The aim of this page is to give some tips about typing on a Russian keyboard - without the help of anything: no on-screen keyboard, no Cyrillic stickers on the keys, not even the help of a phonetic keyboard layout.
Why would anybody acquire such skill? Why not make use of on-screen keyboards, which can be found by entering "russian keyboard" in any search engine? Because it's too cumbersome to load a separate page just to type, say, the name of a song of a Russian band whose lyrics you are looking for. What about a program which shows an on-screen Cyrillic keyboard and loads on startup? Not bad, but won't want to depend on it forever. What about phonetic keyboards? Not bad either, but you won't find this everywhere.
The йцукен keyboard layout is what Russians use. It is what you will find everywhere. If you have something to do with computers and with the Russian language, you should learn йцукен.
Why not labels? Well, you won't find labels on all keyboards if you don't live in Russia.
Ok, I'm sure I haven't convinced everyone to learn to type on a йцукен keyboard without external help. I gave some pretty dumb reasons to do so. You should type Russian the way you feel more at ease with. Anyway, I still think it's a cool skill to learn.
There are 21 lessons ordered by difficulty. However, you can learn them in any order you want. In this case, I recommend you to use my word generator in order to generate a list of Russian words which are spellt only with the keys you already now. You can also follow the order shown in this page, but stopping whenever you want to do some typing exercises. Try it!
So here we go. Launch a text editor so you can practise what you read.
This is the only lucky coincidence. Latin c equals Cyrillic с on the keyboard. Now you know how to type a Russian word on it's own right, the preposition с.
See what happens when you type A. Then see what happens when you type F. You'll get accostumed, really. Seriously, Cyrillic а is used a lot, so you'll end up learning it anyway. After all, а is a word on its own (it is a sort of soft "but").
Type letter R on your keyboard. Doesn't it look like a К? By the way, you now know how to type the preposition к.
The first key of the third row is Я, which means "I" in Russian. The first key of the first row is й, which doesn't mean "I" in Russian, but is somewhat related to letter "I" in English, which means "I" in English.
I'll recommend you some sites about Russian cursive writing, just in case you don't believe me.
Now you know how to type Cyrillic М. No, it isn't a word on its own.
The "last three" letters of the keyboard are BNM. Switching to ЙЦУКЕН keyboard, that is ИТЬ, which is the ending of many Russian infinitives. So, it is pretty easy to type Russian infinitives.
This a good excuse to learn the keys for three important vowels: ы,и,о. No mnemonics here. This letters are so frequent that you'll end up learning them anyway.
Letter е is so frequent is Russian that typing a t to get an е should start looking a pretty obvious thing to do.
These important vowel appear in accusative, dative, prepositional and genitive endings! You can't live without knowing them. Besides, у is an important preposition used to express possession (у меня...) and ю is used in such famous expressions as я тебя люблю, which so many people ask for. Maybe remembering that Russian keyboards are called ЙЦУКЕН keyboards can help you with remembering the position of letter у. As for ю, simply remember that it is located at the very end of the third row. These letters are pretty far away from each other on the keyboard.
No, I haven't covered all vowels yet. Look for letter э at the end of the second row. As for ё, I'm not sure all keyboards have this letter (which you can always replace with regular е). Look for it at the beginning of the numeric row of your keyboard.
In order to type нет, ничего, никогда, никому and many other negatives, you have to use the sling-shaped letter.
Now you know how to type the very important preposition в.
You have to type K in order to get a Л. This isn't too hard to remember. The lower part of letter K looks exactly as letter Л. Very logical.
You can't learn Russian if you don't know how to type русский or Россия.
We've done a lot without having learned to type a very important letter, so important that it is at the center of the keyboard, right next to letter р. I'm talking about letter п, with wich you can write the very common preposition по.
So many important words use hushers! Что, чтобы, ещё, даже, девушка... Type X, I, O for Ч,Ш,Щ. Look for Ж at the end of the second row.
It seems we are learning all important stuff at the end. Type p to get a з, type l to get a д, and you already know how to type the rest. Practise a little more with these words: здесь, здорово, здание.
Not all keyboards have the comma at the same place, but usually it is at the end of the third row. Now you can type the word люблю. In fact, you only have to use three keys to type it, and they are all next to each other. Use it sparingly.
Look for letter х at the end of the first row.
Letter ц is letter w, and this is the final lesson.
Don't mix things up! Letter ь is at the end of the third row.