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Lesson Transcript

Eddie: Pronunciation. Lesson 2. Vowels. Hi all. I'm Eddie, and welcome to the lesson on Russian vowels with RussianPod101.
Oksana: I'm Oksana. This is going to be a great lesson!
Eddie: You will see that apart from a few exceptions, the sounds are always constant.
Oksana: There are a few exceptions, but they'll be easy to remember because they are exceptions.
Eddie: The real trick here is to try to isolate the sound given in the English example.
Oksana: This can be tricky at first. But when you think about it, it's easy.
Eddie: For example, when we mention that a sound is like the "-a" in the word "father," think of how the "-a" sounds in this word specifically.
Oksana: Yes, the "-a" in the word "ball" is pronounced differently to the same letter in "father."
Eddie: Unless you think about it, you may not have realized this. And the letter "-a" in the word "may" is different yet again. However, the cool thing is that this means we have a whole range of sounds to use as examples from words we already familiar with.
Oksana: We just need to be able to really hear and pull out the specific sound of the vowel.
Eddie: Okay, let's get started. In Russian there are ten vowels—six ordinary vowels and four diphthongs. Let's start with the ordinary vowels. These are "-a," "-у," "-и," "-o," "-ы," and "-э."
Oksana: "-А", which looks like the English letter "-a", is pronounced like "-a" in "father". So here are some examples…"Мама", which is "Mom", "наш", that is "our", like "our" home, and finally, "пара", which is Russian for the word "pair".
Eddie: Next is what looks like the English letter "-y" but actually sounds like "-oo" in "book" or the "-u" in "rude".
Oksana: Russian examples are "дуб", which is the word for "oak", as in "oak" tree, and "шуба", that means a "fur coat".
Eddie: "-И", which looks like a backwards capital letter "N", is pronounced like "-ee" in "green".
Oksana: For example, “или”, that means "or", like black "OR" white, and "лиса", that is "fox!"
Eddie: So next is the letter "-o".
Eddie: Now, this is special because it is pronounced differently depending whether it's stressed or not.
Oksana: When stressed, the "-o" is pronounced like the vowel sound in "bought". For example…"Дом", that is the word for "house", and "пол", that means "floor".
Eddie: Now, when it isn't stressed, the "-o" is pronounced almost like "-a", especially in the Moscow region.
Oksana: For example, in "молоко", which is the word for "milk," the stress is on the last syllable, so only the last "-o" is actually pronounced [ o ]. The others are pronounced almost like "-a", "malako." Another example is "корова", that means cow.
Eddie: It's the second "-o" that is stressed, so it's pronounced "karova".
Oksana: Okay, so next we have "-Ы." This is one vowel, but it looks like two letters, a small English "-b" and a small "-l."
Eddie: This can be a challenging sound for most learners as it doesn't exist either in English or in most European languages.
Oksana: It's similar to "-и" but the sound is produced much deeper inside the throat and the tongue is curled up around its middle with the front down. Russian words that have this sound are "мы", that is the word for "we", and then there's "ты", which is the informal word for "you". And finally we have "рыба", that means "fish".
Eddie: Now, don't give up if you can't produce it immediately.
Oksana: Practice makes perfect as they say. Guess what?
Eddie: What?
Oksana: There are no words in Russian that begin with "-ы!"
Eddie: I didn't know that!
Oksana: You learn a new thing every day!
Eddie: So next we have "-Э", that almost looks like the number three and a backwards capital letter "-C".
Oksana: This is pronounced like "-ea" in head. In Russian, we have "это", that means "this", and "эра", which means "era".
Eddie: This vowel is probably the least common of all Russian vowels—there are few words that contain it.
Oksana: You see, you have interesting facts too!
Eddie: Naturally! Now let's look at diphthong vowels. These are "-e", "-ё", "-ю", and "-я". They are called diphthongs because they actually represent two sounds and not one.
Oksana: "-Е", which looks like a capital "-E" in English, is actually "-йэ"; "-ё" is "-йо"; "-ю" is "-йу"; and "-я" is "-йа". Lots of sounds there.
Eddie: It's very important to know that these diphthongs are not pronounced the same at the beginning of the word and after a consonant.
Oksana: That's right. At the beginning of the word or after another vowel, you can hear the "-й" part clearly. For example, "ель" as in "fir tree", "ёж" a "hedgehog", and "-я" as in "I", me!
Eddie: Let me give it a try…"ель", "ёж", "я".
Oksana: After a consonant, they modify the consonant that precedes them by softening it, but you don't hear "-й" anymore. For example, "нет" is "no", "мёд" is "honey", and of course, "бюро" is the word for "office".
Eddie: So, let's take them one by one.
Oksana: "-Е" that looks like the English capital "-E" is pronounced like "ye-" in "yes" at the beginning of the word or after another vowel. So, you have "Елена", the Russian female name, "его", which is the word for "his", and "большое", that is the neuter form of "big".
Eddie: Oksana, could you give us some examples with this vowel after it follows a consonant?
Oksana: Sure. For example, in "хлеб" which means "bread", "l" becomes soft and in "день", which means "day", the "-d" becomes soft.
Eddie: When "-е" is not stressed, it's pronounced somewhere in between "-е" and "-и".
Oksana: For example, "телефон", which is of course "telephone". It's the last syllable that is stressed, so we can't really tell if the first two vowels are pronounced "-e" or "-и". The sound is somewhere in between…"телефон". Another example is "тетрадь", which is the word for "notebook". The stress is on "-a", so the first sound is somewhere in between "-e" and "-и" again.
Eddie: At the beginning of the word or after another vowel, "-Ё" is pronounced like "yo-" in "yoke", for example.
Oksana: So you have "ёлка", which is a Christmas tree, and "ёж", that is the word for "hedgehog".
Eddie: After a consonant it sounds like [ o ] and softens the consonant.
Oksana: So "мёд" is the word for "honey", and "тётя" means "aunt".
Eddie: It's worth remembering that in Russian printed text you will hardly ever see the two points above "-е". It's common to just use the "-e" sign for both "-e" and "-ё"…which admittedly isn't very convenient for learners! Okay, let's look at the last two.
Oksana: "-Я" that looks like a backwards capital English "-R" at the beginning of the word is like "ya-" in "yak". Some examples are "яблоко", that means "apple", and "яд", which means the word for "poison."
Eddie: Am I right in thinking that after a consonant it sounds different?
Oksana: After a consonant, it sounds like "-a" and it actually softens the consonant. For example, "мяч" is the word for a "ball" and "пять" is the number "five".
Eddie: Lastly, we have "-Ю". This looks like a capital "-I" and capital "-O" joined together by a little horizontal line. This sounds very much like the letter "-u" in the English word "cute".
Oksana: For example, we have "юла", which is a spinning top, and "юмор", which means "humor".
Eddie: I'll try to pronounce them…"юла", "юмор".
Oksana: Great! And after a consonant, it sounds like "-у" and modifies the consonant so you get "тюльпан", that means a "tulip", and "бюро", which is the word for an "office".
Eddie: That seemed intensive but was well worth it. After you listen a couple of times, especially with the letters in front of you, you'll see it's pretty straightforward. Ok, that`s all we have time for for today, but Premium members, please, don't forget to access the Premium Feed.The Premium Feed is a powerful Web 2.0 technology that allows you to get all of our content through iTunes, with just a click of a button.
Oksana: That includes the PDFs, conversation only tracks, review tracks...
Eddie: Yep, everything.
Oksana: To access the Premium Feed or to find out more...
Eddie: ...visit RussianPod101.com, and on the lesson`s page, there is a 'Subscribe to New Basic or Premium Feeds Today' graphic. Click on that, scroll down...
Oksana: ...and click 'Premium Feed.' It's that easy.
Eddie: There is also a Basic Feed and Sample Feed, so you can test things out.
Oksana: Join us again soon. Bye for now!
Eddie: Thanks for being with us. See you next time. Bye!


