Russia: Language a must have?

Old May 13th, 2004, 03:58 AM
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Russia: Language a must have?

I'm considering some independant travel in Moscow and St Petersburg later this year. I know that since the Communist days, Russians have not really taken to learning other languages. My mother tounge is French, and I speak ok English. I was just wondering if anyone whose been to Russia found it difficult and/or too difficult if you don't speak Russian. Should I rethink my plans and go with a tour group?
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Old May 13th, 2004, 04:40 AM
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Far more Russians speak English than you might think. English, French and German is widely taught in the Russian schools system. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, I'd guess the majority of the folks you will interact with will speak English. . perhaps not fluently, but well enough.

Having said that, your trip will be more rewarding if you learn basic Russian terms and phrases. . particularly the alphabet

If you do a search on Russia here, you will find wealth of information on travel there.

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Old May 13th, 2004, 05:15 AM
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Do what you need to do to be able to read street signs in the cyrillic alphabet. Other than that a few pleasantrties and emergency phrases should do you!
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Old May 15th, 2004, 12:12 AM
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Russians have always learnt second languages at school even during communist times. If you intend to use the metro there are few signs in English & in some stations there are many exits. Street signs are in Russian and English. Basic Russian plus learning the alphabet is very useful.
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Old May 15th, 2004, 06:44 AM
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Have traveled independently in Russia twice and had no problems with language (the programs in teh ballet are vene printed in English as well as Russian).

However, it is very helpful to at least learn the alphabet (the russian word for restaurant is appatently restaurant but spelled approximately pectopah).

Also, I do not recommend public tranportation - since most stops do not have labels except in cyrilic. We did either foot or taxis (which are everywhere and incredilbly cheap).
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Old May 15th, 2004, 10:37 AM
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While I wouldn't say the language is a _must_ have it certainly does help. I was in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago on an independent trip and was surprised that even in the largest department stores the sales personnel didn't speak English. Most of the young people do speak passable English. Sign language does get you a long way though.

Do take the metro in St. Petersburg, it is a sight in itself. If you can't figure out the announcements on the trains just keep counting the stations and you'll get there eventually.

St. Petersburg is an extremely beautiful city, enjoy! And don't forget to eat at The Idiot, a vegetarian restaurant on Nab. Moyky 82.

Bon voyage!
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Old May 16th, 2004, 12:38 PM
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It helps to understand cyrillic if you know Greek alphabet (A useful purpose for sorority or fraternity membership!) Additionally, most young people speak English, and there are several colleges in St. Petersburg. We hired a young woman guide, car and driver for a day for about $100 and found it very worthwhile. (And we are generally independent and budget travelers).
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Old May 17th, 2004, 12:41 PM
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If you want to do anything truly independently in Russia you need some basic Russian. Buying ballet tickets from the box office, getting a taxi and checking price/destination/reserving tables at restaurants etc need Russian. Hotels can also do all these things for you.

Missing out on the Moscow metro would be a pity, both for the beauty of the stations and the efficiency of the service. Most tourist destinations are accessible by metro (in Moscow anyway).

I thought that speaking fluent Greek would give me some advantage when it came to learning Russian but it didn't. The alphabets may have some common letters but that's about it.
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