People often ask me if Mongolians speak Chinese or Russian or whether the Mongolian language is similar to either language, so in this article, I will share the simple truth with you guys.
No, Mongolians do not speak Chinese or Russian as an official language and the people who speak either one of those languages are in the minority.
The Mongolian language is also very different from Chinese and Russian, so it does not share any similarity with either of those languages. I will explain further below.
Related: What language do Mongolians speak?
But wasn’t Mongolia part of China?
While Mongolia technically was colonized by the Manchurians during the Qing rule in 1691, yes Mongolia did share a lot of history with the Chinese and was part of the Chinese dynasties.
However, while Mongolians and Chinese may share some cultural similarities, the two languages are very different and don’t sound similar to each other, don’t use the same alphabet, nor have the same grammar structure.
Chinese is a Sino language, while Mongolian is Mongolic or Altaic (debated) in origins. The Mongolian language shares more similarities with Central and Western Asian languages when it comes to grammar and structure.
However, Mongolians did loan many words from the Chinese, mostly nouns that are related to food. For example Guanz, Buuz, Shivga, etc.
Why does Mongolian sometimes sound like Russian?
While personally as a native Mongolian, I don’t find Russian and Mongolian sounding similar at all, a lot of people seem to mention how it has some Russian sounding elements. However, many other people think it sounds similar to Welsh and German, so depending on the person I think it varies.
The most logical explanation might be that since Russians and Mongolians have been close allies for the past century, Mongolians perhaps adopted some Russian accent compared with the Mongolian language from a few hundred years ago.
If you actually watch old Mongolian films from the 1930s-1960s, Mongolians spoke a little differently and also sounded a bit differently.
Don’t Mongolians use Russian letters?
Many countries use the Cyrillic alphabet, so calling it Russian letters would be incorrect. If interested in the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet, you can read more here.
While Russian and Mongolian use the same alphabet, the Mongolian Cyrillic has 2 extra letters in order to capture the additional sounds of the Mongolian language.
Even though they use the alphabet though, Mongolian and Russian still sound very different from each other and the words are pronounced very differently. Mongolians adopted the Cyrillic Alphabet during the 20th century for political and economical purposes.
Slavic language speakers and Mongolian language speakers can read each others’ languages, but the accent and the pronunciation just sound very funny and weird.
Comparison of Mongolian and Chinese
Comparison of Mongolian and Russian
So as you may have heard, in general, Mongolian sounds different from either language. While there may be some similarities due to geographical proximity and loan words, the origins and the history behind the Mongolian language are very different from Chinese and Russian languages.