How to Pronounce Russian Words: The Whiz Kid Guide
Who doesn’t love a cute toddler?
But anyone who has been around one also attest to the frustration of trying to understand them when they speak.
Well, to native Russian speakers, that can be what Russian learners sound like when trying to use the language.
The sources and tips below will help you improve your Russian pronunciation and sound more like a native speaker.
- 4 Quick Ways to Help Your Russian Pronunciation Now
- 5 Resources to Help You Learn to Pronounce Russian Words Correctly
4 Quick Ways to Help Your Russian Pronunciation Now
To really master the art of speaking Russian, you need to do your due diligence and devote sufficient time to practice.
However, you may have found this article in a quick attempt to help your pronunciation. If you don’t have the time right now to peruse the resources below, don’t worry, we did it for you!
Here are four takeaways that you can utilize immediately that will help in speaking Russian like a native.
1. Don’t just learn individual letters, but learn how letters interact with each other to form basic sounds.
The Russian letters are from the Cyrillic alphabet, and although many of them will look totally foreign to you if you haven’t started learning them yet, they actually make up one of the most frequently used scripts in the world!
In the third YouTube video recommended below, the host states that we should only focus on the sounds the Russian letters make, instead of on learning the individual 33 letters.
Focus on learning letter combinations and how letters interact with one another to form sounds. There are 37 consonant sounds and 13 vowel sounds that form the basics of all Russian words.
Learn how to add the “Y” sound to consonants to account for the hard and soft Russian sounds, and you’ll be way on your way to mastering the Russian accent!
2. Roll your Rs.
If you want to pronounce Russian words such as Вор (thief) or Рождество (Christmas) correctly, you need to focus on the R sound.
Much like Spanish speakers, Russian speakers trill their Rs, which basically changes the sound to a “rrr.”
Putting your tongue to the top of your mouth and making an R sound while you breathe out will give you a good way of practicing that trill.
3. Shorten your vowels.
Just as the first YouTube video below instructs you to change all your “ee” sounds to “i,” remember to do that when you actually speak in Russian.
Russians shorten their vowels, which means you should consciously not draw out vowels.
4. Focus on the syllables.
Russian words tend to be long and full of consonants (and consonant clusters). It can be overwhelming to see words such as рассказывает (tells), but it helps a lot if you remember to break up the words into syllables.
5 Resources to Help You Learn to Pronounce Russian Words Correctly
Russian is not the hardest language to learn, but it is also far from the easiest. For Americans, it is somewhere in the middle of the difficulty scale between Spanish and Chinese. (While Spanish has many of the same letters and sounds as English does, Chinese has totally foreign characters and words that are often unintelligible for foreigners.)
This is why for those studying Russian, focusing on pronunciation is key to mastering the language! When the letters look unfamiliar and words are long, saying the words out loud can be overwhelming without practice.
For those trying to perfect their Russian pronunciation, these five resources are important guides that will help along the way.
Speak with a Russian Accent
Russian often sounds completely foreign to Americans—obviously that is no surprise as it is a foreign language to them. Beginner Russian students may find it easier to really learn the difference between some of the most basic differences in pronouncing English and Russian words by first speaking English with a Russian accent.
In this quick two-and-a-half minute video, the host, Ivan Borodin, provides tips on the differences in pronouncing vowels and consonants in different languages.
Tips for speaking with a Russian accent include:
- Shortening vowels, such as the letter “a”
- Ending plural words with “z” instead of “s,” such as “friendz”
- Switching the long “ee” sounds to short “i’s,” such as “I nid…”
Plus, the videos are all naturally entertaining since they come from the shows, movies and channels that native Russian-speakers enjoy on the regular. You can watch documentary footage, television show clips, funny commericals and more all while learning the Russian language!
Take a quick look at what FluentU has on offer for yourself:
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? FluentU makes native Russian videos approachable through interactive captions. Tap or click on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
Don’t stop there, though! Use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It uses that information to give you a 100% personalized experience by recommending videos and examples.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)
Introduction to Perfect Russian Pronunciation
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Russian pronunciation with this resource. Learning to speak English with a Russian accent can help you at costume parties, but it won’t go a long way in helping you learn to speak Russian correctly. This YouTube video does just that, offering strategies to pronounce Russian the way actual Russians do.
Presented by RussianPod101.com, it contains over four minutes of content that is easy to understand and implement. It starts with an American host who explains that it is essential to learn the sounds of the Russian letters and the differences in how they sound with both hard and soft signs (ъ and ь).
In the middle of the video, the hosts switch, and Katya, a native Russian, provides examples of correct pronunciations that viewers can imitate.
Master Russian Pronunciation Resources
This is a comprehensive website with a variety of tools to help you learn Russian. While many such websites will concentrate on teaching Russian vocabulary and grammar rules, Master Russian has many lessons that primarily focus on helping foreigners with Russian pronunciation.
- The Russian Pronunciation index, with six lessons that break down Russian words and sounds into:
- Tongue twisters
- Pronunciation rules
- The alphabet
- Some nuances of Russian pronunciation and spelling
- Guide to Russian Pronunciation: A list of every Russian letter and a helpful guide to the proper way of saying them.
Learn Russian Phonetics
Learn Russian is another website that offers a host of materials for learning Russian. One key feature that is relevant to Russian pronunciation is their Phonetics tab.
This is a very useful tool that focuses on learning not only to read, but to say Russian letters and sounds.
Each Russian letter has the English equivalent next to it, and examples of both English and Russian words that mimic that sound.
A handy audio function allows students to listen to the pronunciation of all the letters.
In addition to single letters, Learn Russian also explains vowel reduction, syllables and stress, and how to read consonants.
It may be no easy task to learn correct Russian pronunciation, but it sure is rewarding!
Plus, Russian has many sister languages (Ukrainian, Polish, Bulgarian, etc.) that you can easily learn to speak once you have perfected your Russian, becoming a polyglot instead of a mere bilingual speaker!
How cool is that?
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