The Belarusian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic writing system. It is virtually identical to the Russian alphabet, differing from it just in a few points:
- i is used instead of и
- ў letter, specific to Belarusian, is used to denote short u sound
- шч combination is used instead of щ
- ' (апостроф/apostrophe) is used instead of ъ or the hard sign.
The Belarusian alphabet contains 32 letters:
Аа - a - pronounced like a in art
Бб - be - pronounced like b in body
Вв - ve - pronounced like v in van
Гг - he - has no correspondence in English; the voiced analog of х; occasionally pronounced like g in guest
Дд - de - pronounced like d in desk
Ее - e/ye - pronounced, depending on position, either like a long e after consonant as in Lenin or ye in yes (Initially, after vowel or any of the two signs).
Ёё - o/yo - pronounced, either like o in shore (only after Ч, Ш, Ж or ШЧ) or yo in York. Either way, always stressed
Жж - zhe - pronounced like s in pleasure
Зз - ze - pronounced like z in zoo
Іі - i - pronounced like i in machine
Йй - i nieskladovaye "non-syllabic y" - pronounced like y in toy
Кк - ka - pronounced like k in kitten
Лл - el - pronounced like l in lamp
Мм - em - pronounced like m in map
Нн - en - pronounced like n in net; pronounced like a Spanish ñ after i or e.
Оо - o - pronounced like o in sort: usually, but not always stressed
Пп - pe - pronounced like p in park
Рр - er - differs largely from English r sound; similar to Italian r in ridere
Сс - es - pronounced like s in Sun
Тт - te - pronounced like t in top
Уу - u - pronounced like u in put
Ўў - u nieskladovaye "non-syllabic u" - pronounced like the w in know
Фф - ef - pronounced like f in fox
Хх - kha - pronounced harder than English h sound; similar to German ch in Buch
Цц - tse - pronounced like ts as in cats; similar to German z in Zeit or Italian z in canzone
Чч - cha - pronounced like ch in chalk
Шш - sha - pronounced like sh in shelf
Ыы - y - pronounced like y in myth
Ьь - miakki znak "soft sign" - not pronounced: softens previous consonant and, if in any position except the end, separates syllables
Ээ - e - pronounced like e in end: if found after a consonant, it is shorter than the previous "e" mentioned above.
Юю - yu - pronounced like a yu as in "Yugoslavia";
Яя - ya - pronounced, like "ya" in "yard" or "Goya"
NOTE. In tarashkievitsa, letter Ґґ (ge) is also used to denote the sound g (as in english guest). Narkamauka uses г letter instead. The position of ґ in the classical Belarusian alphabet is immediately after г, before д. Thus there are 33 letters in tarashkievitsa. Sometimes in tarashkievitsa combinations ДЖдж and ДЗдз are given the status of letters on their own.
Try to read and recognize the names of some cities. Confer the hint below if you have difficulties. Note that " ́" is a stress sound (which is normally omitted). Also note that proper names in Belarusian, as in most other languages, are capitalized.
Hint: Maskva (Moscow), Londan (London), Varshava (Warsaw), Amsterdam, Stambul (Istanbul)
Try to read and remember Belarusian names of some animals. Confer the pronunciation hint below if you have difficulties. Pay special attention to the stress - like Russian and Ukrainian, there is no fixed stress position in Belarusian, and stressing the wrong syllable (or even missing out a sign) can create misunderstandings. Virtually every book and dictionary concerning these three languages place an accent in the tonic syllable, so make sure you do the same . Note that о is normally stressed in Belarusian.
кот - a cat (male)
ко́шка - a cat (female)
саба́ка - a dog
каро́ва - a cow
каза́ - a goat (female)
бара́н - a sheep (male)
пту́шка - a bird (general)
варо́на - a crow
саро́ка - a magpie
ка́чка - a duck
жа́ба - a toad
слон - an elephant
Hint: kot, koshka, sabaka, karova, kaza, baran, ptushka, varona, saroka, kachka, zhaba, slon