Online Russian Language Course - Lesson #3

author Kateryna Samokhvalova

Russian Pronunciation: Hard or Unusual?

If you are reading this because you started learning Russian, it means you have come across some difficulties on your way. Mainly, problems occur when you see the differences in the alphabet. There are letters that look the same and even sound alike. However, there are many more that look neither the same nor you can compare them to your native alphabet.

Within a certain period of time I was writing down multiple notices that my students made about Russian alphabet, namely how they see Russian letters and which mistakes they usually make. My prior goal is to teach them speak but without reading skills it is impossible to pronounce things right. So, here is a list of the most frequently confused letters of the Russian alphabet:

  1. One of my favorite letters of the alphabet is letter "Ы". Usually, English-speakers see letters "b" and "l" that just stand together really close. Some students say they look like "b" and a stick. I love to hear new associations every time when I teach foreigners from different parts of the world. But anyway, letter Ы is pronounced as in pit, skin,lip etc. The biggest problem is comparing Ы and И. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to describe the way they sound in a written article, but memorize them as [i] and [ee].
  2. The second place on a difficulty scale takes Russian P. Which is [r] sound. It has to be highlighted right ahead that you do not have to roll your tongue like they do in the movies with Russian mafia. Just think about it, how hard it would be to roll the tongue 3 seconds in a row just to say one word. So, all you do is touch your palate gently once in order to make the [r] sound. And don't confuse Russian 'p' with an English 'p'. Whereas they look alike, the sounds are totally different.
  3. Also, one of the popularly mistaken sounds is Ь together with Ъ. They are called the soft sign and the hard sign respectively. They exist in order to separate consonants from vowels sometimes. And the soft sign makes consonants softer. You can feel the softness of the letter p, for example, when you say piano and there is no softness in a word pet. Unlike English, the Russian language needs these signs in a written speech.

These are just some things that a starter student may confuse. However, you can always get a personal tutor who will explain everything as easy as that. Apply for a trial Russian lesson by skype today!

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