I find myself typing this information over and over again, mostly in Carpatho-Rusyns Everywhere, so instead of typing it over and over again, here’s an annotated list detailing ways that English-speakers can start to explore and learn the Rusyn language.
Note: Trust me, no one has asked me to do this and I’m not getting any kickbacks from anything on this list.
0. You need to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. While Rusyn and Russian are two quite different languages, there are myriad ways to learn the Cyrillic alphabet online — just on YouTube alone. You can do this in an evening, I promise it’s worth it. The Rusyn language is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, full stop. Any transliteration (and there are plenty of systems just for Rusyn) system is imperfect and not very elegant, either.
This is an intensive 3–week course held annually every summer since 2009 at Prešov University in Prešov, Slovakia, hosted by the university‘s Institute of Rusyn Language and Culture.
The course, which is taught in parallel tracks in both English and Rusyn, has intensive classes in Carpatho-Rusyn history, ethnography and language.
Been there, done that, can’t recommend it highly enough.
Вітаєме! Welcome! : A Textbook of Rusyn
2021 update: The book we’ve been waiting for is finally here. This is a comprehensive introduction to the Rusyn language, and while it’s ideally designed for a classroom setting, there’s plenty here for individual learners. You still do have to start by learning the Cyrillic alphabet, but the book has easy and understandable explanations of Rusyn grammar, in English. There are also exercises (with answers!) so that you can practice what you’ve learned.
Let’s Speak Rusyn: Prešov Region Edition
This is a revised edition of the 1978 classic, updated to reflect the Rusyn language as codified in Slovakia. The book is a series of phrases and key vocabulary, and then there’s a summary of grammar at the back. Even if you have the original edition (or downloaded a pirated version off the internet), this expanded and revised version is a good addition to your library because it proves to be a solid reference point for basic grammar (conjugations, basic cases). Updated volumes in the Lemko and Subcarpathian variants are forthcoming.
The somewhat similar but not at all identical phrasebook Do you speak Rusyn?, published by the Prešov University Institute of Rusyn Language and Culture, is available for free download. Of course, phrasebooks are exactly that, and you’re not going to get a lot of grammar or a thematic language course — but it’s important to be able to ask where the nearest bathroom is and to understand basic directions to get you there.
Nancy Kelly’s Rusyn<>English Dictionary
This three volume set is the first comprehensive Rusyn<>English dictionary to date. It’s big, it’s old school (like, you have to look things up in a book, you can’t just search for it online!), but it’s worth it if you want to find words, especially from a variety of sources and in many cases, historical ones outside of standard/recent codifications. At less than $80 if you have Amazon Prime, it’s a steal.
Introduction to Rusyn Language and Culture
This is a self-study program published by the Carpatho-Rusyn Society. Linguistically, it uses the current Lemko standard, but that is mutually intelligible with other Rusyn variants and you need to learn grammar somewhere. The book also includes a CD to listen along.
Русиньскый язык про чуджінцїв
This university-level textbook, Rusyn Language for Foreigners, is especially great if you already know another Slavic language. It’s a language learning course, probably too advanced for most Anglophone beginners, but it presents the Rusyn language and grammar systematically … in Rusyn.
Since 2016, select articles are translated into English, almost daily. In this way, it’s possible to read and compare the same articles in both English and Rusyn.
In the Seventy-Seventh Kingdom: Carpatho-Rusyn Folktales
Speaking of parallel texts, this beautiful volume has 10 Carpath0-Rusyn folktales in both Rusyn and English. It’s a great way to compare and contrast and use as a learning tool as well as just to read these enchanting stories for fun. While folktales aren’t just for kids, it’s a great way to introduce Carpatho-Rusyn language and culture to the next generation.
Rusyn Language Picture Dictionary
This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s also useful if you want to compare Rusyn words to Slovak and see how different those two languages are.
As a start, these resources above can get you pretty far, if you want to pick up enough Rusyn to get into a bit of trouble.