I'm considering learning Mongolian Cyrillic. One thing I'd like to know is whether learning Mongolian Cyrillic will help me understand Russian Cyrillic. If I learn Mongolian Cyrillic, will I be able to identify Russian Cyrillic letters, and be able to (somewhat) correctly pronounce Russian words composed of them?

Wikipedia mentions that Өө and Үү exist in Mongolian Cyrillic but not Russian Cyrillic, but I couldn't notice any other differences.

(Just to be clear: I wouldn't plan on learning Russian without learning Russian Cyrillic first, but currently I don't anticipate learning Russian)

(I'd also be curious as to whether learning Mongolian Cyrillic would help being able to read and pronounce words in Bulgarian, but presumably that's off topic)

6 Answers 6


Mongolian is phonetically very different from Russian, so, while you will still have a general idea about which sound corresponds to which letter, mechanical transliteration of Mongolian word into Russian and vise versa will work no better than doing it with say French and English: "au revoir" is not aw-ree-voy-er, not even close, though the alphabet is the same, and some sounds do correspond.

Mongolian does not contrast voiced and unvoiced consonants but rather aspirated and non-aspirated, so pairs т/д, б/п etc. differ in aspiration, not vocalization; ж and з correspond to Russian ч and ц; and so on.

The probably most known Mongolian word, төгрөг (the name of Mongolian currency), in Russian is rendered as тугрик; монгол шуудан is normally transliterated (as in the band's name) but, if transcribed, should rather be монгл шутн, with the nasal final н, etc.

It would do no harm, though, to learn a foreign alphabet, as long as you don't apply it mechanically to a language other than the one you learned it for originally.

  • I'm sure this is all true. but on the other hand, when it comes to loan words and proper names, I've come across plenty of cases were I was able to sound out the Russian word using the Mongolian pronunciation. I'd probably sound way off to a Russian, but there does seem to be a general resemblance.
    – Brad Mace
    Oct 8, 2020 at 0:59

Trying to answer the last part of your question, the Bulgarian alphabet is very similar to the Russian one:

а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ы ь э ю я (Russian)

а б в г д е ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ь ю я (Bulgarian)

(I've omitted the capital letters here)

Bulgarian has fewer letters (ё, ы, э are missing) and Bulgarian e, щ and ъ are pronounced (slightly) differently. Apart from those differences, I think learning the Russian version of the Cyrillic alphabet would definitely help you learning Bulgarian Cyrillic - but starting with Mongolian might just be confusing...

  • Bulgarian "я" can also be different from the Russian "я", the Bulgarian one can mean "йа", but also "йъ".
    – Yellow Sky
    May 4, 2015 at 14:11

Russian and Khalkha Mongolian have extremely different phonetics and phonotactics, so different that half of the Cyrillic letters are pronounced differently in the two languages:

Letter       Mongolian IPA     Russian IPA

Бб           p, pʲ              b, bʲ (p, pʲ)*
Вв           w̜, w̜ʲ              v, vʲ (f, fʲ)*
Дд           t, tʲ              d, dʲ (t, tʲ)*
Жж           tʃ                 ʐ (ʂ)*
Зз           ts                z (s)*
Йй           i                 j
Кк           kʰ, kʲʰ, x, xʲ       k, kʲ
Лл           ɮ, ɮʲ              l, lʲ
Нн           n, nʲ, ŋ           n, nʲ
Пп           pʰ, pʰʲ             p, pʲ
Тт           tʰ, tʰʲ             t, tʲ
Фф           f, pʰ              f
Цц           tsʰ                ts
Чч           tʃʰ                 t͡ɕ
Шш           ʃ                  ʂ
Ыы           i                  ɨ


* - at the end of a word and/or before a voiceless consonant

As a teacher, I should tell you, it is not the best idea to learn the Mongolian Cyrillic to be able to understand Russian Cyrillic. Why not learning Russian Cyrillic at once? What you want to do is like learning the English spelling to be able to read Latin, it is almost the same situation: the letters are the same, but half of the letters are pronounced differently in English and Latin.

  • 3
    A person clearly stated they probably have interest in other languages right now.:) I think, learning any form of Cyrillic helps a lot: at least some sounds hold approzimately close—and, anyway, a beginner's biggest problem is that they are reading veeeeery slowly, painfully recalling each letter.
    – Shady_arc
    May 4, 2015 at 16:50

OK, here is my answer with almost a two-years' delay. In general, no letter (even in a reputedly 'phonetic' writing system) gives absolutely exact sound representation.

Even in two languages/dialects sharing a same alphabet (cf. e.g. English, French and Finnish Vs, or Brittish vs American intervocal Ts).

Even vocal systems of Bulgarian vs Russian do differ (and, yes, Bulgarian is easier to read and to understand as compared to Polish or Eastern Slavic languages, but that's my own experience and experiences do differ, too).

In general, after some lessons in Mongolian you might very soon observe that:

1) The Лл is pronounced more like Innuit Ll, Welsh and Spanish LL [λ] rather than as it is in Russian;

2) consonants are articulated harder than in Russian (like in Bulgarian phonetic system indeed; closer to some Arabic emphatic [d], [kh], [tt], etc.);

3) unlike in Russian and Hungarian, and like in Finnish, a combination of two same subsequent vowel letters means a long vowel of same quality;

4) a short vowel at the end of a word is treated as Ъ ъ in pre-revolutionary Imperial Russian (that is, remains unpronounced; that is, Mongolian байна sounds more like [bain] not like [baina]);

5) Р р sounds softer at the end of a word (well, in a closed syllable at least) and is closer to Swedish Rr;

6) unstressed O o in Mongolian is still always [o] while in Russian it is pronounced closer to [a].

This is, of cause, not like reading in Japanese knowing some Chinese, or reading Sanskrit/Hindi knowing some Devanagari script, but these nuances do matter. Hope this will help.


Less than 2 years after asking this question, I ended up doing a beginner's course in Russian. I started learning Russian about 6 months after I finished getting some beginner's lessons for Mongolian.

I wasn't very successful in learning Mongolian or how to pronounce it, but I can't recall any differences in pronunciation of individual letters between the two languages per se. The main challenges I recall having during the Russian course was learning how to handle lots of consonants together, such as "Здравствуйте", and rules about how pronunciation works, such as unstressed vowels.

With the knowledge I had of Cyrillic before doing the Russian course, I wouldn't know how to pronounce Russian words correctly, but I'd be able to tell what English-language word they were related to.

Note that though I didn't notice a difference in individual letters, the two languages sound fairly different. Mongolian has been described as "listening to two cats hiss and spit at each other until one of them throws up", and the only qualification I'd add to that is that I think it's a very beautiful hissing and spitting, while Russian sounds like your average European language.


The bulgarian is the closest slavic language to russian so if you want to start russian for a second language you can try bulgarian.(Of course you can say the bulgarian is the closest one if you seperate the ukrainian and belarussian but they both originate from big mother Russia so if you learn one of those first you are basically 80-90% there otherwise if you want to study something not as simillar as russian try bulgarian it's 40-50% alike)

  • Bulgarian is not the closest Slavic language to Russian, there's a lot of grammatical differences - both Belarusian and Ukrainian are way closer. Polish is closer as well.
    – shabunc
    Jun 3, 2017 at 10:43

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