You just contacted a Russian tutor or recently bought a Russian lesson package! Before you start, you'd like to train  by writing text messages and documents in the Russian language...

A pure and simple transliteration of the Slavic language into the Latin alphabet would be a bad idea, and the genesis to many bad language habits. This is sometimes the case when there is an "untranslatable" word encountered in a book or essay.

Writing "la Pravda" is fine if you are speaking to Westerners, but it does not work as soon as you are looking to become bilingual.

On the contrary, you have to force yourself to play the Russian language game from the start: get to the Cyrillic immediately.

Your mental configurations, which have been forged during decades of conditioning, are going to be a drag...BUT, this will be an opportunity to change your thinking and to immerse yourself in the logic of another language. 

The following tips will also be useful for bilingual Russians who arriving to the States after living their whole life in Russia need to write  in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

Ladies and gentlemen, get to your keyboards immediately!

The Latin Keyboard

The QWERTY keyboard is used in America. 

QWERTY is a keyboard design for Latin-script alphabets. The name comes from the order of the first six keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard. The QWERTY design is based on a layout created for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to Remington in 1873. It became popular with the success of the Remington No. 2 of 1878, and remains in widespread use.

With a PC or MAC, you'll find it easy to write in Cyrillic as compared to the old typewriters of our grandmothers and grandfathers...

The goal with the QWERTY keyboard is to distribute the letters most commonly used by English evenly across the keyboard so that the fingers of both your hands are solicited in an even manner.

The QWERTY was designed so that it is rare to use two letters that are side by side.

The Cyrillic Specifics of the Russian Keyboard

Unsurprisingly, the Russian Federation's computer keyboards respond to linguistic imperatives very different to those of the West.

In the Cyrillic alphabet, you will find 26 latin characters identical to English.

When in Siberia, we are very far from the QWERTY keyboard...

Though the Russian alphabet has 33 letters, our Muscovite friends do not have a bigger keyboard with additional characters.

Online it is quite possible to find a keyboard hailing straight from St. Petersburg or Perm, but here we will only mention the QWERTY adaptation of the Russian keyboard.

Installing a Russian Keyboard onto a QWERTY Keyboard

If you do not want to buy a keyboard made in Russia, you can buy small transparent stickers to stick on the keys of your current QWERTY keyboard.

The price of these keys range from 3 to 5 USD on eBay. Even stingy people will have no excuse: a DIY-style workshop would probably be more expensive...

This is a great prerequisite before installing the multilingual keyboard onto your Windows system.  The classic version is called "Viton," which stands out because of how easy it is to install (just a download and a few clicks)...but also how simple it is to use (thanks to the use of the actual keys.)

The Viton owes its success to the fact that it is perfectly adaptable to English speakers. This is also a must for bilingual Anglo-French people, as the Alt Gr key offers them the possibility to temporarily switch to "English" mode.

It is also great for fans of the Serbian and Ukrainian dialects...

If several languages are present on your operating system, you just need to look more closely and you will see some abbreviations at the bottom of your screen on the taskbar: "EN" for the activation of the English Latin keyboard or "RU" For the Russian Cyrillic keyboard, etc...

A click of the mouse allows you to select the foreign language of your choice and to switch instantly from one writing system to another.

If this shortcut does not appear on your computer, there is another way that takes a little longer:

  • Click "Start" and then "Control Panel".
  • "Clock, languages, and regions" then "Region and languages" - a new window will open at this point. Sometimes these names are replaced by: "Regional and linguistic options."
  • Click on the "Keyboard and languages" tab then click on "Modify keyboards."
  • Add or select the keyboard of your choice.
Lake Baikal in Russia. Russians have a lot to offer, and not just at the digital level!

On some computers, the Alt + Tab shortcut will switch your computer to "Russian" mode.

Those who are good with computers may want to create their own keyboards via Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, a free program.

However, think twice before spending time customizing your QWERTY: your configuration will be one-of-a-kind and therefore you will not find it if you use a third party computer. Russian keyboards have their own logic, in line with Slavic grammar, and you will be lost when you use them (Russian language class, professional immersion ...).

Russian Keyboard: Quid for Mac and Linux?

