Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Russian.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Katya.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Russian pronunciation.
Russian pronunciation is arguably easier to learn than English!
Consider the following English words:
The first word is pronounced "colonel", not "co-lo-nel".
The second word is pronounced "arise." Adding an N however, doesn't give you "a-rise-n" but "arisen."
The last word is pronounced "eight," but adding an H doesn't give you "h-eight." Instead, it becomes "height."
arise - arisen
eight - height
English is notorious for being a difficult language to learn and it can be very frustrating for learners due to the fact that its pronunciation rules often don't make a lot of sense.
Russian, on the other hand, can seem like a blessing when compared to English.
Дуб (oak) Dup
Вода (water) Vada
Дом (house) Dom
Russian is primarily pronounced as it's spelled. There are some exceptions, but they are governed by more defined rules compared to English. Even long words, like the greeting you learned in the previous lesson, are largely pronounced as written.
Здравствуйте (hello) Zdra stvuy te
All you need to learn now then, are the sounds of Russian.
There are many vowel and consonant sounds in Russian. Luckily, Russian puts its letters into two main categories of sounds: Hard and soft.
There are a total of 10 vowels in Russian, and they are divided equally. There are 5 hard vowels, which are a little similar to English:
a, э, ы, o, у (a, e, y, o, u)
And 5 soft vowels. These are vowels that have an added glide or Y-like quality, making them sound softer:
я, е, и, ё, ю (ya, e, i, yo, yu)
Please note, though, that the number of vowel sounds do not equal the number of vowel letters. There are actually more vowel sounds than represented by letters.
Similar to vowels, consonant sounds can also be hard or soft.
б, бь (b, b’)
в, вь (v, v’)
д, дь (d, d’)
з, зь (z, z’)
"denotes palatalization" or "softening"
Unlike vowels though, consonants aren't differentiated into separate letters based on their hardness or softness alone. A single consonant letter is used to represent two sounds: one hard...
м (m)
and one soft.
м (мь)
This is because Russian is actually read in blocks. We use the closest vowel which comes after the consonant to indicate whether to pronounce the consonant hard or soft.
If the consonant is followed by a hard vowel... then the consonant is also pronounced hard.
ма ma
масло (butter) masla
On the other hand, if the consonant is followed by a soft vowel... then the consonant is also pronounced soft.
мя mya
мясо (meat) myasa
The many contrasts between hard and soft consonant and vowels is what gives Russian its distinct gliding sound.
We saw before how a relationship exists between letters and sounds based on their hardness. Voicing is another quality that's important to be aware of when learning Russian pronunciation.
Voicing, simply refers to whether or not your vocal cords are vibrating or not vibrating. English has voiced pairs as well. Consider the following letters:
p, b
t, d
k, g
Do you notice the relationship between these letters? The letters in each pair are pronounced exactly the same, the only difference being that one requires your vocal cords to vibrate, and the other, to not vibrate.
p, b
t, d
k, g
Sounds that do not require vibration of the vocal cords, like all the ones on the left-hand side, are considered "voiceless". While sounds that do require vibration of the vocal cords, like all the ones on the right-hand side, are considered "voiced".
Consider the following example in Russian. This letter is pronounced:
Бог (God)
г (g)
But this word here, isn't pronounced bog but bok.
pronounce the first one Бог
Notice how the letter г is written, which is a voiced letter, but it's actually pronounced as the letter к, a voiceless letter.
So what ended up happening? The final consonant is a voiced consonant, but when the word is being pronounced, the letter is actually read using the voiceless counterpart instead.
This occurs to ALL words that end in a final consonant in Russian. Final consonants are pronounced voiceless. So despite what's written, ALWAYS pronounce the final consonant in Russian using the voiceless version.
б b
зуб (tooth) (zup)
з z
без (without) (bez)
The key to perfecting Russian pronunciation is to master hard and soft pairs, and voiced pairs.
Unlike many other languages, Russian pronunciation is heavily affected by sounds that are adjacent to each other, often adopting the sound qualities of the letters that surround them.
Once you understand this concept, and the relationship between hard and soft pairs, and voiced pairs, Russian pronunciation actually becomes quite logical and easy to learn.
Okay. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, we introduced you to some important concepts for learning Russian pronunciation. You learned that there are hard and soft pairs in Russian, about voiced pairs in Russian, and that letters can adopt these sound qualities.
If you're interested in learning more about Russian pronunciation, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to Russian Pronunciation." In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the Russian language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your Russian Pronunciation.
Video is in "Linked Videos" folder on dropbox
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Russian Grammar, where you'll learn about Russian word order and how to build basic phrases in Russian.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!