Linguistics Puzzles for Middle School

I stumbled on a Russian linguistics competition called The Russian Little Bear. Most of the puzzles are Russian-specific; but some of them can be translated. I concentrated on puzzles for grades six through nine and used Unicode for uncoding strange characters.

Problem 1. Here are some Latin words with their English translations:

  • amo — I love
  • amat — He loves
  • invitor — I am invited
  • invitaris — You are invited
  • rogas — You ask
  • rogatur — He is asked

Pick the line of words from A to E that best translates these phrases into Latin: You are loved, I ask, He invites.

  • (A) amas, rogo, invitat;
  • (B) amaris, rogo, invitat;
  • (C) amaris, rogor, invitas;
  • (D) amaris, rogat, invitatur;
  • (E) amaris, rogo, invito.

Problem 2. The first astronauts from India (I), Hungary (H), France (F) and Germany (G) were Bertalan Farkas (1), Sigmund Jähn (2), Rakesh Sharma (3) and Jean-Loup Chrétien (4). Match the astronauts to the countries:

  • (A) I2, H1, F4, G3;
  • (B) I3, H1, F4, G2;
  • (C) I3, H1, F2, G4;
  • (D) I1, H4, F3, G2;
  • (E) I3, H2, F4, G1.

Problem 3. You do not need to know Russian to solve this puzzle. It is enough to know the modern Russian alphabet: А, Б, В, Г, Д, Е, Ё, Ж, З, И, Й, К, Л, М, Н, О, П, Р, С, Т, У, Ф, Х, Ц, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ъ, Ы, Ь, Э, Ю. Before XVIII century, numbers in Russian were denoted by letters, for example: ТЛЕ — 335, РМД — 144, ФЛВ — 532.

How was 225 written in old Russian?

(A) ВВФ; (B) ВВЕ; (C) СКЕ; (D) СКФ; (E) ВНФ.

Problem 4. Here are several Turkish words and phrases with their English translations:

  • ada — an isle
  • adalar — isles
  • iki tas — two cups
  • adam — a man
  • otuz adam — thirty men
  • taslar — cups

Pick the line of words from A to E that best translates these phrases into Turkish: thirty isles, men?

  • (A) otuz adalar, adamlar;
  • (B) otuz ada, adam;
  • (C) otuz adalar, adam;
  • (D) otuz ada, adamlar;
  • (E) ikilar ada, adamlar.


  1. Jonathan:

    otuz znachit tridtsat’

  2. Tanya Khovanova:


    Thank you very much for pointing out a mistake in the original puzzle. I fixed it and changed into thirty.

  3. Jonathan:

    Turkish doesn’t have “twenty” “thirty” “forty” or “fifty” formed on a combination of something with “two” “three” “four” or “five.” Seems strange to me

    2 – 20 = iki – yirmi
    3 – 30 = (omitted, related to puzzle)
    4 – 40 = dört – kırk
    5 – 50 = beș – elli

    But while I am having fun, “balance” in Turkish is “denge” – ring any bells?

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