When using Linux or Ubuntu, the same tricks for Windows can be used thanks to the Wine program. This software launches Microsoft applications.

For Apple users, Macs usually offer a standard upgrade to a Russian phonetic keyboard directly developed by the Apple brand.

The Internet multiplies these possibilities, and, as long as we are resourceful, we will find something to please us.

Installing the Russian keyboard on your computer can take a little time, especially if you do not know the computer in question.

You can write Russian on the Lexilogos dictionary platform, either by clicking with your mouse on a virtual keyboard (which can be very long...), or by using its QWERTY keyboard, whose characters will be automatically converted into Cyrillic letters.

The designers have not forgotten to include a user guide at the bottom of the page for the rarest letters and associations - since the Russian alphabet has 33 and not 26, like ours. This is a bit like Japanese syllabics...something to take advantage of immediately! puts forward a phonetic writing system of the same kind, but it is much less intuitive, because the explanations are missing, as well as the table of conversion...

In any case, we advise you to use Google Translate after writing your text, for the sole purpose of correcting any typos or possible spelling mistakes. Russian can be difficult sometimes.

Writing Russian on the Internet with a Russian Keyboard

Setting up a Russian Cyrillic keyboard that doubles up as a QWERTY keyboard is an indispensable step when studying the Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy idiom.

This keyboard approach is therefore part of a wider learning enterprise: whether you are self-taught, using e-learning techniques, or using private Russian language lessons, it is necessary that you know the basics of Russian before being able to use a virtual keyboard correctly.

If you have the basics down, using a Russian keyboard makes a whole lot of sense.

Learning a foreign language - and this also applies to German courses, a Russian language course London, Spanish classes, or learning French as a foreign language - means training regularly in order to progress.

Here are some tips from some of the lead TED translators on how to progress more quickly when learning a foreign language: 

  1. Let technology help you out. Dmitrochenkova has a great idea: “A funny thing like resetting the language on your phone can help you learn new words right away,” she says. Ditto for changing the language on your browser. Or you can seek out more structured learning opportunities online. Dutch translator Els De Keyser recommends Duolinguo for its gamified approach to grammar, and Anki for memorizing vocabulary with its “intelligent” flashcards.
  2. Think about language-learning as a gateway to new experiences. To Spanish translator Sebastián Betti, learning a language has always been about focusing on the experiences that the new language would open up, from “visiting theme parks, attending air shows, enjoying cowboy poetry and folk-rock festivals, to learning about photo-essay techniques.” In other words, he thinks of fun things that he wanted to do anyway, and makes them into a language-learning opportunity. Many of our translators shared this advice. Italian and French translator Anna Minoli learned English by watching undubbed versions of her favorite movies, while Croatian translator Ivan Stamenković suddenly realized he could speak English in fifth grade, after years of watching the Cartoon Network without subtitles. So the next time you need a vegan carrot cake recipe, find one in the language you’re trying to learn.
  3. Make new friends. Interacting in the new language is key — it will teach you to intuitively express your thoughts, instead of mentally translating each sentence before you say it. Find native speakers near you. Or search for foreign penpals or set up a language tandem online, where two volunteers help one another practice their respective languages.
  4. Do not worry about making mistakes. One of the most common barriers to conversing in a new language is the fear of making mistakes. But native speakers are like doting parents: any attempt from you to communicate in their language is objective proof that you are a gifted genius. They’ll appreciate your effort and even help you. Nervous about holding a conversation with a peer? Try testing your language skills with someone a little younger. “I was stoked when I was chatting with an Italian toddler and realized we had the same level of Italian,” recalls German translator Judith Matz. And be patient. The more you speak, the closer you’ll get to the elusive ideal of “native-like fluency.” And to talking to people your own age.

Practicing the language, whether it is with oral or written communication is imperative. If you are looking to search for correspondents - some that even have the same likes and dislikes as you- will be facilitated by your knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet and your use of a Russian keyboard.

You will be able to post comments in Russian on YouTube and other social networks that are part of the Russian-speaking world. You will be able to take a look at forums used by natives and devoted to topics that are important to you and include your passions.

Using a Russian keyboard and learning the Cyrillic alphabet will also teach you Russian vocabulary and help you practice in translation, making your beginner Russian classes fun!

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.