Please to leave a comment.
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RussianPod101.com Verified
Monday at 06:30 PM
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RussianPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 05:43 PM
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Hello Akalanka,

Thank you for your comment.

Please check the following video series:


We hope it helps.

Let us know if you have any question.



Team RussianPod101.com

Saturday at 05:01 AM
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I would like if this lesson are also in video form instead of audio in like introduction videos to letters

RussianPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 09:13 AM
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Hello Tom,

Thank you for your answer. It`s great.

I guess pronunciation can really differ, especially if you will compare Moscow with other cities of Russia.

However, there are different types of transliteration of Russian language. Transliteration not often match pronunciation. For example, two letters [ы] and [й] are transliterated as [y] in English. But it doesn't mean that they are pronounced the same.

We use [e] for Russian letter [e], however, pronunciation can be [nyet].


Team RussianPod101/com

Friday at 05:29 AM
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@Daniel, I am just a student of Russian language, so I'm not doubting Elena's response--just adding my thoughts.

I have learned that there seem to be different Russian accents and some people say words differently than others do. I have heard the differences in personal conversations and also from the various recordings on RP101 and in movies. So, I wonder if нет is pronounced differently in some regions? My friend who is native in St-Petersburg definitely says "nyet" so I try to mimic her.

Friday at 05:18 AM
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@Luis, have you tried clicking the "1x" button on the audio player? It opens options to slow down or speed up the audio. Maybe that will help.

RussianPod101.com Verified
Friday at 07:02 PM
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Hello Daniel,

I guess it is not about pronunciation, but about different transliteration systems. I personally like "Net" more.:grin:


Team RussianPod101.com

Wednesday at 06:59 PM
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Why is HET pronounced like Nyet? Shouldn't it be pronounced like Net since the E is after a consonant?

RussianPod101.com Verified
Sunday at 10:15 PM
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Hello Tarek.

There are no rules in Russian where to put stress in the words. You just need to remember. I am sorry. :disappointed:


Team RussianPod101.com

Wednesday at 09:04 PM
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I don't know when we can stress the O for example

where is the premium feed ?

RussianPod101.com Verified
Friday at 01:00 PM
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Hi Luis,

Thank you for your comment and feedback!

Sorry for the inconvenience, we will consider it for our future lessons.

Please, let us know any specific question about this lesson (or any other).

So that we can help you :smile:

Kind regards,


Team RussianPod101.com