakhod? (Can one cross here?)

The city of innumerable towers has no shortage of narrow streets and courtyards that you can use to travel faster and to avoid, when on foot, the noisier boulevards. However, it often happens that you might see someone exiting a courtyard that might well help you save a few precious minutes, but you’re not sure if the courtyard has another exit. Now would be an excellent time to deploy this question.

Я заказал(а) такси – Ya zakazal(a) taksi (I ordered a taxi)

There are several applications out there with which you can order a taxi. These applications are available in several languages, and tell you the license plate number and type of car, the name of the driver, his hobbies and the approximate wait time. When the taxi arrives, you can confirm that it was indeed you who ordered the taxi.

Где можно покупать продукты? – Gdeeye mozhna pakupaat prudookti (Where can I buy some food?)

While several big supermarket brands, including French ones, dot the city, there are also a number of smaller shops that are open until late, although it’s not always easy to spot them because they rarely have signs out, or are simply marked Продукты (Prudookti)! Ask around your neighborhood to see where you can do your shopping.

Вход платный? – Vkhod platnee? (Is there an entrance fee?)

There are numerous events and exhibitions in Moscow throughout the year. Some of them are even free, but this might not always be indicated. When asking this question, you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

У меня лишний билет – U menya lishnee bilyet (I have an extra ticket)

You were planning to go with a friend to a concert when he/she bailed on you at the last minute. Now, standing in front of the concert hall, you’re stuck with an extra ticket. You can point to it and shout out, “I have an extra ticket.” There is sure to be a hard up old lady who might be interested in your ticket. It’s up to you to decide its price. Don’t expect to find her in the concert hall: on entering, she will be busy trying to find an empty seat with a better view. Also, if someone is sitting in your seat, you need to tell them это moë место (eta mayo miyesta) (that’s my seat) and the person should vacate it right away.

Подавать заявление – Padavat zayavleynyey (Make a declaration)

When one moves to a new place, there is often a good deal of paperwork involved. All processes begin with a “declaration” – заявление (zaïavlénié) which one needs to file somewhere. In reality, the word means “statement”; it is also used when filing a complaint or making a statement to the police.

Благодарю – Blagadariyoo (Thank you!)

You most likely already know that “Thank you!” is спасибо (spassiba). However, there are far more sophisticated ways of saying “Thank you!” without sound pedantic, and one of them is “blagadariyoo”, which comes from the word gratitude – благодарность (blagadaarnost).

Лайкать – Layikkat (“to like” something on a social network)

You will notice that Russian has borrowed a good many words from other languages, and it likes to stay quite up-to-date. It even has a verb for when you “dislike” something: “dislayikkat” – дислайкать. This is certainly not the highest level of Russian that exists, but without a doubt it’s one that you will learn faster if you socialize with Muscovites. You could also visit CREF, where you will be provided with a solid linguistic foundation so that you feel comfortable in all real world situations.