Mongolia alphabet hard to learn?

The Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet

Mongolian Alphabet

If you want to learn Mongolian, it won’t be long until you will come across the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet. This is no ordinary Alphabet, it is considered one of the harder alphabets for native English speakers to learn which isn’t surprising considering how hard it is to learn Mongolian. If you want to know why have a quick look at a recent post we published here. If you would like to know more about the ins and outs of this alphabet, then keep reading!

Often people may think that this Alphabet is the same as the Russian Cyrillic Alphabet or that even Mongolia and Russia speak the same language. Mongolia and Russia do not speak the same language, in fact, they are vastly different and while they have a similar Alphabet there are differences. Now that’s not to say that many Mongolians don’t speak Russian, in fact many do and up to the early 2000s it was a compulsory second language in Mongolia’s education system, and is still widely taught in schools today. Keep reading though if you want to know the orgins of the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet.

The History Of Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet:

Mongolia’s alphabet orginates from the Soviet era when Mongolia fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. During the early 20th century Mongolia, with the help of the Russian government, overthrew the Manchu Dynasty (Chinnese Empire) to become an independent nation. The Soviet Union of course wanted to continue to keep Mongolia in its sphere of influence and one way to do this was with language. In 1941 Mongolian officials introduced the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet to be adopted across the nation with several differences, the major difference being that Mongolia’s alphabet had two additional characters added which were (Үү) and (Өө). Of course while the other characters are the same, their pronunciation is different.

Traditional Mongolian Script:

Some of you may also be wondering, doesn’t Mongolia use another language, which is written vertically? Yes, they do have the Traditional Mongolian Script, which is vastly different from the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet. This traditional script was going to be adopted as the official written language after the Democratic Revolution in the 1990s but the decision was reversed. However, the Traditional Mongolian Script is taught within Mongolian schools from grade 6 becoming compulsory in the early 2000s. Mongolia is slowly but steadily planning to replace the cyrillic alphabet with its Traditional Mongolian Script, returning to its historical and cultural roots. That isn’t to say that the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet will disappear overnight though. The vast majority of Mongolia’s population use this alphabet in their daily lives, and the younger generations are still being taught it, so it isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet (цагаан толгой):

Mongolian Alphabet

Okay so down to some of the key details about this alphabet. There are some distinct differences that make it different to what the traditional native English speaker is use to. Firstly, Mongolian is mostly a phonemic writing system, meaning the written symbols, in this case characters, correspond consistently to the significant spoken sounds of the language. In English, this is different as yes, it is alphabetic but not very phonemic. Simply put, English as a spoken language isn’t as consistent compared to it’s written format, different to Mongolian in that sense.

Mongolian is made up of 35 letters/characters (the English Alphabet only has 26 letters). It consists of 20 consonants, 13 vowels and 2 signs. The consonants are pretty straight forward to learn and they are fairly distinct from one another. Where it gets interesting is the vowels.

Mongolian Vowels:

Mongolian vowels (эгшиг) are a little different from English. Firstly, they are broken into two main types; masculine and feminine. Here is a table to help you understand below:

Vowels (эгшиг)

Short vowelsExamplesLong vowelsExamplesDiphthongsExamples

You can see from the list that several vowels are either masculine or feminine. They can’t be both and generally you will not have masculine and feminine vowels in the same word, it will either be a masculine or feminine word. There is however a third type and that is your neutral vowel (и). You can use this with either masculine or feminine words. Feeling confused yet? Well there is one last major thing to wrap your head around.

Soft And Hard Letter Signs:

There are two signs in the Mongolian alphabet; ь (soft sign) and ъ (hard sign). Both signs ъ, and ь have no sound and they are used before suffixes of the imperative mood for the first person (я, е and ё), to separate those suffixes from previous consonants. The sign ь occurs in masculine words, changing the sound of vowels and differentiates words. These can be tricky to get your head around but we cover these in more detail within our Level 1 Beginners course, which if you are interested in learning about you should check out the link below. Goldigobi uses a range of different activities and learning styles to help you learn the Mongolian Alphabet. Why not give it a try today!

Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet Table:

Below you can go through the Mongolian alphabet. We have even included the pronunciation of each letter. We are also made sure that the audio recording below is slow so you can listen to each letter being sounded out. Take a minute to listen to how different this alphabet sounds compared to the English alphabet. What similarities do you notice?

1АаLike u in up[ah]
2БбLike b in but[beh]
3ВвSimilar to w in want and v in rev[weh] [veh]
4ГгSimilar to g in got.[geh]
5ДдLike d in do[deh]
6ЕеSimilar to ye in yes[yeh]
7ЁёSimilar to yo in your[yaw]
8ЖжSimilar to j in join[jeh]
9ЗзAn affriciate similar to z in zero[dzeh]
10ИиLike ee in tree[ee]
11ЙйUsed as part of diphthong, sounds like oy in boy and uy in buy[ee]
12КкCorressponds to k.[kah]
13ЛлSimilar to l in salt[el]
14.МмIdentical to m in man[em]
15НнBefore vowels sounds like n in no[en]
16ОоSimilar to o in or[o]
17ӨөSimilar to o in gold, eou in seoul or tomorrow[o]
18ПпCorresponds to p in part[peh]

19РрSimilar to r in trip, but stronger[ir]
20СсLike s in son[iss]
21ТтLike t in test[teh]
22УуSimilar to uu in vaccuum[uuh]
23ҮүSimilar to oo in hook and u in uber[uu]
24ФфCorresponds to f[feh]
25ХхSimilar to h in hot[kheh]
26ЦцAn affricate like ts in roots, ts in tsunami, ts in tsar[tseh]
27ЧчAn affricate like ch in check[cheh]
28ШшLike sh in bush[ish]
29ЩщLike sh in bush
A digraph for ш (sh) and ч (ch)
Like sh in bush
30ъNo Soundhard sign
31ыA long back vowel. Similar to ee in bee[ee]
32ьNo sound. Used to separate Hard consonant from y-glide following itsoft sign
33ЭэSimilar to e in help[eh]
34ЮюSimilar to you in you[yo]
35ЯяSimilar to ya in yard, ya in yacht[yah]

And that’s the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet in a nutshell. Now there is a lot more to it (too much to explain in one blog post) but this will give you a solid grounding of the Mongolian Alphabets ins and outs. If you want to learn more we recommend trying out your Mongolian courses where we go into more detail. As a little taster here is a little exercise you can do after listening to the alphabet above.

Alphabet Exercise:

We really hope this post has been helpful in understanding the Mongolian Cyrillic Alphabet.

Happy learning everyone!


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